Greenock

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

Greenock Distillery, Greenock, Renfrewshire.

A SHORT railway journey brought us to Greenock, which is twenty-two miles from Glasgow on the South Western Railway. Early in the seventeenth century it was a small fishing village of some twenty cottages; now it is the sixth largest town in Scotland in point of population, and does an immense shipping trade with North and South America, the East and West Indies, and many other parts of the globe. It is a busy manufacturing town, with closely packed streets and some fine buildings. The hills at the back of the town rise to the height of 800 feet, and command the finest views of mountain, loch and river in Scotland. If Greenock had been built in terraces on the slopes of the hills instead of on the shore, it would, from its position on the Clyde, have been the most beautiful seaport in the world, and even now it is unrivalled in the United Kingdom.

The Greenock Distillery, an old-fashioned structure in Tobago Street, is not without its history. Early in the century it was an ancient brewery celebrated for its ale, and the fine quality of its brew has been chanted in many a song. The town has always been celebrated for its malt, and the first pier, or harbour, ever erected there, was built out of the proceeds of a malt-tax of one shilling and fourpence on every sack of malt brewed within the boundary of the town.

Let other poets raise a fracasBout vines, and wines, and drunken Bacchus,And crabbit Dames and stories wrack us,And grate our lug.I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak’ usIn glass or jug.BURNS

In the year 1824 this fine old brewery was turned into a Distillery, and ever since that date it has been in the same proprietorship. The whole establishment covers three acres of ground, the water used for distilling is brought from Lochgryfe. Only the best Scotch barley is used by the proprietors, which is carted from the railway, distant about half a mile, direct into the Granaries, of which there are three; one of them being 128 feet long and 122 feet wide; the other two are not quite so large. From the Granary Floors the barley is dropped through traps into the Steeps beneath. There are three Malting Floors, each 130 feet long by 124 feet, two of them contiguous to the Kilns, the other across the yard connected by a bridge or gangway. The Kilns are covered with the wire flooring, and peat only, which is dug from the hills at the back of the work, is used in drying. The malt, after removal from the Kilns to the Mill Stores, is dropped by a hopper into the Mill rollers below, and thence conveyed through the Mashing Machine into the Mash Tun, a solid iron vessel, 17 feet in diameter and 5 feet deep, holding 573 bushels and containing the usual stirring gear.

The Underback is sunk into the ground under the Mash Tun, and holds 3,933 gallons. The Worts are pumped up to the coolers, and a Morton’s Refrigerator above; thence into the eight Iron Wash-backs - the only ones of that kind we have seen in Scotland - faced with timber and lined with felt covering, an excellent contrivance to retain the heat. These Wash-backs have each a capacity of 5,500 gallons. From there, by gravitation, the liquid flows into the Wash Charger, another iron vessel containing 5,122 gallons, and from thence to the Wash Stills holding 4,931 gallons. From there it is sent on to the Worm Tubs or Condensers out in the open air, and through the Safe into the Low Wines Receiver, holding 1,842 gallons. From here the Spirit is pumped into the Low Wines and Feints Charger, an iron vessel holding 1,980 gallons, and thence into the Low Wines Still containing 1,007 gallons. Passing again through the Worms it flows into the No. 1 Feints Receiver, containing 930 gallons. Thence it passes on to the Low Wines Charger again, and on to No. 1 and 2 Stills, containing 879 and 776 gallons respectively. Once more passing through the Worm into No. 2 Feints Receiver, containing 925 gallons, it flows on again to the Feints Chargers to Nos. 1 and 2 Stills and Safe, direct into the Spirit Receiver, which holds 820 gallons, and has a patent index thereon which shows at a glance the position of the stop-cock.

From the foregoing explanation it will be seen that the product is really distilled three times, and the consequent result is a pure Spirit. The Whisky is afterwards pumped from the Receiver into the Vat in the Spirit Stores, a vessel containing 1,451 gallons. These Spirit Stores which are underground are very antiquated and have the appearance of having been formerly a smuggler’s cave. They are reached by stone steps at the end of the yard; here the pure Spirit is casked, weighed and branded, and then removed to one of the six Warehouses, the whole of which are capable of holding 4,000 casks.

The Stills are of the old-fashioned “Pot Still” pattern, and although very aged they are exceptionally good vessels, and the proprietors would not change them for any price. The Wash Still contains in its interior the ancient chain arrangement for agitating the liquid. There is a good Racking Store conveniently arranged, and a 12 h.p. engine. There are two steam boilers, an extra one for heating water for mashing, one 18 feet by 8 feet, and the other 14 feet by 7 feet. On one side of the gateway there is a good Cooperage, on the other Clerks Offices. Twenty-four persons are employed and most of the work is performed by manual labour.

The Whisky, which is pure Malt, is sold principally in Glasgow, London, Liverpool and Manchester. The annual output is 130,000 gallons.

The Chief Excise Officer is Mr. Moon, Supervisor.