Vauxhall

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

Vauxhall Distillery, Liverpool.

It is a far cry from Belfast to Liverpool, and a long tedious journey. The sea-passage from Larne to Stanraer, which occupied about three hours, was the pleasantest part of our homeward route; the railway journey by night, if you cannot sleep, is certainly very tiresome. We had to change carriages at Carlisle, and it was far into the small hours when we reached Liverpool. After resting a short time, we hired a trap and drove to see the Docks and other places by the waterside. What a wonderful place is this “Second City” in the Queen’s Empire ! From the year 1761, when there were only three docks, down to the present time, Liverpool has increased in magnitude, prosperity, and commercial importance, unexampled in the world. No town in England has improved greater improvements, and none possess so much elegance and commercial accommodation. The natural convenience of its harbour, enhanced to an immense extent by the never-ending increase of the Docks, which are connected by canals, railways, and streamers with every part of the empire, are among the causes of its greatness, and have made it fit to be the capital of any country in the world.

Within the memory of living man, the city has started up like an enchanted palace, and enlarged its borders day by day. We drove for more than three miles alongside the Docks, and then had not exhausted them, returning to the Adelphi Hotel by way of the Distilleries we intended visiting. The next morning we secured one of the smart cabs, for which Liverpool is famous, and drove to the Vauxhall Distillery, situated about two miles from the centre of the city.

It was founded in the year 1781 by Messrs. Robert Preston & Co., and in 1857 came into the occupation of the enterprising firm of Messrs. A. Walker and Co., of the Adelphi Distillery, Glasgow, and the Limerick Distillery, Ireland. The buildings, which are all lofty and of an imposing appearance, cover three acres of ground, and are entered from the Vauxhall Road. Mr. Godwin, the Operative Manager, proffered his services as guide; and, after giving us the necessary information, conducted us first of all to the Granaries, which have a frontage to the public road. They are three-storied buildings, 115 feet long by 36 feet wide, and are used for the storage of maze, malts, and oats. On the ground floor is the Kiln, one of the largest we have seen, which is floored with metal plates, heated by open chauffeurs, and capable of drying 75 quarters at one time. Adjoining and forming a continuation of this building is the Mill, which contains, besides the machinery, nine pairs of stones-six of which are used for maize and the other three of malt. After inspecting the Mill, we ascended some steps into the next building, of similar dimensions to the Granaries, and found ourselves in the Grist Loft, under which is the Receiver Room. Here the grist is filled into sacks of 168 lbs. each, and wheeled across a gangway to the grist deposit, ready for being emptied into the wetting or soaking tank, for the purpose of “being treated” before it goes through the Steel’s Mashing Machine. We next visited the Mash House, a lofty building lighted from the roof, wherein are two metal Mash Tuns, 25 feet in diameter and 7 feet deep, each with the double-action stirring gear. In the centre of each of these Tuns there is a sluice, through which the draff is dropped into a creeper, called in Scotland a “screw,” which screws it away into elevators to the required height, when it is again started of by creepers to a distant part of the work. Adjacent to the Mash Tuns are two cast-iron Underbacks, each of 4,000 gallons content; also at an elevation, the Wash Charger holding 21,000 gallons.

Following the process, we proceeded to the Fermenting Department, which consists of two spacious enclosed Tun Rooms and one large open gallery, the latter opposite the entrance gates, from which point the lofty vessels, smartly painted, have a very imposing appearance. The buildings, which are respectively numbered 1, 2, and 3, are separated from the Brewing Department by a covered archway, wherein are three heating tanks for hot water, all heated by steam, each of 19,000 gallons content; also the Grist Steeper, or pulsing vessel, before referred to, where the grist is steeped before it goes to the Mash Tun. Leaving these vessels we passed into the No. 1 Tun Room, where ranged along the centre are to be seen eleven Washbacks, each holding 20,000 gallons; and then to the No. 2 Tun Room, a lofty apartment, containing three Washbacks each holding 41,000 gallons, and from thence, through a doorway at the western end, to No. 3 Building already referred to, containing four Washbacks, lofty timber vessels, each with a capacity of 42,000 gallons. Passing through a doorway, we came to the Pumping Room, wherein are two Wash Chargers of similar capacity to the one before mentioned, three Hot Feints Receivers, and four steam-pumps, three of which are horizontal and the other vertical; all are fixed in the north corner of the building, and form a portion of the Engine Department. Passing through an archway we found ourselves in the No. 1 Still House, a lofty apartment, containing a Coffey’s Patent Still, also a handsome beam-engine, of 14-horse power, used for pumping wash to the No. 2 Still and for working the mashing and tank machinery. A few steps progress brought us to the No. 2 Still House, a tower-like structure, wherein are two Coffey’s Patent Stills and all the necessary appliances.

Crossing the alley we ascended a handsome staircase, to the right of the buildings, which leads to the Receiving Room, built on a level with the top of the Stills. It contains three sets of patent vertical copper Refrigerators, by Laurence, of London, a Safe and a Sampling Safe, and two circular Receivers; the latter, handsome timber vessels, as clean as a new pin, each holding 6,000 gallons, and possessing the patent index gaugers. Our guide here pointed out to us the singularity of the construction of this room, being entirely supported by heavy iron girders and columns, capable of bearing 100 tons. Contiguous is an apartment, appropriated for the reception of malt and oats; it is a large place, 80 feet square, well arranged for the exclusion of light and dust. Continuing our inspection, we climbed a zig-zag staircase to the No. 2 Receiver House, which contains two Feints Receivers, of the same size and capacity as those already mentioned. In the centre of each of these vessels there is a floating-index-measuring rod, and, by an ingenious arrangement, a gas jet, with a circular reflector, throws the light directly on to the small figures of the measurer, to enable the Excise officers to check the contents with rapidity and ease. Overhead is the Worm Tub, which we inspected by mounting a steep staircase; it is a square metal vessel, supplied with water direct from the main of the Liverpool Waterworks. Stepping out on to a spacious parapet, we came to a small house, which encloses a circular Vat, with appliances for making condensed water for reducing the spirit to the required strength.

We next returned to the Mash House, to follow the course of the worts to the Coolers, which are in another building. Following our guide up several flights of stairs, we came to the top floor of a lofty structure, covered with metal Coolers. They consist of a shallow open tank, covering the entire floor, which is 60 feet square, and there are latticed ventilators all round the apartment. On leaving these Coolers, the worts flow through a copper Refrigerator, and afterwards fall into a tank on the floor below, 57 feet square, from whence they run by gravitation into the Washbacks before referred to.

Crossing the quadrangle, we next visited the Spirit Store, which contains three Vats, each with a capacity of 7,500 gallons, and the usual casking apparatus, and then inspected the Grains House and spent receptacles. Passing from thence we came to the ten Bonded Warehouses, which are very extensive, and hold upwards of 8,000 casks of Whisky. Leaving these Warehouses behind us, we bent our steps to a large building, on the left of the Tun Rooms, devoted to the manufacture of patent yeast. It is quite a work in itself and many hands are employed. Here, by a patent process, the purified “barm” is made into a firm substance, put up into small bags and sent to the English and foreign markets. We saw a large quantity packed and pilled up to the ceiling waiting for shipment. This yeast is said to be of a superior quality, and well known both at home and abroad. The Engine House next claimed our attention. It contains a powerful engine of 60-horse power and eleven boilers; two of them, of the ordinary kind, are 32 feet by 8 feet, the others are Galloway’ patent steel boilers: one 28 feet by 7 feet, for 70 lbs. pressure; two 24 feet by 6½ feet for 100 lbs. pressure; and one 28 feet by 7 feet for 80 lbs. Adjoining is the Engineers’ and Fitters’ Shop, a large Cooperage, and other industries. At the rear of the establishment, and commanding all the departments, is an old-fashioned mansion, which in former days was the residence of the proprietors. The upper part is now devoted to the partners’ private offices, also the resident manager’s, and the ground floor is used as general offices.

The offices for the eight Excise officers are splendid rooms, placed near the gateway and conveniently arranged. Mr. Bargery is the supervisor.

The firm store most of their grain at the public Warehouses, which are at a convenient distance from the Distillery and contiguous to the water-side. There are also large Bonded and Grain Stores belonging to the firm in Lightbody Street, Blenheim Street, and Maguire Street.

The spirit produced is pure Grain Whisky, which matures rapidly, and after five or six years’ maturation is said to be most equal to old brandy.

The annual output is 2,000,000 gallons; and there are 150 persons employed in the establishment.