Scapa

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

Scapa Distillery, Orkney.

THIS Distillery is the newest in the island, having only been completed in October, 1885. It is two miles from Kirkwall, and situated at the head of Scapa Bay. The country hereabouts is destitute of trees, but much of the land is under cultivation. So striking is the appearance of this treeless country, that a Yankee, who had arrived by the steamer during the night, exclaimed on getting out the next morning, that he had never seen such a “tarnation fine clearin’.” But the beautiful sea-scape somewhat compensates for this loss, for sparkling in the bright sunshine are the white sails of ships, and boats manned by crews who know every creek on the coast, and whose voices can be heard singing the favourite “Orkney Boatman’s Song :” -

“The foaming sea is dear to me,It bears me on to thee, love!And what care I though the spume-drift fly.It speeds me on to thee, love!The heart that’s true ne’er dreads the viewOf stormy clouds or sea, love!; The curling wave may scare the slave,It ne’er will scare the free, love!” etc.

A few yards from the Distillery are to be seen the remains of a “Broch,” one of those numerous ancient buildings commonly called “Picts’ houses.” These Brochs are undoubtedly the most interesting class of Scottish antiquities. They were truncated round towers, built of large undressed stones, without mortar, and measured from 50 to 70 feet in external diameter, with a height of about 50 feet, having no outward opening but a low doorway. The walls were about 12 feet thick at the base, but at higher levels were hollow, having stairs and chambers in their thickness. These Brochs are ascribed to the early Celtic inhabitants, who built them for the purpose of affording shelter and safety. At Scapa, the foundations alone remain, and when first discovered, a considerable quantity of bone and stone implements were found therein, with a large number of ornamented clay vessels and a few Roman coins of the first century.

The Distillery is built on the Lingro Burn. The water supply is from springs and the Burn, from which it is carried a great distance in large iron pipes. On the Lingro is a large water-wheel for driving all the machinery, but should there happen to be an insufficient supply, the engine is available. The works consist of a block of buildings, covering one and a half acres of ground. At the entrance are three offices for the manager, clerks, and the Excise officers. The first building, as you approach on the left, is the Malting House, 80 feet long by 54 feet wide, the top floor of which is used as a Barley Store, having two cast iron water Steeps at one end, 3 feet deep, each capable of wetting 25 quarters of grain at one time. These Steeps discharge through traps or sluices on to the Malting Floor below, which is concreted and of same dimension as the barn above. Here the wet grain is spread out to grow in the usual manner, and is afterwards lifted by elevators to the Kiln.

We now crossed the way to the south of the Malting, and came to the Kiln, a detached building, 29 feet square, floored with the German sectional steel wire flooring; it is heated with peat in the ordinary manner. At the level of the drying floor is a gangway bridge, carried on iron beams to the neighbouring building, along which the malt is passed when dry to the Malt Deposit. On the floor over the Engine House is the Malt Mill, containing a pair of steel rollers, whilst above it is the Grist Loft. The grist is raised by elevators from this department to the hopper supplying the Mash-tun.

We next proceeded to the Still and Mashing House, a building 86 feet long and 29 feet broad, the portion devoted to the Stills and Mash House being one lofty storey; and the other part, for boiler, mill, and grist, arranged in three flats. We commenced our inspection at the Mash House, which contains a circular metal Mash-tun, 12 feet in diameter and 4 feet deep, into which the grist passes from a Steel’s masher. It contains the steam or water-driven stirring gear, and on the bottom perforated draining plates leaving the draft behind after the liquor is drained therefrom. The draft is afterwards subjected to a mechanical “sprinkler,” so that the utmost is extracted from it. The worts run from the Mash-tun by gravitation into the Underback, an iron vessel holding 750 gallons, and flows therefrom through a Morton’s Refrigerator, where it is cooled before being driven by a centrifugal pump into the fermenting vessels.

The Tun Room adjoins the Mash House and is a well-lighted and ventilated apartment. It contains four Washbacks, each with a capacity of 4,740 gallons, from which the Wash is pumped by another centrifugal pump into the Wash Charger, a timber vessel placed in the Still House and holding 4,000 gallons from whence the Wash flows into the Wash Still holding 1,100 gallons, where the first process of distillation takes place, and the vapour which is now called Low-wines is passed through the Worm Tub, an outside tank 30 feet long, into the Low-wines Receivers, and thence it is pumped into the Low-wines and Feints Charger. The imperfect spirit is now run into the second or Low-wines Still, holding 700 gallons, to be re-distilled and undergo the same process. The pure Spirit now runs through the safe into the Spirit Receiver, holding 1,500 gallons, and thence it is pumped by self-acting vertical pumps into a Vat which holds 1,500 gallons. The Stills are of the newest type and heated by steam instead of fire, and are both fitted with “collapse” valves, which allow air to enter in the event of a vacuum being formed. The Spirit Store adjoins the Still House and is a separate building 25 feet square. Here the whisky is run out of the Vat into the casks and gauged before being sent to the Duty Free Store, a fine building on the right hand side of the entrance road. It is 84 feet long by 54 feet wide and roofed with corrugated iron. All the other buildings are slate roofed. We then retraced our steps to the Mill building, the basement floor of which constitutes the engine-house. It contains a horizontal engine 8 horse power, a water-tank, a donkey-engine for feeding the boiler, and a steam boiler, 16 feet long by 5 feet diameter.

The Establishment is certainly one of the most complete little Distilleries in the United Kingdom.

The Whisky produced is pure Highland Malt, the annual output is 40,000 per annual.

The head office of the Distillery is at No. 48, St. Enoch’s Square, Glasgow.