Tambowie

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

Tambowie Distillery, by Milngavie, Dumbartonshire.

OUR next journey was to Milngavie, a village eight miles from Glasgow on the North British Railway, from which we had to drive two miles to Tambowie Distillery. It is planted in the midst of undulating scenery of wood and park, and stands at the foot of one of the Tambowie Hills, from whence it derives its name. Opposite the works and across the valley the Strathblane Hills are visible, with the picturesque hill of Dungour in the background. The view embraces glimpses of sylvan scenery stretching over a distance of thirty miles, including the stately policies and picturesque grounds of Calgend and Mudock Castles, Edinbarnet, Mains, Carbeth Guthrie, and also the great reservoir of Loch Katrine water which supplies the city of Glasgow.

This old-fashioned Distillery, situated as it is in the country of Rob Roy, brings us back to the old smugglers’ days, for this place was actually the scene of their illicit exploits, and the cave cut out of the solid rock, wherein they carried on their nefarious practices, is converted into and now used as Stores. The old work has under the present proprietor, been greatly enlarged and modernized to suit the requirements of an increasing business, nevertheless it still retains its old character. The water is brought direct from the Tambowie Hills into the works, and the stream provides an ample and unfailing supply both for driving power and distilling.

To preserve the original design and appearance of the Distillery, the alterations referred to have as far possible been adapted, and consequently the buildings have a smaller bulk than the output would lead one to expect. The machinery and utensils are all of the most approved description, and a notable feature connected with the cooling department is the employment of the perpendicular refrigerators made by Wilson, of Stockton-on-Tees. After inspecting the new offices, Mr. Watt, the manager, proffered his services as guide, and took us first of all to the Barley Barns; these quaint buildings placed above the Distillery on a terrace of the hill, are capable of storing 500 quarters of barley; underneath, at the end, there is an iron Steep. The manager informed us that Morayshire barley alone is used and great attention is paid to its quality and weight; he further informed us that Mr. Chrystal gained his experience and learned his business, first at the Camlachie and afterwards at the Benmore Distilleries. The Maltings, which are partly underneath the Barley Loft, are concreted; when the barley is sufficiently vegetated it is lifted by a hoist to the Kiln, a stone building 23 feet long and 24 feet broad, situated at the end of the Barns. The furnaces are fired entirely with peat brought from Tambowie moss. Leaving the Kiln we directed our steps to the Malt Deposit, a chamber over part of the Malt House, and from thence to the Mill. This little building is placed contiguous to the Mash House, and to reach it we descended a long flight of steps on a level with the Maltings; it contains a pair of metal malt cylinders and the usual machinery driven by water or steam. The bruised malt is taken from the Mill Room to the Grist Loft situated over the Mash Tun, wherein there is a hopper which feeds a Steel mashing machine. Descending from this apartment we again found ourselves in the court yard, and ascending a few steps arrived at the Mash House, a neat and well lighted building, containing a circular metal Mash Tun 12 feet in diameter and 6 feet deep, with the usual stirring gear, which is driven either by steam or water power. Beneath this is the Underback, a square vessel holding 1,000 gallons, and above is a Wort Receiver. Following our guide we next came to the fermenting department; in this hall are ranged four Wash-backs, each holding 4,200 gallons, switched by steam. The coolers are above, and the Wash Charger, which holds 4,500 gallons, is placed on beams in the Still House. The worts by the process of fermentation have now been changed into wash, and following the process we were next conducted to the Still House, the most antique of all the buildings, projecting from the Maltings, and measuring 200 feet long by 40 feet wide built of ordinary stone and brick. It contains two Pot Stills, a Wash and Spirit, the former holding 1,730 gallons, and the latter 1,230 gallons, both heated by furnaces. On a gallery elevation outside is a wood en Worm Tub, containing two copper worms, over which there is an abundant supply of water, the overflow from which is used for driving a small wheel attached to gearing for stirring the contents of the Wash Still. Part of the Still House is set apart as a Receiver room and contains one Low wines and a Feints Receiver and Charger holding 2,100 gallons and one Spirit Receiver holding 1,491 gallons, and a brass Safe.

We next retraced our steps and came to the Spirit Store which contains a Vat holding 1,900 gallons; Cooperage, and a Racking Store. From thence we proceeded to inspect the two Warehouses, one of them being the smugglers cave already referred to, and to reach which we had to descend some broken steps when we found ourselves in a low arched gallery of some considerable extent, where the casks of Whisky are ranged along the sides and down the middle. It is a curious old vault and well adapted for a hiding place and subterranean distilling. After tasting a “wee drappie” we returned to the surface, and raid a visit to the small farmyard, stables and cart sheds.

The Whisky is pure Malt, and the output in the year 1885 was 48,000 gallons.