Rosebank Distillery, Falkirk, Stirlingshire.
FROM Edinburgh to Falkirk is a railway journey of about 40 minutes. We started early in the morning and spent the best part of the day at this interesting Distillery, Rosebank is one mile from Falkirk, and half a mile from the River Carron, and is built on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal. It is not so isolated as many of the Distilleries are, being placed by the main road, on which there is a constant stream of traffic, and also fronting the canal, where boats and steamers are continually passing to and fro. The policies of Bantaskine are adjacent to the works, and form a lovely wooded background to the Distillery, while on the left the grounds of Rosebank House, with their fine old elm trees, in which rooks have built their nests, add materially to the picture.
The water used for distilling percolates from the Bantaskine grounds to the Distillery, and from thence runs by a tunnel underneath the canal to the Maltings on the other side. The site of this Distillery was chosen on account of the inexhaustible supply of water; it was the first, and is yet, the only Distillery in the immediate district. The celebrated brewers, Messrs. James Aitken & Co., Falkirk, previous to the year 1851, carted this water to their works for brewing purposes. The Glenburnie rivulet, a tributary of the Carron, running at the foot of the Maltings, supplies all the water necessary for the undershot waterwheel, which is used for pumping the water to the tanks.
The works have been connected in same way with distilling for nearly a century, for, in the year 1798, the statistical records inform us that a Distillery was carried on by the Messrs. Stark Brothers at that date. The portion now occupied by the Distillery proper was formerly a Malting, but in 1840 Mr. James Rankine, the father of the present proprietor, commenced operations therein as a distiller. Five years after that date the buildings were considerably enlarged, and later on, in the year 1864, they were entirely rebuilt in a modern farm by the present owner. The whole property connected with the Distillery covers five acres of ground, three of which are devoted to the works, and the remainder form the grounds and gardens of Rosebank House, one of the residences of Mr. Rankine. The establishment comprises two distinct ranges of buildings divided by the canal. On one side are placed the Maltings, covering upwards of an acre of ground, and occupying the site of the original Camelon Distillery, a work which was all pulled down in 1865, except one of the buildings, now used as a small Malting, and of antique structure.
To reach these Maltings, which are built in the shape of a triangle, we crossed the swing-bridge over the canal and entered the enclosure by the lower gateway, and were conducted, first of all, to the No. 1 Barley Loft, which, approached by a handsome outside staircase same 20 feet high, forms the top floor of a solid stone and brick building, each floor being supported by iron columns, and the interior staircases fixed on pulleys, which, by a simple contrivance, can be lifted up or down at pleasure. This Barley Loft holds 3,000 quarters of grain, and is 320 feet long by 50 feet broad. It is on a level with a roadway made by the proprietor, brought down from the upper gateway, so as to enable the farmers to deliver the barley direct on to the floor. The Malting Floor is underneath, and is of the same dimensions and paved with concrete. There are two large iron Steeps, capable of wetting 100 quarters at a time, and on the upper floor is a water tank, capable of holding upwards of 10,000 gallons, for the purpose of supplying the Steeps. Adjacent to this building is the Kiln, 43 feet high, 55 feet long and 45 feet broad, floored with wire cloth and closed off with fireproof doors; the furnaces are enclosed with iron sheets, the same as at Benmore Distillery. Peat is mostly used for the drying, and there is a good moss ground within four miles, where sufficient fuel can always be obtained to supply the kiln fires.
Our guide next conducted us to the Malt deposit, which is a building the same size as the Kiln, and consists of two floors, well lighted, the inner walls being lined to the roof with red timber to keep the malt dry. The beams of this and all the buildings are sandwiched with red timber and plates of iron bolted through. The malt is shot from the Kiln to this department by two sluices, and is here sacked and carted over the way to the Distillery buildings. Under the Malt Store is the peat shed, beneath the floor of which is sunk a cemented brick-built tank, where the spring water is collected and from whence it is pumped up to the tank, on a level with the barley loft before described, by a donkey pump driven by the water-wheel. The remnants of the old Distillery, as we have said, consist of a small Malting, in close proximity, which has been remodelled in the style of the new one, and contains a barley loft, one Steep, two malt Floors, a Kiln, and Malt Store, the latter lined with red timber. This building, which is on a lower slope of the hill, near the gateway we first entered, is of three stories, and communicates with the larger Maltings from the upper Boor, which is on a level with the ground floor of the principal Malting, and is reached by an elevated gangway. Inside these premises there is a capital dwelling-house for one of the principal maltmen.
We then recrossed the Canal to the Distillery proper. The buildings cover one-and-a-half acres of ground and face the Canal. They are close to the wharf, from whence a boat goes every day to Glasgow. We entered an enclosed court yard, with the handsome newly-built offices and a range of Warehouses to the right and left. On the right also are the Mill buildings, sheds, &c., and opposite, the Mash House, Still House, Warehouses, and the Excise Offices.
We first visited the Mill, to reach which we had to mount a staircase. It forms a building of two floors over one of the interior archways, and contains a pair of malt rollers. From this point we noticed that a large water cistern was fitted into the roof of the Boiler House. The three iron Brewing Tanks for heating the water, containing 1,500 gallons each, are placed on iron pillars in the Still House, and are of the most solid construction. We then entered the Mash House, a brick building some 30 feet square, lighted with six windows, with walls of a dazzling whiteness. It contains a circular iron Mash Tun, 16 feet 10 diameter and 6½ feet deep, with the usual Mashing Machine and double-acting stirring gear. The draff is shovelled out of the Mash Tun into a paved court beneath, and carted away by the farmers. Below, in the same house, is the Underback, which contains 2,000 gallons, from whence the worts are pumped to the No. 1 Coolers, placed over the Brewing Tanks in the Still House, from whence they run by gravitation to the No. 2 Coolers in the Tun Room. Then we crossed over to the Tun Room, which is an equally light and cleanly building. In it are eight Washbacks, each with a capacity of 3,500 gallons, wherein the switches are all driven by steam, also a fine Morton’s Refrigerator, said to be the second one erected in Scotland in any Distillery. The discharge pipes from the Washbacks are all made of copper, an unusual thing in a Distillery, with stop-cocks of solid brass; the Coolers are fixed in a gallery above, half the size of the building. We then descended a few steps and came to the Still House, which contains three Pot Stills of the old-fashioned type, two of them containing 3,000 and the other 1,500 gallons. This House is a large and lofty building, being upwards of 40 feet high and 70 feet square, having an open ventilated roof: It contains, besides the Stills, a fine “crank overhead Engine” of 28 h.p., two Feints, one Spirit, and one Low-wines Receivers, two double-action Plunger Pumps for worts and water, and two others for pumping low-wines, feints, and spirits, also a centrifugal Pump for pumping Wash into the Wash Chargers. On a gallery herein is the Wash Charger and Low-wines and Feints Charger. The Sampling Safe is on a platform commanding the Receivers. To the Bonded Warehouses we next proceeded. No. 1 is 108 feet long by 78 feet broad, divided into two sections and is three stories high. Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are all under one roof: One of them is 156 feet long and 34 feet wide. The other two are 81 feet by 66 feet. No. 5 is of three stories, and similar in size to No. 1. In the No. 2 Bond, there are two Vats for blending purposes, used for vatted Whisky for the trade, they contain 2,064 and 1,214 gallons respectively. The Racking Store for the use of the local trade is next to No. 1 Warehouse. The Bonded Warehouses are capable of storing about 500,000 gallons.
The Spirit Store is opposite, and adjoins the Warehouses; it has a door on each side so as to command same. The Vat therein contains 3,000 gallons. We noticed three fine circular Worm Tubs elevated on brick butts, and so placed as to be commanded by the Stills. The chimney-shaft is 150 feet high, and so arranged that the two flues enter on both sides, it being lined with an inner casing of brick work to a height of 30 feet. In the engine department there is a Galloway’s double-flued boiler, 30 feet by 7 feet.
The arrangements for extinguishing fire are very complete, there being three extincteurs and fire hose and plugs about the premises. There is a capital cooperage, and on the public road, adjoining the Maltings, are workmen’s houses, the property of Mr. Rankine. The new offices, already referred to, contain private offices, brewers’ and manager’s and general clerks’ offices. The excise offices are over the cooperage.
In the roadway there is a capital weighing machine, with an office attached for checking the barley and coals brought into the Distillery.
The whisky produced in this establishment is pure Malt. The annual output is 123,000 gallons, and is principally disposed of in Edinburgh and Glasgow. There are three excise officers employed - viz., Mr. Gavin Russell, Mr. William Bastard, and an assistant; the two former having been upwards of thirteen years in the Distillery.