Langholm

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

Langholm Distillery, Langholm.

ON leaving Annan we made for Carlisle, where we put up for a few days at the “Crown and Mitre,” a noted old-fashioned hostelry, where we have always found good entertainment and reasonable charges.

Next day we set out for Langholm, passing through a fine stretch of country, which, when we reached Eskdale, became singularly beautiful. On either side, the hills rising from the banks of the Esk, are richly wooded, and the noble river winds in and out among the slopes that close it in. Langholm is planted in one of the sweetest landscapes in Scotland; the old part of the town is on the east bank of the Esk, and the new part on the west.

In olden days it was famous for possessing an iron instrument called the Branks, made to fit upon the head of a shrewish female, and projecting a sharp spike into her mouth, effectually silencing the organ of speech. Husbands afflicted with scolding wives led them through the town thus decorated, and tradition affirms that this discipline never failed to effect a complete reformation. We drove first of all to the Langholm Distillery, Glentarras, the next object of our visit, being some miles further on.

Our way lay by the river-side through the recesses of the valley, and whether we looked up or down, new points of beauty continually revealed themselves.

The luxuriant woods, overlooked by romantic elevations, were crowned with every variety of colour, whilst the river presented new features of interest at every turn of the road; at one time we would see it careering amid rocks and stones, at another gliding steadily along in its course to the sea.

“It seems like Eden’s angel-peopled vale,So bright the skies, so soft the river’s flow;Such music floats upon the scented gale;The very air seems sleepily to blow,And choicest flowers enamel ev’ry dale.”

The Distillery is built on a rock which projects into the River Esk and from any point has an extremely picturesque appearance. It is built of solid masonry, and faces the high road, the waters of the river washing by its walls. Since its foundation, in 1765, few alterations have been made in the place, and it is easy of belief that Whisky was made therein before any of the present generation were born. The establishment has been in the hands of the present proprietor, Mr. Arthur Connell and his family, for upwards of sixty years, whilst the manager, Mr. Campbell, has been connected with it for more than that period.

On entering the Offices we were informed by the manager that there were neither Barns nor Malting Houses to visit, the malt being all supplied by Messrs. Bernard & Co., the eminent maltsters of Haddingtonshire. We first visited the Malt Store, a neat stone building, 50 feet square, situated nearly in the centre of the block, and, although possessing a gloomy interior, is a most suitable place for the purpose.

Underneath is the Mill, which contains a pair of Malt Rollers and machinery driven by water-power. We next inspected the Mashing and Still House combined, forming one building, an old-fashioned place with paved floor, all the vessels being quite in keeping with it. This house contains two heating Coppers for hot water, each holding 1,000 gallons, a Mash Tun, 13 feet in diameter and 5 feet deep, an Underback of similar dimensions, and on the distilling side a Henderson and Turnbull’s Refrigerator. Passing through a doorway we came to the Tun Room, which contains several timber Washbacks, and a Wash Charger, holding 8,000 gallons.

Retracing our steps to the Still House, we observed three old Pot Stills, of ancient type, consisting of a Wash Still, holding 1,800 gallons, and two Spirit Stills, containing respectively 586 and 316 gallons. On our way to the Receiver Department we passed a small cooperage and cask shed, and then came to a rocky projection over the river, from whence we had a complete view of the water arrangements in the Distillery, and besides, the view embraced a part of the town of Langholm and the wooded banks of the river opposite, which presented an array of tints and shades in green and brown that would have delighted the heart of a painter, and given him a lesson in colouring not easily forgotten. This department contains a Low-wines and Feints Charger, Spirit Receiver, and Safe. Across the way is the Spirit Store, another quaint building, which has a Vat, of 998 gallons content. Following Mr. Campbell, we proceeded to inspect a few of the twenty Warehouses, which contained at the time of our visit 121,300 gallons of Whisky, dating from 1876.

The three Worm Tubs are built on stone piers over the river, the water being pumped up by a huge water-wheel. The motive power in the Distillery is entirely water, a portion of the river having been diverted through a channel cut out of the solid rock. The water used for brewing purposes is brought from a noted spring in Whitewell Hill, 1½ miles distant.

The make is pure Malt, and the aged Manager informed us that there is annually made a certain quantity of Birch Whisky, which his father taught him the secret of making. The Malt Whisky is used for blending, being somewhat rich and silent in flavour; it is also sold as a self whisky, and disposed of principally in England. The annual output is 46,000 gallons.