Glenglassaugh Distillery, Portsoy.
FROM Keith to Glenglassaugh is nearly an hour’s journey through a rich and well cultivated country. Within two miles of our destination we came to Portsoy, a charming little seaport town, beautifully situated and rapidly rising into notoriety. After this the track runs through plains laden with most luxuriant crops, which delighted our eyes and gladdened our hearts; farmhouses were scattered here and there, surrounded by ample barns and stabling, all betokening the easy circumstances of the farmers, and on our right the beautiful sea stretched out as far as the eye could reach. We have noticed in our travels that all the northern Distilleries are planted in the country, either on the sea shore or by the mountain side, and seldom in towns or cities, and have asked the reason of the Distillers, who generally reply, “We must have plenty of water power and good water, so we select the banks of a quickly-flowing stream. Then, again, we use home-grown barley, and only peat of the finest quality for drying the malt also, we believe that a good climate and pure air are indispensable in the production of a delicate spirit like Whisky.”
A pleasant walk of ten minutes from the station through the Glenglassaugh property brought us to the ruins of an ancient mill, built over a lofty brick archway, through which we passed for the Distillery, close by.
The Glenglassaugh Distillery, which is about half a mile from the station, was established in the year 1875. It is built on the slopes of a steep hill close to the sea, from which it is screened by a sand hill. All the work is accomplished by gravitation and water power, and the buildings, which are handsome and substantially built, contain all the new appliances and vessels as in other modern Distilleries. The Glassaugh River, which rises in the Knock Hills, flows through a strip of woodlands, which we crossed by the railway, and from thence through the establishment into the sea. Its waters are considered very pure and suitable for distilling purposes, and it was for this reason that the work was located in the Glassaugh Glen.
We were conducted over the premises by Mr. Mathieson, the principal manager, and first inspected the Malt House, a three-decker stone building, 106 feet long by 45 feet broad. A part of the top floor is used for storing barley, and will hold 500 quarters; the other two flats are Malting Floors, and each possesses a Steep, 9 feet deep and the width of the floor. We next crossed a large open space to the Granaries, a very handsome range of buildings, 123 feet long by 40 feet broad, and, like the others, well lighted. We ascended an outside stone staircase to reach the top floor, which, like those underneath, is used only for storing barley, and all together hold 3,000 quarters. The basement of this house, which is a Bonded Store, is dry and well ventilated. The Kiln forms the gable end of the Granary, and, as the buildings are all on the slope, the barley is wheeled direct on to the Kiln floor. The Kiln, which is 30 feet square, is of modern construction, open roofed, floored with German wire cloth, and fired with peat only in open chauffeurs. It divides the Granaries from the Malt Deposit. To reach the latter we retraced our steps to the hillside, and ascending a staircase found ourselves in a chamber, 30 feet by 26 feet, over the end of the Mash House. A wooden trough from the side of the Kiln conveys the dried malt to this floor. Underneath is the Mill Room, 15 feet square, partitioned off from the Mash House, which contains a pair of malt rollers and the grinding machinery, driven by a water-wheel. The pulverized malt is raised by elevators to the large hopper in the Grist Loft. Continuing our progress, we next entered the Brewing House, which also combines the Tun Room, and is a noble gallery, 84 feet long by 43 feet broad. From the roof depends a Steel’s Patent Mashing Machine, which is fed from the Grist Hopper already referred to, and on one side there are two Heating Coppers, holding 2,000 gallons. The Mash-tun is 14 feet in diameter by 4 feet deep, with the usual stirring machinery and draining plates therein. Over the Tun is a Machine, an ingenious invention, for sparging the grains after the worts have been drained. Stuck into the concrete floor is the Underback, a large open vessel, from whence the worts are pumped up through a copper pipe, which runs outside the building a distance of 90 feet, to the open Coolers in the roof of the Tun Room, which are arranged on the old-fashioned fan principle, and measure 43 feet by 30 feet. There is only one pump on the premises. On leaving the Coolers, we once more descended into the Mash House, through which we passed into the Tun Room, a large hall, against the walls of which are ranged five Washbacks, each holding 4,500 gallons. Continuing our descent, we passed through the Yeast House on to the gallery of the Still House, which is 20 feet from the floor, and contains the Wash Charger, holding 4,500 gallons; also a Low-wines and Feints Receiver, Spirit Receiver, and the Safe. The Still House is a modern edifice, and is fitted up with all the latest improvements; it contains a Wash Still, heated by a furnace, holding 4,000 gallons, also a Spirit Still, heated by a furnace, holding 2,000 gallons, &c.
On the next terrace below, on the banks of the stream, is the Spirit Store, 35 feet long by 20 feet, and with the two large Bonded Warehouses, are at the lowest level of the Distillery. One of these Bonds is 100 feet long by 80 feet broad, the other is not quite so large; there are four of them altogether. Near by we observed five large peat stacks, containing together upwards of 400 tons, which is dug from the Crombie Moss, two miles above Glenbarry; also a Carpenter’s Shop, Cooperage, and Cask Shed. The Manager resides in a stone-built modern villa, and there is also a row of neat cottages on the property for the workmen. Besides these, there are two handsome dwelling houses, with large gardens at the main entrance, occupied by Mr. Tolmie and another Excise gentleman.
The Worm Tub is a square timber vessel, fed by the dam, which is above of tallest building in the establishment, and flows along a conduit at the back of the Brewing and Distilling House, and then falls over a water-wheel of immense proportions, which does all the driving in the Distillery.
The property covers 17 acres, and there is in addition a farm of 80 acres, which grows some of the finest barley in the district. The Whisky is pure Highland Malt, and the annual output is 80,000 gallons, and is said to be steadily gaining favour in the market.