Glen Rothes

The below is taken from The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard first published in 1887.

Glen Rothes Distillery, Glenlivet District.

THE next day we again visited Rothes, proceeding by the same route. The first part of the journey was tame and uninteresting, but after a short time we left this behind us, and the country assumed a hilly aspect. When our train neared Rothes, the beauties of the valley became more apparent than on the previous day, as the atmosphere was clearer. Our eyes were enchanted with the picturesque and smiling grandeur of the valley; the steep wooded hills presented one vast expanse of foliage of various shades and tints, and scarcely a barren spot or boulder was visible on the mountain side to mar the peaceful aspect of the scene while the Spey, the most rapid and capricious of all the rivers in Scotland, ploughed its way between cliffs of gravel and rocks, the sides of which were arrayed in a robe of greenery and the haughs above covered with trembling birches.

On leaving the station we proceeded through the town to the Distillery, which is about 500 yards distant. The principal trade of Rothes is Whiskymaking, for which the water from the neighbouring hills seems peculiarly adapted. When trade is brisk and the three Distilleries in Rothes are in full work 350,000 gallons are manufactured in course of a year; while little short of a million gallons are stored in the Bonded Warehouses at the Distilleries.

Glen Rothes is situated a short way up the Glen, formed by the Burn of Rothes, which flows from the Mannoch Hills, and which supplies the water required in the manufacture of the Whisky, as well as the motive power for the machinery. The water is soft, and of that brown tinge so common in Highland streams, but also clear and bright for supplying the Worm Tub for cooling the spirits in course of distillation, and other purposes, spring water is brought in pipes a distance of two miles.

On the side of the hill, on a level with the top of the Still House, a huge Worm Tub has been erected, 33 feet square and 12 feet deep, constructed with cement, a favourite material in this establishment.

The Distillery, which was erected in the year 1378, is built entirely of stone, and the whole establishment, except the new Bands on the north side of the stream, is enclosed. We entered by a pair of handsome gates, and made our way direct to the office of Mr. Robert Dick, the resident partner. This gentleman received us courteously and introduced us to his manager, Mr. J. B. Henderson, who conducted us over the premises.

Our first visit was raid to the Malt Barns and Granaries, a building three stories high. The first is 151 feet long and 30 feet broad, and the second 158½ feet by 25½ feet; the top floors are used as grain-lofts, and will hold 3,000 quarters of barley, the bottom floor, which has stone Steeps, is used for malting. There is also another building similarly arranged, but of larger proportions, which measures 158 1/2 feet by 26 1/2 feet. The barley is raised to the several floors by elevators. The Kiln which is attached to these Maltings gives a handsome finish to the block of buildings. It is floored with wire-cloth and heated by peats. We next crossed the Kiln-floor to reach the Malt-deposits, two large apartments well lighted and holding 7,000 bushels. In the floor is fixed a sluice or shoot through which the malt falls into the Mill below, to enter which I’ve descended a step-ladder. It contains the usual pair of metal cylinders.

The pulverised malt is lifted from the bin to the hopper, which is over the Mash Tun. This hopper is of unusual size and will hold 1,000 bushels of malt. Our guide now led the way to the Brewing-house, a clean apartment, some 50 feet square and 40 feet high, which contains a metal Mash Tun, 15½ feet in diameter and 4 feet deep, with a Steel’s Mashing Machine through which the grist runs with the hot water and gets thoroughly mixed before reaching the Tun. It contains also a revolving stirring-gear driven by the water-wheel, and the usual draining plates at the bottom.

The Underback is beneath the Mash Tun, and measures 6 feet by 3 feet. The worts are pumped up from this metal vessel into the Worts Receiver, a timber dish placed on an elevation, from whence they pass through a Morton’s Refrigerator, erected on a gallery outside the Mash House, and then run direct into the Tuns.

We then retraced our steps and entered the Tun-room, another granite structure of large dimensions; here were pointed out to us six Washbacks or Tuns, each holding 6,400 gallons, which unlike some others we have seen are filled from the bottom. As soon as the worts begin to flow therein, yeast is put in from the top, and by this means a proper fermentation is maintained. After fermentation has taken place the wash flows into a metal vessel called a Jackback, which is sunk in the floor of the Tun-room, from whence it is pumped into the Wash Charger, a timber vessel holding 5,309 gallons.

Passing through an opposite door we reached the Still House, a lofty building with concreted floor, daily deluged with water. It contains two Old Pot Stills, the Wash Still holding 3,000 gallons, and a Spirit Still holding 2,500 gallons, also a Wash Charger which commands the Wash Still. Running through the Worm-tub the product now falls into the Low-wines and Feints Receiver from whence it is pumped up into the Low-wines and Feints Charger, a vessel holding 2,800 gallons, where it is ready for a second operation as follows: First it flows into the Spirit Still, having lost in its onward progress about twothirds of its volume, then through the Worm-tub and afterwards through the Safe into the Spirit Receiver holding 2,163 gallons. We should here add that on leaving the Still the Feints or Fore-shot runs back into the Low-wines and Feints Receiver, containing 1,440 gallons, for re-distillation. The Spirit is pumped from the Receiver into a Vat, which holds 2,227 gallons, placed on a gallery in the Spirit Store across the way.

As a rule, in this Distillery the pure Spirit is filled from this Vat into the casks, in which it remains from Saturday to Monday before being weighed and removed, which is an advantage to the customer.

The Warehouses, as will be seen from the illustration, are mostly on the north side of the stream, and newly built with concrete; they are five in number and will hold some 3,000 casks, and at the time of our visit they contained 247,351 gallons.

We noticed a large stock of Peats in the sheds; and there is a capital Cooperage. The arrangements for extinguishing fire consist of fire-plugs, hose, and extincteurs.

Three Excise Officers are occupied in the Distillery, the principal being Mr. Wilson. The Whisky is pure Highland Malt, entitled to be called “Glen Rothes Glenlivet,” and when blended with other makes in the district “Blended Glenlivet.”

The annual output is 80,000 gallons, but the Works are capable of producing 132,000 gallons.

“Gie him strong drink until he wink,That’s sinking in despair;An’ liquor guid to fire his bluid,That’s prest wi’ grief and care;Here let him house, an’ deep carouseWi’ bumpers flowing o’er,Till he forgets his loves or debts,An’ minds his griefs no more.”

Images of Glen Rothes