Glenturret Distillery, by Crieff.
IT was a lovely day when we first made the acquaintance of Crieff and its neighbourhood, so thoroughly Highland in character and abounding in such wild and romantic scenery that we imagined ourselves back again in the vicinity of Loch Tay. We had journeyed by rail from Perth, and on arriving at the station found an omnibus waiting to take us to the Drummond’s Arms, a noted hostelry, erected on the site of the old building, wherein Prince Charles Edward held the notable stormy council of war on February 3rd, 1746. The situation of the hotel is delightful, and from the windows we had a view that extended forty miles. The landlord supplied us with a conveyance, and we were quickly driven to the Distillery by a road which commanded a glorious view of the valley below. The most striking object in the district is the Knock of Crieff, 400 feet above the level of the plain. It is a gentle elevation from the skirts of a beautiful wood-crowned hill, and overlooks a fine reach of Strath Earn, Torleum, and the region of Crieff.
The Distillery is a little over two miles north-west of the town, and is most picturesquely planted on the banks of the River Turret, which flows through one of the prettiest glens in Scotland. The Turret rises in Benchonzie, a mountain 3,000 feet above the level of the sea, where the snow lies until the end of June; it afterwards falls into the Turret Loch, which is about a mile long and a quarter of a mile broad. From here it flows a distance of five miles, until it joins the Earn. The vale traversed by this stream is a perfect paradise to artists, who come in great numbers to transfer some of its transcendent beauties to canvas. Poets have celebrated its many romantic scenes in song and verse.
When we diverged from the main road into the glen our route lay all the way along the river. It is a lively, dashing stream, falling over innumerable rocky rifts and projections, and is about 60 feet wide. From this point the valley opens and expands with most inviting attractiveness, and, although the hills on either side seemed occasionally to approach very near one another, forming a gorge wide enough for the river and roadway, yet, nevertheless, they do not conceal the upper part of the glen with its mountain background. We were quite entranced with the scene which at every turn of the road burst upon us and we arrived all too quickly at the end of our journey.
The Glenturret Distillery is said to be one of the oldest in Scotland having been established in 1775. It covers three acres of ground, is built principally of one, and is divided into three separate ranges of buildings. This work is reported to have been originally in the hands of the smugglers, who selected the site not only for its convenient slope to the river, but more particularly for the sake of the Turret water, which is said to be as fine as any in the Kingdom, and to contain all the required properties for distilling purposes.
We drove into the court yard of the works and proceeded to the Distiller’s Office, where we were received by the courteous proprietor, who himself showed us over the establishment. We first visited the Barley Stores, of which there are three. No. 1 Barn is situated on the top floor of the Maltings, and forms the first division of the main buildings. It is 165 feet long and 33 feet wide. Underneath are two Maltings of same dimensions, with concreted floors, and each possessing a metal Steep. Attached to this building is a good sized Kiln, floored with wire-cloth, and heated principally with peat dug in the district. A water-wheel elevates the malt from the floors to the Kiln.
Across the yard, and at the end of the Maltings, is the No. 2 Barley Store, which, like the one previously described, is built of stone and is 57 feet long by 51 feet wide, the basement of which is a Bonded Store. On the left of this building is the No. 3 Barley Store, 87 feet long and 21 broad. Underneath this Granary is also another Bonded Warehouse. The barley used in the Glenturret Distillery is principally grown in the district, and delivered to these Barns in the farmers own carts, whilst the barley purchased at the markets comes by rail, and is carted to the works by the proprietor, the distance from the station being only about 2½ miles.
From the Malt House the dried malt is wheeled in barrows across a gang-way into the two Malt Deposits, situated in the Mill Building over the Mill, where it falls through a spout into the Hopper, and is crushed by a pair of fine metal Malt Rollers, driven by a water-wheel. When the grist has been collected into bags it is wheeled across the roadway on to a wooden gallery over the Mash Tun. It may here he remarked that the Still House combines also the Mash House, Running and Receiving Room; that the inner workings of the Distillery are of the oldest fashion plan, and type, and of the same character as in vogue half a century since. Here are no new fads, appliances, or patents, but, like the buildings, the vessels are all of the ancient pattern.
The sacks of grist are emptied through a sluice into the Mash Tun. This vessel is 14 feet in diameter and 5 feet deep, with revolving stirring rakes. From this the worts run into the Worts Cistern, from thence into Morton’s Refrigerator, afterwards into the Underback, and then pumped into the Washbacks. But these last-mentioned vessels are placed on a stone parapet overhanging the river.
We then passed through a doorway into the No. 1 Backhouse, which contains eight Washbacks, holding about 2,400 gallons each. The No. 2 Backhouse adjoins this building and contains two large Washbacks, each of them having a capacity of about 5,000 gallons. The wash is pumped up from these vessels into the Wash Charger, placed at an elevation outside the Still House, so as to command the Stills. It has a capacity of 4,500 gallons, and stands along-side the metal Worm Tub, which is fed from the swiftly-flowing stream.
We next returned to the Mash House, and were shown two Pot Stills of the old shape and form. The Wash Still holds 2,500 gallons and the Spirit Still 1,700. Another overshot water-wheel works these Stills and drives the stirring gear in the Mash Tuns. Water is the only motive power in this establishment, and truly there is plenty of it everywhere. The river torrent rushes so impetuously over the huge boulders that we could hardly hear ourselves speak.
Returning by way of a narrow and rocky path on the water’s edge, we arrived at the Bonded Warehouses, some of them very spacious. There are five altogether, including those under the Granaries. A little further on is a large dwelling house, in the occupation of one of the Excise officers, facing the main road, the basement of which is on a level with the Distillery, and is used as a Racking Store. The Spirit Store is a building of itself, and contains a Vat of 2,200 gallons. The Peat Shed adjoins the Kiln, and there is stored of this valuable fuel about 300 tons ready for use.
The chimney stack is 120 feet high, the top of which came into view as soon as we turned into the glen. It is used for the furnaces in connection with the Stills and Boilers only. We noticed one of Wallace’s Multitubular Boilers in the Still House. It is used for heating the water which supplies the large Brewing Copper over the Mash Tun.
Good offices have been provided for the three Excise gentlemen, of whom Br. P. Cunningham is the supervisor. There is also a General Clerks’ and Brewer’s Office.
The Whisky, which is sold in Glasgow and Leith, also England and Ireland, is pure Malt, and largely used by bottling firms. The annual output is 90,000 gallons.