Glenochil

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

Glenochil Distillery, by Stirling.

WE left Crieff on Saturday night, and travelled direct to the Bridge of Allan to rest ourselves until Monday in that quiet and lovely retreat. We were favoured with most glorious weather, and shall never forget our brief sojourn in this favourite resort.

We rose early next morning, and after quaffing a goblet of the celebrated mineral waters from the Airthrey Wells, dispensed by a charming Scottish lassie in most bewitching attire, we ascended the heights above the Hydropathic and were amply repaid for our toil. The view that opened out before us was surprisingly beautiful. It embraced Stirling with its fine old caste, backed by a distant range of mountains; Wallace’s Monument, built on a rocky acclivity, with its pedestal almost hidden in the dense foliage of the hill on which it stands; and the sinuous windings of the Forth, discernible almost to Edinburgh. The grand Ochil Hills with their intersections of cliff and wood stretching out as far as the eye could reach, and beneath our feet, a vast panorama of beauty unmatched in the kingdom; little wonder that the fire burned in the heart of our companion, the McQueen Barr, a native of the place, and that the blood rushed faster through his veins as he proudly asked, if it were possible to obtain such another view in all the British Isles.

After gazing for some time on the prospect before us, we descended by another route from that by which we had ascended, and kept along on the face of the hill to the left, and then zig-zagged our way downwards until we joined the road along which we had passed in the morning. On this side of the hill we caught sight of Dunblane, and had a beautiful view of the Allan River, which flows through one of the most picturesque bits of scenery it is possible to imagine. Along the whole valley it is framed by the variegated ornaments of wood, rock and hill slopes, till lost to sight, but “to memory dear.” We started early the next morning to visit the Glenochil Distillery, which is the largest in the Clackmannan district, and were favoured with a continuance of the same delightful weather.

We were a merry party, including the McQueen Barr, and our route lay amid scenery both mountainous and pastoral. On one side stretched a valley with waving cornfields and rich plantations heavy with foliage, and on the other the Ochil Hills, some of them rising in their grandeur to a height of 2,000 feet above the level of the sea; from the heart of these hills flows the water that feeds the Glenochil Distillery. It is called the Balquhan Burn, a very small stream at its source, but gathering strength as it flows along, breaking into numerous waterfalls, some of them falling forty feet, passing its way down a delightful ravine, it finally flows over the Menstrie moss at the root of the hills, and thence into the works.

The Distillery, which is the oldest in the district, having been established in 1746, is four miles from Tillicoultry on the banks of the Devon; five from Stirling and the Bridge of Allan, and thirteen from the celebrated Rumbling Bridge. The Works cover ten acres of ground, and all the buildings are large and lofty. The tall chimney stacks are the most notable objects in the plain, and were discernible for some miles before we arrived at the establishment.

The proprietors have, during the past forty years, as their business increased, made important additions and alterations to the Works, and a business has been built up second to none in the district. The Distillery is entered through an old-fashioned gateway leading into a court yard, wherein are ranged on one side the partners and general clerks’ offices, and on the other the house of the acting manager. Beyond this another opening leads into the works proper. After making ourselves known to Mr. McNab, he handed us over to the acting manager, Mr. Wm. Leal, who conducted us through the place and explained to us the working of the Distillery.

Our steps were first directed to the huge Grain Stores, lofty buildings eleven in number, each 120 feet long by 80 feet broad. In front of these Stores is a railway siding direct from the main line to Alloa, which brings the trucks laden with grain to the doors, where their contents are emptied into a hopper, and delivered to the top floors of the Stores by elevators. From thence the grain is conveyed by a continuous screw along the roof of the building for nearly a quarter of a mile, into whichever Store is desired in this way 1,000 quarters can be emptied daily. Contiguous to the Stores is the hot air Kiln, capable of drying two hundred quarters in 24 hours, from whence the dried grain is conveyed by screws and trap doors and received into an elevator, from which it is transmitted by other continuous screws to the Mill stones, where it is pulverised into flour and again passed by screws and elevators to the Mashing department, where it is collected and weighed into bags of 168 lbs. each. These are afterwards emptied into the Mash Tun, a large vessel 20 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep, having the patent revolving stirring gear inside. The liquor from this vessel is now let down on the malt in the Mash Tun below, which is of the enormous measurement of 30 feet in diameter and 7 feet deep, with the usual revolving stirring gear. From here it is drawn off by cranes into the two Underbacks, each 12 feet by 24 feet, and 4 feet deep, and then pumped up by centrifugal pumps to the Cooling Machines, and to three of Morton’s largest refrigerators, where it is cooled to the required temperature prior to fermentation. The Wash is now put into the Fermenting Tuns, of which there are a great number placed in an extensive building, where it goes through the process of fermentation. The carbonic acid gas given off during this process is highly dangerous to the workmen in the lower part of the Tun Room, the gas being much heavier than ordinary air. The building, however, is freely ventilated, and the men only remain a brief time when washing out the building and watching the process.

After the fermentation is complete the liquor is transferred through closed pipes, into the Wash Charger, a vessel containing upwards of 30,000 gallons, and from thence into the Coffeys Patent Stills, which differ from the old Pot Stilling in that they are more economical, and are capable of making a purer spirit. The fusel oil, which forms a proportion of every kind of grain, is by this process completely separated from the spirit and collected into a vessel specially designed for that purpose, and emptied at the and of a period. It may here be mentioned that the oil is a valuable commodity, being used, not only for illuminating and chemical purposes, but, after undergoing a patent process of rectification, is converted into a most useful medicine.

The hot spirit in passing from the Still near the top goes to the Condenser, is cooled in the usual way, and afterwards runs into the two Spirit receivers, each holding about 5,000 bulk gallons. Here the charge is taken, and the Spirits are pumped into the vats, placed in the Spirit Stores, where it is run into Casks, branded and sent into the Warehouses, of which there are seven covering about three acres of ground and all under one roof. They have a very imposing appearance from the road, and are so arranged that carts can drive down the various avenues and deposit or fetch away the Whisky.

We next retraced our steps to the Malting department, where there are three Barley Stores, conveniently arranged buildings each 120 feet long by 60 feet broad. The Barley is carried to each floor by a powerful hoist and dropped through sluices on to the three malting floors. In close proximity is the Malt Kiln, 24 feet by 45, a lofty apartment and floored with perforated steel plates.

The Malt Stores are of great depth. Here when the Malt is taken from the Kiln, it is laid until the building is full, and then put into another Store of the same size until that is filled, so that whilst the contents of the one is maturing, the other one is in use.

We then proceeded to the Mill, a capacious building of several stories, which contains seven pairs of stones for crushing the dried grain and pulverising the Malt.

Our guide next led the way to the Engine department, which contains six engines from 5 to 50-horse power, and six steam boilers about 24 feet long by 7 feet in diameter.

The Company manufacture an enormous quantity of what is called German Yeast, considered superior to that manufactured on the Continent, and which commands a good price in the market.

Within the works there is a large Cooperage for the repair of casks, also carpenters, engineers and blacksmiths shops. Upward of 100 persons are employed in the Distillery, and there are seven Excise Officers on the premises.

The Whisky made at this establishment is pure Grain and is said to be of superior quality, and the annual output is nearly 1,000,000 gallons.