Loch Katrine

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

Loch Katrine Distillery, Camlachie, Glasgow.

The morning we had fixed for our visit to this Distillery broke most miserably, and the rain poured down in torrents. We did not, however, start until eleven o’clock, and by that time the sun had begun to struggle through the clouds. When we arrived at the gates of the Distillery the sky had cleared, and the damp roofs of the buildings glittered in the sunshine. It requires a great stretch of imagination to believe that this was once the pleasantest suburb of Glasgow-the resort of well-to-do citizens, and that Camlachie was, in remote days, a pretty village, and its then sylvan stream much frequented by anglers. What a change! The village is now absorbed into the great city, and the little old-fashioned Distillery on the banks of the stream has disappeared, giving place to a handsome pile of buildings, and claimed to be one of the largest Malt Distilleries in Scotland.

The Loch Katrine Distillery was re-built in the year 1849, and the buildings alone cover an area of nearly six acres. They are arranged in two divisions with a spacious roadway down the centre, and some idea of their magnitude may be gathered from the following. The five Barley Lofts alone cover an area of over 5,000 square yards, and there are besides two germinating floors, one of which is 180 feet long by 90 feet wide, and the other 170 by 70 feet, and all the rest of the buildings are in similar proportions. In passing we examined the immense stock of barley on hand, and found the various kinds to be of the finest description and quality, an important factor, no doubt, in the desired results. A powerful steam engine is here placed for hoisting barley to the several flats of the buildings. The Steeps are two large cast-iron receptacles of over 3,000 bushels capacity, and here the first process in the manufacture of pure malt Whisky begins. In these vessels the grain is allowed to remain under water for a time, after which the water is drained off, and the now “steeped” barley drops through valves in the bottom of the vessels to the germinating floors below. Malting now begins, and occupies a more or less time according to the kind of barley and mode of working. When matured the malt is kiln-dried in two Kilns worked on a new scientific principle. The drying process is effected by pure air heated by steam in two copper machines of tubular construction, and the firm considers that it has the advantage of purity and economy, the malt possessing none of the deterrent effects which frequently follow the usual method of drying by fire alone. When the malt has remained long enough under the act ion of heated air and peat, and is perfectly dry, it is removed to a spacious store-house called the Malt Deposit. On our entrance here, a sweet agreeable odour pervaded the place, and between ten and twenty thousand bushels of matured malt lay before us. The next process is the “grinding,” and we were taken to the adjoining Mill Room, where the malt is crushed between two cylindrical rollers on the ground floor, and conveyed by elevators to the floor above, where the grist is put into sacks preparatory to the next process of “mashing.” The first room is capable of holding 5,000 bushels.

We next proceeded to the Mash House, containing a large mash tun capable of mashing 1,500 bushels at one time; it is fitted with a double set of patent rakes of the most approved kind which do their work admirably. This part of the operations is called the “infusion,” the grist being collected in a hopper above, at the end of which is attached a patent mashing machine in which the hot water and malt amalgamate and descend to the Mash Tun below, to be operated upon by the revolving rakes; the water for mashing purposes is heated by steam in three large coppers. After the “infusion” the worts are drained off to a Wort Receiver situated below the mash tun and of almost equal capacity. Two large patent pumps throw the vast volume of worts to another Wort Receiver situate in another part of the buildings commanding the Tun Room, which we shall notice later on. One of these pumps is composed principally of brass, and is capable of throwing 10,000 gallons per hour, while the other is a direct acting steam-pump of equal power, the two being able to be worked separately or together as required. The action of the steam-pump may be described as a combination of eccentric and hydraulic compensation principle in governing the slide valve. The whole of the machinery in this department is driven by a horizontal steam engine of 40 horse power.

Still following the process we next found ourselves in the Refrigerating House, where the worts are cooled down to the required degree of temperature. This house contains the large Wort Reservoir, before referred to, which supplies a constant flow of worts to three large patent refrigerators. The Refrigerating House is situated at the top of the premises adjoining the Tun Room, where the worts are conveyed in copper pipes to the Tuns or Washbacks. The Tun Room, which is of great length and width, contains eleven Washbacks, the largest of which has a content of 18,000 gallons. A modern style of “switching” is adopted, the “switchers” receiving their power from two main parallel shafts running the whole length of the buildings, and driven by a 20 horse power vertical engine.

Attenuation ended, the “wash,” as it is now called, is pumped by a patent “centrifugal” to the Wash Charger. The Still House has a most attractive and handsome appearance, not to be excelled, we think, in Scotland. It contains four brightly polished Stills, one Spirit Receiver, three Low-wines and Feints Receivers, Wash Charger, Spirit Safes, and Refrigerator. The utensils are beautifully painted and kept scrupulously clean. The mirror-like Spirit Safes are of modern construction, and perfect examples of skilled workmanship. The Safe proper is a very large one, and the Sampling Safe a perfect work of art. Two of the Stills are used for distillation of wash, and two for low-wines and feints. The Spirits, Low-wines, and Feints Receivers have a content of nearly 4,000 gallons each respectively. A Prince of Wales’ feather water gauge keeps playing like a little fountain near the Safes, and has an imposing and artistic effect as it glistens in the sunlight. This gauge shows whether or not the pumps that supply water for condensation are working. The Worm Tub is a huge utensil, containing an immense length of copper worms, over which a deluge of cold pure sparkling water is constantly flowing supplied by two pumps situated on the ground floor of the Still House. These pumps differ entirely in principle from the others we have referred to, each being a steam engine in itself, and may be described as of positive and direct action, with fly wheel.

The Draff House is situated at the extreme end of the yard, and is easy of access for horses and carts. It is a capacious apartment of great height and breadth, and is supplied with draff by a set of monster elevators; the draff commands a ready sale. Adjoining this house we were introduced to the Desiccated Grain Factory, a separate building and complete institution in itself, and a notable feature at this Distillery. It contains six patent revolving desiccating machines wherein the draff is dried and converted into a useful meal for cattle. There is a great demand for draff in this farm, as it has the advantage of keeping any length of time without in the least impairing its quality. It is put up in bags for the market and sold at about £5 : 10 : 0 per ton. Opposite the Warehouses, and adjoining the Still House, stands the Spirit Store containing three Spirit Vats of a capacity of 4,100 gallons each, into which the Whisky flows by gravitation. Here it is filled into casks and, after remaining a day or so, it is transferred to the Duty Free Warehouses. These Warehouses are four in number and contain upwards of 4,000 casks.

We next directed our steps to the steam boiler department, situated on the opposite side of the yard to the Malt-houses, and adjoining the Still House. Here are three boilers for generating steam, each 27 feet long by 7 feet in diameter, with two furnaces to each boiler. The boilers are fed by injectors, a direct acting steam pump, and the engine pumps. The water used in this Distillery comes from Loch Katrine, and the Whisky produced is “Pure Malt,” and is sold at home and abroad.

The annual output is 300,000 gallons.

A block of Counting Houses adjoins the Spirit Store with the Inland Revenue Department above, but the principal Glasgow Offices are at 4, Bothwell Street, where all business is transacted in connection with this, and also the Benmore Distillery, Campbeltown, and the Caol Ila Distillery, Islay, which belong to the same firm.

The Cooperage is at the top of the yard, and forms in this Distillery quite an industry in itself, many men being employed in keeping their department abreast of the rest. In front of the Cooperage is piled a perfect pyramid of empty casks, mostly belonging to customers, and there waiting their turn to be filled. The Engineer’s Workshop, an iron erection near the Mash House, is replete with forge, heavy screw cutting lathe and fitter’s bench, and a complete set of tools for repairing machinery.

The firm have their own Fire Brigade on the premises, a well drilled body of men who know how to act in case of emergency, and as this is not the least important department in all Distilleries, and more especially in this one, we detail the various safeguards and precautions taken against fire and explosions. Hydrants or fire plugs, reels and hose, extincteurs, water force pumps and hand grenades abound all over the buildings at the most commanding points. In addition to these, special precautions are taken against accidents in the Mill and Grist Room; hydrants are placed at available points both outside and inside, and there is a large perforated steam pipe in connection with the boilers, whereby, in case of fire breaking out the building can be instantly filled with steam. A precaution against explosions is worthy of note; these dust explosions do occasionally occur in grain or flour mills, and are sometimes attended with serious consequences, and even with fatal results. Here the safeguard consists by simply connecting a large metal pipe from the interior of the top of the grist elevators to the exterior of the roof, the outside of the pipe being fitted with a safety valve so that in case of an explosion the valve flies open, and the force harmlessly expands itself in the open air.

We returned to our hotel by way of Glasgow Green, a public park, covering upwards of 104 acres, with a ride or carriage drive around it of 2½ miles in length. The Green was at one time the fashionable promenade of the inhabitants, and was the scene of all the grand military exercises in the stirring times when “George the Third was King.” Here, too, all the washing, drying, and bleaching operations of the whole city were performed, as, in those days, the ground abounded in springs and marshy rivulets, “lasses lilting o’er the pail” might he seen or heard by the hundred. Wilson, in his poem of “The Clyde,” says:

“Here barefoot beauties lightly trip along;Their snowy labours all the verdure throng:The linen some with rosy fingers rub,And white the foam o’erflows the smoking tub.”

The aristocracy of Glasgow no longer frequent the park, having migrated westward, but the militia and volunteers make it their rendezvous and parade ground. After his unfortunate expedition into England and his disastrous retreat from Derby, the Chevalier Charles Edward came to Glasgow, and made the citizens clothe his naked host and maintain his army for ten days, during which time he treated the inhabitants to a grand review on The Green, which they did not appreciate or countenance.

During the Radical ferment of 1819-20, The Green was a popular resort of the insurrectionists, who kept the citizens of Glasgow in a painful state of suspense. Those who escaped the lash of the law fled to America, but one James Wilson was hanged and beheaded for his share in the riots. This is said to he the last occasion on which the axe and block were used in Great Britain.