Port Dundas

The below is taken from The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard first published in 1887. You can find the distillery profile at our Port Dundas overview

Port Dundas Distillery, Glasgow.

Having long been possessed with an ardent desire to see the Distilleries of Scotland and Ireland, I took the first opportunity that presented itself, and, knowing the task set before me would occupy at least two years, made arrangements to transfer my duties to others. It was at first thought desirable that my tour should commence at the Orkneys; but, the weather proving unfavourable, my plan of entering the land of Whisky by the sea was abandoned in favour of the iron road to Glasgow. We - for I was not doomed to travel alone - started from Euston by the night mail, having previously invested in a copy of “Morewood” and one or two other books on Distillation to study on our journey. Nothing of note occurred on the journey, except that we got a little amusement out of our fellow travellers - one of them a gentleman in clerical attire, catching some fragments of our conversation on spirits, evidently mistook us for important officers in the Salvation Army. Seeing this we puzzled him, and in answer to his enquiries, informed him that we had just started on a long and tedious pilgrimage to the spirit land, and that ours was a mission of investigation into the creation, development and perfection of crude spirits into “spirits made perfect.” One of our party here produced his flask and explained to our reverend friend what kind of missionaries we were, when, to our surprise, after taking a “wee drappie,” and like Oliver Twist, asking for more, the piouslooking brother offered to join us in our excursions, that he might do the tasting, and we the writing. This generous offer we declined.

Arriving at Glasgow we drove to the Victoria Hotel, where the cheery landlord, Angus Mackay, a stalwart young “Hielander,” gave us a hearty welcome. After a substantial breakfast we engaged a good horse and trap, and soon found ourselves trottlng along Buchanan Street, up several steep hills, until we finally arrived at our destination. Port Dundas, from whence the Distillery takes its name, was so called in honour of Thomas, Lord Dundas. It is the basin of the celebrated Forth and Clyde Canal, and is situated, strange to say, at the top of a hill over-looking the city. The appearance of ships’ masts in such a position, over-topping the houses, presented to us a peculiar surprise. The canal, which is a direct water-way from the Clyde to the Forth, a distance of some thirtyseven miles, over the whole of its progress through bustling towns and quiet villages, commands fine views of the country, pretty water scenes, and the magnificent background of the Forth. Port Dundas itself, however, is the scene of great commercial activity, and the prominent feature of the locality is the Distillery. Established more than a century ago, Port Dundas has, by the energy and enterprise displayed by its founder, Robert Macfarlane, and latterly by bis son Daniel, been so developed that it has become one of the largest Distilleries in the world; and although amalgamated with the Distillers’ Company, Limited, Richard Macfarlane, son of the Daniel before mentioned, is now Managing Director for the Company at this Distillery. The works, covering nine acres of ground, are situated on a steep hill near to and overlooking the city of Glasgow and surrounding districts, and are close to the railway and canal. Having previously communicated by telephone with Mr. W. Bruce, the operative manager, we found that gentleman waiting to receive us. Under his guidance we commenced our inspection at the Barns or Granaries, situated at the north end of the Distillery on the higher slopes of the hill. They consist of buildings, four stories high, and some idea of their magnitude may be formed by the following facts. Number One at the time of our visit contained 10,000 quarters of American corn, and Number Two, 14,000 quarters of barley and rye, and then they were not even full; at times they have stored as many as 45,000 quarters. The grain is imported by rail, canal, and carts, direct into the works, where it is emptied into hoppers, and taken by elevators and screws to any part of the buildings at will. We next entered the two malting floors, which are situated at the west end of the Granaries, and were amazed at their dimensions; they are quite the size of feeding parks, and a volunteer regiment could drill in them with ease. The cisterns connected with these buildings each wet 2,400 bushels at one time. South of the Granaries, standing all in a line, are the seven Kilns, which are of great dimensions, one of them drying 2,000 quarters of grain at a time. Five of them are used for grain, the other two for malt, and all are heated by hot air. The dried malt and grain is then passed through screws to the malt and grain Store-rooms, five in number, each capable of holding 14,000 bushels of malt, and used altemately. The grain and malt passes from these rooms into the Mill, which building has the appearance of having been hewn out of a rock, nothing being seen but solid masonry and iron girders, while it is covered by a large water tank communicating with all parts of the works where fire might originate, and capable of flooding the whole place in a few minutes. In the Mill there are eight pairs of large mill-stones, working night and day, driven by a powerful engine, upwards of 150 horse power. Emerging from the clouds of dust we found ourselves in the court-yard, where the scene was indeed striking. The engine department was before us, which is quite an important division in this mammoth establishment, as besides the ponderous engine which drives the Mill there are sixteen others ranging from 1 to 160 horse power, or a total of about 300 indicated horse power. In the Boiler-house there are ten of Galloway’s Patent Steel Boilers, 30 feet long by 8 feet in diameter, worked at 60 lbs. pressure; eight of them are placed in a row, as seen in the illustration, and two near the Warehouses. These patent boilers are capable of evaporating 7,000 lbs. of water per hour, with average coal and draught which will drive 395 indicated horse with an engine consuming 20 lbs. of water per horse power per hour. The shell plates of these boilers are 7/16 of an inch thick and other parts in proportion, and are composed of steel plates capable of withstanding a tensile strain of 26 to 30 tons per square inch wlth not less than 20 per cent. elongation in 10 inches. The grist, or ground grain, is conveyed from the Mill to the large grist-pits by screws, and thence not (as is usual in smaller distilleries) in bags or barrows, but in cart loads of from 26 to 30 cwts. The house in which the four pulping tuns are placed is on the west side of the grist pits, near the Mash-tun, and is three stories high. The tuns are all wooden vessels, closely hooped and covered in. Having passed over weighing machines, the grist reaches the elevators, which raise it into patent Mashing Machines, through which it passes into four Pulping Tuns, and thence into two Mash Tuns of enormous size, measuring 30 feet in diameter and 9 feet 6 inches in depth. After the fine worts are drained off, the grains are pumped into a large Draff Tun, and when properly exhausted the draff is dropped through into carts, which come from various parts of the neighbourhood. For feeding cattle, and more especially dairy cows, the draff from this wort is unsurpassed.

The fine worts drained from the mash are collected in two large Underbacks, placed at the root of the Mash-tuns, and holding about 14,000 gallons. From thence they are pumped into the Wort Receivers. In the adjoining house here are seven of Miller & Co.’s Patent Refrigerators, over which the wash flows into the Fermenting Backs. At the north end of the Mash House is the Tun Room, an extensive, lofty, and spacious apartment, which runs along and forms a greater part of Vulcan Street. It contains thirty-five Washbacks, some of them holding as much as 53,000 gallons apiece, from which the fermented liquor runs into the Wash and Intermediate Chargers, which together hold 270,000 gallons, and are situated in the vicinity of the Still Houses. The wash is afterwards pumped to the Stills by pumps of great size and power, driven by steam.

At this period of our inspection we paused for a short rest and slight refreshment; and resuming our tour at the Still House, a lofty structure forming the main body of the building, we were shown the three Coffey’s Patent Stills. These handsome town-like vessels are 70 feet high; and after a full inspection, we passed on to No. 2 Still House, where are five Pot Stills, one of them having a capacity of 24,000 gallons, and said to be the largest in the kingdom. Here also are the pumps for water, wash, hot-feints and wash-heater pumps, some of them are three-throw, others centrifugal, some of these latter are huge machines of immense power and capable of throwing from 400 to 600 gallons per minute to a height of 40 feet. From the Still Houses we passed into the Receiver Room, which also contains the Safes and Sampling Safes. In front of the Patent Still House there is a Worm Tub, 30 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 6 feet deep, also for the Pot Stills as many as four Worm Tubs, each 40 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 6 feet deep, all constructed with metal, and filled with huge copper coils and pipes.

There are nine large Low-wines and Feints Receivers, and three Spirit Receivers, all great size, the latter being connected with the Spirit Store, to which the spirits run by gravitation, and are received into the Vats and casked in the usual way. During our progress through the Distillery we were delighted with the order, everywhere remarkable. All the work is accomplished with almost military precision, and the workmen attend to their duties in a quiet, methodical manner. The Still Houses and Receiver Rooms are models of brightness, the pipes and vessels being painted blue, red, white, or black, according to their contents; by those who are acquainted with the operations and process of distilling grain Whisky, this department is much admired. The next object which attracted our attention was the Spirit Store, a large building conveniently situated for Stills, Receiver House, and Warehouses, containing three Vats of great capacity, holding respectively 7,387, 6,859, and 5,550 gallons. About fifty feet distant is the fine range of Warehouses, facing the canal.

They are immense buildings of from four to six stories high, forming part of the boundary of the works, and having 50,000 square yards of floorage. Here were stored over 16,660 casks of Whisky of various sizes and ages, containing 1,504,000 gallons of spirits. We next proceeded to the Cooperage, situated higher up the hill, which is quite a work in itself. The casks are stored here in thousands, and put in order before being conveyed to the Spirit Store. To the north of this we stepped into an open space of ground in which is a piggery accommodating over four hundred pigs fed on the distillery refuse. Some of them are highly bred animals of great size, and on entering one of the breeding sheds the visitor is surprised to see the wall literally covered with prize-cards. Employed upon the premises are 250 men, and the collection of the Inland Revenue necessitates a staff of 21 officers, including two supervisors. On the left hand side of the main entrance are the handsome and extensive offices for the Directors, Managers, and clerks. The operative Manager’s office is in the centre of the works, with sampling rooms, &c., and is in telephonic communication with the offices and principal departments all over the Distillery. We may mention that this Distillery pays in duties annually about £430,000.

The arrangements for extinguishing fire are on a very extensive scale in this Distillery, and consist of fire-plugs and hose distributed all over the premises.

The water used is taken from Loch Katrine and the Canal, each being made subservient to its special work in driving and distilling.

The annual output of this Distillery is no less than 2,562,000 gallons.

Images of Port Dundas