Glendronach Distillery, Huntly.
THE next morning our host of the Insch Hotel provided us with a good horse and trap, and off we started over the hills for the far-famed Glendronach Distillery. It was a very tedious journey, and the country through which we passed bleak and uninteresting. On reaching the vicinity of the Distillery the scene suddenly changed, and before us were the delightful woods of the Bognie Estate and the demesne of Glendronach. Shortly afterwards the Parish and Episcopal Churches, with their respective Manse and Parsonage, came to view. Near to these there is a magnificent Public Hall, gifted to the parish by the late Mr. Scott, the former tenant of Glendronach.
On driving up the avenue the first thing that attracted our attention was the charming House of Glendronach, next the Distillery, itself embosomed in lofty trees, in the branches of which there is an extensive rookery. It is considered fortunate to have a colony of these birds over a Distillery, as they are said to bring good luck, and, strange to say, there is no instance on record where this has not been the case.
The route to Glendronach, either by Huntly (the nearest railway station) or by Turriff, is as lovely as the one we traversed was desolate. If we had gone by Turriff we should have passed through the picturesque valley of the Deveron, the banks of which river are covered with country seats. Glendronach is planted in the Valley of Forgue, and the hills at the front and back are called the Foreman and Coulsalmond range. The Dronah Burn, which runs over rich beds of peat and mossy uplands, runs through the Works, and not only supplies all the motive power, but is also used for distilling purposes. This stream is of great reputation in the district, and its water, although tinged with a golden brown, is pale enough to delight the heart of a distiller, and is also bright and perfectly clear. The Distillery, built in the form of a square, covers four acres of ground, and was established in the year 1826 by James Allardyce and others.
We commenced our inspection of this quaint and picturesque place at the Malt Barns, Mr. Walker, the Acting-Manager, being our guide. The No. 1 building is three-storied, the top being devoted to the storage of barley, holding 1,000 quarters, and the two under floors, which are concreted, for malting, each possessing a metal Steep capable of wetting 250 bushels.
In close proximity is the No. 2 Malt Barn, of somewhat smaller size, of two floors only, the top used for barley, the bottom for malting. From these floors the malt is carried on the backs of the malt-men to a Deposit Room, from whence it is raised direct to the Kiln, a building 25 feet square, floored with iron plates, heated by peat fired in open furnaces, placed a good distance from the floor to prevent the malt being scorched.
Following our guide, we next visited the Malt Deposit, from whence we descended to the Mill, which contains a pair of metal malt rollers, the machinery being driven by a water-wheel 11 feet in diameter. After that we went to the Grist Loft, which is in an adjoining building and over the Mash House.
This latter building is about 40 feet square and contains a metal Mash-tun, which is stirred with oars, underneath which is the Underback holding 3,400 gallons. Near the Tun are the coolers, with the old-fashioned revolving fan arrangement. Continuing our progress, we came to the Tun Room, a well lighted and spacious apartment, wherein are placed four Washbacks, holding 4,500 gallons each, and a Wash-charger holding 3,309 gallons, &c. From this building we went outside and turned to the left a few yards, and then reached the Still House, which is about 50 feet square, and is the oldest part of the Works. It contains two old Pot-stills, heated by furnaces, one of them, a Wash-still, holds 1,500 gallons; the other, a Spirit-still, 1,200 gallons; also two Low-wines and Feints Receivers, and a Spirit Receiver. Next door is the Spirit Store, wherein is a Vat holding 1,584 gallons, and across the way, in the centre of the Court, a Cooperage and Cask Shed. On our way thither we noticed two Worm-tubs, which are placed at a lower level than the burn, by which source they are constantly fed with water. There are two water-wheels on the premises, no steam power being used.
Following our guide, we bent our steps to the six Bonded Warehouses. One of these is celebrated for maturing the Whisky in two or three years (equal to five in the others), owing to a peculiarity of the atmosphere; another is a newly-built stone Warehouse of large dimensions, holding upwards of 1,000 casks.
On leaving this Department, we crossed the burn by an ancient bridge into a large court, consisting of Stables for four cart horses, byre for 28 head of cattle, large Piggeries, and a Thrashing Mill. We then returned to Glendronach House, where, earlier in the day, we had taken lunch, and were conducted to the spacious drawing room to view the fine collection of medals and silver plate, awards for prize cattle to the late Mr. Scott, who was one of the most celebrated breeders of prize animals in the country. We were exceedingly interested in these valuable trophies, never before having seen so many in a private house. The Glendronach make is pure Highland Malt, and held in high repute both in England and Scotland; we tasted some 1878, which was very much like liqueur brandy. The annual output is 55,000 gallons.
Since our visit to this Distillery, its former proprietor, Mr. Walter Scott, has died and the property has passed into the hands of the “Glendronach Distillery Company,” who have retained the services of Mr. C. Grant, who acted as manager to Mr. Scott for upwards of eleven years. The Offices of the Company are at 45, Quality Street, Leith.