Glentarras

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

Glentarras Distillery, Langholm.

LEAVING the river Esk, and pursuing our way up the steep hill, which leads from the valley we soon find ourselves in the uplands, with a view of hill, valley, and river not easily described. As we drive along, a charming glimpse is afforded of the Distillery, peeping out from the clustering foliage looking quite picturesque in the distance, while far below runs the beautiful river Tarras looking like a band of dead gold along the course of the glen. From the high road we descend a steep path into the valley and diverge to the left alongside the river. Supreme quiet reigns in this lovely glen, only broken by the rippling river or the noise of the water wheel. There is a wealth of greenery all round and the rich copses stretch up to the very walls of the Distillery. As we jog along it is difficult to believe that with such surroundings, and in such a quiet retreat, we are in the immediate vicinity of a busy industry. When nearing the entrance to the works, the driver points out the Manager’s residence, which is at the far end of the property. It is a picturesque cottage standing on a little island formed by two little rivulets, which entirely cut it off from the Distillery.

Glentarras was built in the year 1839, by Mr. J. Kennedy, a Scotchman, and in 1872 it came into the hands of the present Company.

The beautiful river Tarras runs in front of the works, and the whole of the Distillery was built from stones or boulders taken from its rocky bed. The establishment consists of a long row of buildings with a projection at one end, and with the workmen’s cottages and manager’s house covers some four acres of ground. The nearest passenger station is Langholm, four miles distant, but the Company have a siding on the line about a mile distant. The water used in the Distillery, is the Gaulsike water, which falls over the windstone rock and runs by a conduit through a ravine in the rocks behind the Distillery.

Mr. Joseph Twentyman, the manager, conducted us through the place, and first led the way to the Maltings and Granaries, a three storied building, 219 feet by 38 wide, the top being used for the storage of the barley, the middle floor for malting, with the usual steep, and the bottom floor as a bonded warehouse. Adjoining are two Kilns, floored with wire cloth, whilst beyond is a malt store and the mill, the latter containing a pair of malt rollers. We now returned to the open space in front of the river and came to the Mash-house, at the end of which is a steam boiler 20 feet long and 5½ feet in diameter, which supplies hot water to the two heating coppers, each of which holds 6,000 gallons. On a 4 terrace of this building is placed a Mash Tun, 17 feet in diameter and 6½ feet deep. Immediately underneath, and by a clever arrangement, is the Draff House, so arranged that by lifting the sluices the grains rail direct into the farmers’ carts beneath. We now passed along a stone passage on a lower level and came to the Underback, an open vessel, 27 feet long and 8 feet wide holding 2,300 gallons. Our guide now led the way across a plank bridge to the cooling and water wheel house, where is to be seen a Miller’s Refrigerator, through which the worts run to the jack-back, a square iron vessel holding 2,000 gallons, at the side of which is the overshot water wheel 25 feet in diameter. In this apartment we noticed also a large timber Receiver, which collects all the spent wash in the place. We now take a few steps up the hill and come to the Tun Room, a lofty apartment, 68 feet long by 38 broad, solely used for fermenting operations, wherein are eight Wash-backs, each holding 8,000 gallons. On the wall there is a rotary pump driven by the water wheel, which pumps the wash to the Charger. We now climb a few more steps to a house used for the Wash Charger and its basement for a cooperage. The Wash Charger, which holds 14,000 gallons, is an unusually tall vessel, rearing its head high up into the roof, whilst at its base are strewn casks in every stage of cleansing, purification and reparation. From this point we begin to descend the hill again, and on entering a doorway find ourselves at the top of the Still House, and looking down upon the heads of the four Pot Stills, a wash holding 5,440, spirit 1,225, do. 600, and a feints Still 1,000 gallons. On the next landing below us is placed the low wines and feints Receiver holding 1,200 gallons, and at the bottom of the stair two other receivers of a similar capacity, the safe and the spirit Receiver holding 1,000 gallons. Here also is a smaller water wheel, which drives the chains in the Stills. The manager now conducted us across a gangway to the Worm Tub, 50 feet deep, which, though apparently in the Still House, is let into an excavation in the side of the rock which overtops the Distillery. Descending the hill to the riverside we come to the six large bonded Warehouses, which are thoroughly ventilated and very dry. They contained 200,000 gallons of Whisky at the time of our visit. The Spirit Store is conveniently arranged for these Warehouses, and close by the Excise offices.

Within a few yards there is a row of workmen’s cottages, and residences for the Excise gentlemen.

The Whisky is highly and richly flavoured Malt, and sold principally in London.

The annual output is 75,000 gallons.

After quaffing a glass of the ten-year old product of Glentarras, we bade adieu to Mr. Twentyman, and commenced our journey homewards. On reaching Carlisle, we found, much to our delight, that arrangements had been made for us to proceed to Dublin, via Greenock, before visiting Liverpool, as we had intended; so bidding good-bye to our friends, we started by the next train, full of anticipation and ready for new experiences in the Emerald Isle.