Glenlivet Distillery, Glenlivet, Inveraven, Banffshire.
WE shall never forget our ride of twenty miles to Glenlivet on a bright spring day. We proceeded by the Spey side, one of the most rapid and beautiful rivers in Scotland, through the plantations and copses of Ballindalloch, up mountain roads, across highland moors, and past old Benrinnes, standing out like a mighty giant against the clear sky, the scene changing at every turn of the road like a bit of fairyland, until at last we came in sight of - Glenlivet. The Distillery planted on its slopes has a background of distant mountains, grim and bare to their very summits, and we wished for the pencil of an artist to enable us to transfer to canvas this scene of majestic grandeur. The whole district of Glenlivet is rich in historical memories. Here, on the banks of a mountain stream, was the battlefield on which in 1594 the Royal Army, under the Earl of Huntly, defeated the farces of the Covenanters under the Duke of Argyle. The position which the latter occupied on the side of the hill gave him an immense advantage over his opponents, who, by reason of the mossiness of the ground and the open pits from which turf had been dug, were at a disadvantage notwithstanding which Huntly advanced, and a bloody battle ensued, each party fighting with equal bravery. During the contest the Earl of Huntly’s horse was shot under him, and he was in imminent danger; but another was immediately procured, and the contest renewed with so much vigour that Huntly drove the Covenanters’ army from the field, and would have pursued them, but the hills were too steep for his cavalry. On the side of Argyle five hundred men and several nobles were killed. The Earl of Huntly’s losses were trifling in comparison, fourteen gentlemen, including the Earl of Errol, where killed, and a considerable number of persons wounded. At the conclusion of the battle the conquerors returned thanks to God on the field for the victory they had won.
The parish of Glenlivet extends to a distance of nine miles, and the entire population does not exceed a thousand persons, who are mainly Roman Catholics, this part of the country never having entirely succumbed to the Protestant wave. It is a wildly highland region, with mountains on all sides, that are intersected here and there with rills and burns. The Livet runs for a course of nine miles through the district to the river Aven. The bills in the immediate vicinity of the Distillery are called the Braes of Glenlivet, and the water used in the works comes from springs in the mountains 1,200 feet above the level of the Distillery.
This neighbourhood has always been famous for its Whisky. Formerly smuggling houses were scattered on every rill, all over the mountain glens, and at that time the smugglers used to lash the kegs of spirit on their backs, and take them all the way to Aberdeen and Perth for disposal. Now all is changed, and in the year 1824 a legal Distillery was built by the father of the present proprietor, who was a man of great moral courage and physical strength. So great was the opposition of the smugglers to his settlement in the district that for a long time until they were dispersed he had to carry firearms for his protection; hence he commenced work under great difficulties, but his indomitable perseverance overcame all obstacles in the end, and his efforts were crowned with such success that “Smith’s Glenlivet” has become a household word, and the Whisky is appreciated in every country. From 50 gallons per week the output speedily increased to 1,500, until in 1859 a new and larger Distillery was built, and the output now exceeds 4,000 gallons per week.
The works are planted on the slopes of the mountain, 840 feet above the level of the sea, and cover nearly five acres of ground. There is not a village or town anywhere near the place; the nearest railway station is about seven miles distant - a more lonely spot in winter, or a more delightful one in summer, could not be found for those who like quietude and rest. Truly it is very far away from the “madding crowd.” the hospitable proprietor is a true highlander, and not only entertained us and our driver, but invited us to spend our next vacation with him, and have some days grouse shooting on a fine moor of about 10,000 acres, which he rents from His Grace the Duke of Richmond and Gordon and Lady Seafield.
The Distillery has a frontage of 800 feet, and is built in the form of a triangle. The barley is carted from Ballindalloch Station, a distance of seven miles, in the return carts which take down the Whisky to the rail, and for this purpose Major Smith keeps numerous teams of magnificent horses; we passed as many as sixteen during our drive up to the Distillery. The barley is hoisted to the two granary floors, which are capable of holding 3,000 quarters of barley, from whence it descends to the three Stone Steeps, capable of wetting 55 quarters of barley in each. Here it rests from forty to sixty hours. The water is then drained off by means of false bottoms, and the steeped barley is thrown out on to the malting floors, which consist of three splendid apartments, floored with concrete, and together capable of working about 2,500 bushels per week. The dimensions of these malting floors embrace an area of 15,000 square feet. The malt men turn over this wet barley at intervals according to the state of the weather, until it is properly germinated; when this process is satisfactorily completed, the sprouted barley is removed to the Kiln by means of elevators. The Kiln is a lofty building, being 80 feet long by 28 feet, floored with perforated tiles and fired principally with peat, which is of fine quality and dug in the district. From this department the dried malt is removed to the stores adjoining, from whence it is dropped through a hopper into the Malt Mill, where it is crushed through a pair of metal rollers. The grist or pulverized malt is now elevated to the Grist Loft, a spacious apartment above the Mash Tun, and the ground malt now begins its important work by first of all passing through a Steel’s Patent Mashing Machine (before described), and from thence descends into the Mash Tun, a circular vessel 14 feet 6 inches in diameter and 4½ feet deep, which contains the double-action stirring rakes, where water with an average temperature of 155 degrees is first added, followed by two similar processes at increasing temperature. The wort is now drawn off into the Underback, from which vessel it is pumped to a tank which commands a Morton’s Refrigerator, where it is naturally cooled until it becomes about 74 degrees Fahrenheit, and runs into the Washbacks, of which there are ten holding 3,700 gallons and other two 7,000 each, where the yeast is added, and fermentation commences at once, and continues for about forty-eight hours, more or less.
The liquor is now called wash, and descends by gravitation into the Wash Charger, from whence it is pumped into the Wash Still, holding about 3,700 gallons, which contains in its interior the old-fashioned revolving chain arrangement for stirring the wash, so as to prevent it from burning. From this Still the spirit goes into the Worm or Condensers, two large tanks placed outside, continuously renewed with mountain water, which is conducted underground from the springs before referred to. These Worms are circular tubes of 14 inches in diameter, decreasing to about 41 inches at the bottom.
From the Worm the spirit passes through the safe, an instrument for testing, locked up and under the charge of the Excise gentlemen, who from the time the wash enters the Still, henceforth have their eye upon it, and every vessel is by them securely locked.
From the safe the spirit falls into the low-wines Receiver, from whence it is pumped up into the low wines and feints Charger, holding 3,000 gallons. It is now run into the low wines and feints Still, holding 750 gallons, and for a second time undergoes the same process as from the wash Still. The pure spirit is now pumped into a large vat placed in the Spirit Store, a contiguous building, where it is filled into casks, weighed, branded, and sent into the Warehouses.
We were now conducted to the Engine House, which contains a twelve horse-power horizontal engine and a large tubular steam boiler; to the coopery, engineers, carpenters, and painters’ shops, the smithy, stores, and cart sheds; and last, not least, to the magnificent stabling, which at the time of our visit contained thirty horses.
Attached to the Distillery is a capital farm-steading, in which there are about forty cows, one-half of them of the fashionable pure-bred polled breed, and the other mostly pure-birth short-horned; also other feeding cattle, in all about 120 head, which consume the draff and spent wash of the Distillery, much to their own satisfaction and profit to the proprietor.
About fifty men are employed on the establishment, for whose comfort excellent cottages, bothies, dormitories, and farm kitchens have been provided.
There are four Excise officers on the premises; the chief, Mr. Hogan, is a thoroughly practical and scientific, gentleman. The Stills are all of the old-fashioned Pot kind, and the Whisky, which is pure Highland Malt, is shipped to all parts of the world. The annual output is nearly 200,000 gallons.