The Grange

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

The Grange Distillery, Burntisland.

ONCE more we left the “Balmoral” for a sail across the Forth to Burntisland, a place we had frequently passed through, but never explored it is a royal burgh and seaport town on the waters of the Firth of Forth. In olden times a great trade was done from here with Holland. There are good docks, and it is the largest coal-exporting port in Scotland. It is situated on the Fife coast, directly opposite Granton, and was at one time called Wester Kinghorn, being a part of the barony of Kinghorn, but the union of these two towns was dissolved by James VI., who gave Burntisland the privileges of a royal burgh. As the steamer approaches the harbour you notice the beautiful appearance of Burntisland, with its fine plains and lofty rising ground behind; but these are not its chief attractions - they consist principally in its natural beauties, with rocks on the one side and sands, beautifully firm and level, on the other, and hills rising in the background. Burntisland is rich in historic reminiscences; midway between the town and Kinghorn is the ivy mantled stone, which marks the spot where, in 1286, King Alexander III met his death. At the west end of the town is situated Rossend Castle, which occupies a prominent position. It was erected in the year 1119 by the Abbots of Dunfermline, and is delightfully picturesque. It was so built that some of its numerous windows catch sunshine every instant of its duration throughout the year. Cromwell, the Vandal and despoiler, resided here during the occupation of the country by his troops. It was at this castle that the beautiful Queen Mary loved to rest and secure a temporary respite from the affairs of the State. We must not omit to mention the Church, which dates back to 1592. This aid building contains same very antique carving, and it was here that, in 1601, James VI met the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The weather, we are told, was very stormy at the time, and as he could not get over to Edinburgh, he made the Assembly come to him, in order that he might oblige them, by re-swearing, to adhere to the Solemn League and Covenant. After leaving the church, we made our way, in company with our companions, two choice spirits, to the house of a friend, who had persuaded us to stay with him for a few days.

We had a pleasant time of it, as it was our good fortune to be the guests of Mr. P. H. Cameron, of Colinswell, a genuine Scotch man, and an author of some repute, who entertained us right royally, and whose house we quitted most reluctantly to resume our wanderings in the realms of spirit-land. By a strange coincidence we ascertained that our present abode was formerly the residence of one of the Messrs. Young, son of the founder of the establishment which heads this charter.

Colinswell is a lovely old-fashioned place, possessing gardens well stocked with fruit trees and laid out in terraces, which stretch down to the sea shore. Such a wealth’ of blossom and fruit we have never before seen in any garden. As we sauntered on the terrace after dinner, admiring the gardens with their floral wealth, and gazed across the Forth to beautiful Edinburgh and its surroundings, the music of an organ stole upon us, and we found ourselves compelled to stop and listen to Sullivan’s “Lost Chord,” played by one of our number, who had slipped away unseen to the music-room, to try his prenticed hand on the grand old organ, which is one of the many treasures the house contains. From the higher terrace at the back of the house we obtained fine inland views, the most noticeable object being The Grange Distillery, about half-a-mile distant, situated at the foot of Binn Hill, a steep wood land acclivity, some 600 feet above the level of the sea.

To the Distillery we bent our steps next morning, and were deeply interested in this ancient work. Although, on a near inspection, we found that the buildings possess an old-world look, they are most conveniently arranged internally, the proprietors having brought to bear considerable ingenuity and experience in their re-arrangement, and the Distillery will now compare favourably with any work of its size in the Kingdom.

The Grange Distillery has been in existence 100 years, having been established in 1786 by the grandfather of the present proprietor. It possesses a fine water supply; that used for mashing comes from a loch belonging to the Distillery on the top of Dunearn Hill, in the neighbourhood, some 800 feet above sea level, and is pure soft water free from any contaminations, and is conveyed through a copper pipe nearly a mile in length direct to the Distillery. The condensing water comes from a burn which rises among the hills to the north and west and runs through the works, over which supply there is a servitude. The ground enclosed covers over six acres, and is all built upon. The buildings are of stone with tiled roofs, except the Still House, which has a roof of iron. The Distillery forms three separate ranges of buildings along the valley. The brewer, Mr. H. Thompson, who resides in a charming, old-fashioned house on the premises, was our guide, and conducted us first of all to the five Granaries and Maltings, all of which are three-decked buildings. The Maltings or Growing floors are concreted, and the Steeps built of iron and stone. We commenced our inspection at the No. 1 Building, which stands beside the entrance gates of the Distillery, and passed on through the series of floors, which communicate by a gangway bridge, to the Kilns. While crossing one of these bridges we had a magnificent view of the Forth, with Arthur’s Seat and Carlton Hill in the background. The Maltings have a storage capacity of 3,500 quarters of malt and 4,500 quarters of barley, with a malting power of 400 quarters per week. The barley is purchased principally from the farmers in the district, who deliver at the door of the Granaries. We noticed that the Kilns were more lofty than some we had seen; they have open roofs, are floored with iron plates and heated with peat and coke in open chauffeurs. From this department we crossed the yard to the second range of buildings, and were first shown the Mill Building, which consists of three floors, and contains in the Mill two pairs of Malt Rollers, which pulverize the malt at the rate of about 25 quarters per hour. The Grist Loft is underneath, and the grist is conveyed by Elevators and Screws to the Hopper and Mashing Machine over the Mash Tun. We next made our way to the Mash House, a well-ventilated building, containing a Mash Tun, 22 feet in diameter and 7 feet deep, capable of mashing 100 quarters at a time, and possessing the usual revolving stirring gear. The Draff from the Mash Tun is removed by elevators and screws to the farmers’ carts, this valuable commodity being in great demand for feeding cattle. On a stone gallery in this house are placed three fine Heating Coppers of the shape of an orange, heated by steam, and holding together, 20,000 gallons.We then ascended a few steps and found ourselves in a lofty apartment, called the Tun Room which contains ten Fermenting Backs, with a working capacity of 6,000 gallons each. The Wash Charger, having a capacity of 6,500 gallons, is placed on an iron gallery next to the Still House, so as to command the Stills, and is built of metal, instead of wood, as in most places. Our guide then conducted us to the Still House, an entirely new building, well lighted and ventilated, arranged on the most modern principle and fireproof. It contains two old Pot Stills, by Fleming and McLaren, of Glasgow, of 4,000 and 2,400 gallons, cubic content; the Still power is capable of producing 6,000 to 7,000 gallons per week. In this house are also placed the following vessels: - the Low-wines and Feints Charger, holding 3,000 gallons, and the Low-wines Receiver 3,000; also a Safe with sampling apparatus. There are two large circular tubs at the rear of this building, with condensing worms. The Spirit Receiver Room adjoins, and contains a Spirit Receiver and Feints Receiver. Nearly all the work in this Distillery is done by gravitation. We noticed that the Coolers, assisted by a large Refrigerator, cover the entire roof of both the adjoining Granaries. This is an excellent arrangement, and is frequently adopted but we have often wondered in our travels why distillers do not put all their vessels which contain hot and cold water on the roofs of buildings, as besides making use of the room taken up on the ground, they have water ready to flood the buildings always at hand in case of fire; the plan is frequently adopted in Ireland. Attached to the Still House is the Engine Department, and our attention was directed to a fine new steam engine, by J. Brown, of Kirkcaldy, which drives the Still chains, and pumps the low-wones, feints and spirits to their respective chargers. The two steam boilers measure 23 by 6½ each. Adjacent to the Still House is the Spirit Store, which contains a vat holding 3,895 gallons. The fire arrangements are most complete, extincteurs and stop-cocks are placed on every floor, whilst the hose commands every building. At one end of the courtyard there is a smithy, a joiners’ shop, and a capital cooperage, also stables, cart-sheds, and stores. The gas=works are quite detached, and are most complete. Messrs. Yound & Co. make all the gas used for the premises and in the houses adjacent occupied by the managers, clerks, and Excise gentlemen.

We next retraced our steps to the lower part of the enclosure, where are ranged 19 Bonded Warehouses, having a storage capacity of 650,000 gallons. Some of these buildings are new, they are all well ventilated, and on the ground floor. There is a capital arrangement in this Distillery for collecting all the foulage into a Settling tank, and running it therefrom through a pipe into the sea.

The old-fashioned mansion, formerly the residence of the proprietor of the Distillery, has now been turned into fine offices for the clerks, managers and principals.

The Whisky is a fine Lowland Malt, and the annual ordinary output of about 200,000 gallons is within the capacity of the work, as 260,000 gallons have been made under pressure of orders. All the produce is sold in Scotland, England, India, and the Colonies. There are six Excise officers on the premises and a supervisor, Mr. S. T. Kinsman.

Images of The Grange