Yoker

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

Yoker Distillery, Glasgow.

THE easiest and best way to reach Yoker is to go by the North British Railway; you book at the Queen Street Station, which is a short distance from the Victoria hotel, and in twenty-five minutes you find yourself in the Distillery. We started by an early train, so as to have a long day for our inspection of this old work. The route lies through the prettiest suburb of Glasgow, and our journey was a pleasant one. Just before we reached our destination we noticed an all pervading odour of Whisky in the air, and were not surprised shortly afterwards to see the buildings of the Distillery rearing their heads above the houses, and thick volumes of smoke belching forth from the chimney stacks.

Yoker Distillery has been in the hands of the Harvey family since the year 1770, and was in existence previous to that remote date. It covers five acres of ground, and there is a dairy farm of a hundred acres connected with it, farmed by Messrs. Harvey. The buildings are of an ancient style, and some of the vessels of an antique pattern. We were shown the “Ballman’s chair” in the Still-house; it is of oak in the Queen Anne style, and of great age.

There is an abundant supply of water connected with the Distillery. The Yoker Burn, which rises in the Kilpatrick Hills, flows through the premises into the Clyde; it is the boundary between Renfrew and Dumbarton shires. Across the paddock, about 200 yards distant, flows the Clyde, and it is a grand sight to stand on the wharf, and watch the steamers and ships passing to and fro. The wharf is a private landing place for the use of Messrs. Harvey & Co. only, and they have enjoyed this right from time immemorial; they can land barley and maize by lighters direct from the ships at Glasgow free of all dues and charges. They have also the right to draw water from the Clyde, and there is a circular reservoir for filtering purposes 90 feet in diameter and 8 feet deep in the grounds opposite the Distillery. On the property are also several wells of spring water; but for distilling purposes Loch Katrine water is used. On the opposite side of the river Clyde are the beautiful grounds of the Blytheswood Estates, and a quarter of a mile higher up, the Elderslie policies.

After visiting the offices and hunting up some of the old documents and deeds connected with the works, we commenced our tour of inspection, under the guidance of Mr. Glen, the manager, who first took us to the No. 1 Barley Loft, which is a spacious floor, being 62 feet long and 36 wide. Underneath is a Grain Warehouse of same dimensions, holding 140 tons of grain. These floors form part of a stone building which faces the main road, the whole covering a frontage of 200 feet. On the same level as the Grain Loft there is a yeast receptacle and Worts Receiver, and on an elevated platform are two of Morton’s Refrigerators, and the entire roof of this building is devoted to the old-fashioned Coolers which were previously in use. We now ascend a staircase to the other Grain Loft, which is under the same roof, and measures 100 feet long and 30 feet broad. The slanting roof of this floor is boarded in and used for storage purposes.

We next retraced our steps, and came to a handsome red brick tower, 60 feet high and nearly 30 feet square, called the Malt Mill, the roof of which is entirely covered by a water tank. It is divided into several floors, the first being the Grist Floor commanding the Mash Tuns; the malt rollers are also here, the rest of the building being used as malt stores. It may here be mentioned that all the malt used in this establishment is brought from their Malt Distillery (Messrs. Jno. & Robt. Harvey & Co.) at Dundas Hill, Glasgow. Close to the malt mill is the Grain Mill containing three pairs of millstones; it is three storeys in height, the upper storeys being used as Granaries. Once again we entered the main building, and climbed a ladder to a gangway, crossing which amid a labyrinth of pipes and machinery we came to a huge brick recess, wherein are placed three heating coppers of enormous size and picturesque shape. Two of these vessels are made of copper and the other of metal.

We then descended by a stone staircase into the Mash-house, a large and separate building with windows looking out on green fields, beyond which is to be seen a forest of masts on the river Clyde. Depending from the roof is a Steel’s patent mashing machine, which mixes the grist with the hot water before it descends to the Mash House, whilst underneath, resting on the floor, is a handsome new circular Mash Tun 23 feet in diameter and 6 feet deep, with the double action revolving stirring gear, also an Underback below the surface of the floor of large capacity; whilst elevated on iron columns overhead in the next building is the large square iron return-worts Receiver, holding 6,000 gallons. It is designated the “Black Prince” seeing that it was erected and put up in its place on the same day as the “Black Prince” was launched on the Clyde. At the top of a ricketty staircase, in close proximity to this vessel, and projecting from the wall, there is an ancient apartment that brought our memories back to the houses of the last century. It is low pitched and lighted with three small dormer windows, and is in the oldest part of the Distillery buildings. It contains a desk and an eight-day clock of the last century style. Here Mr. Glen has a small laboratory for experiments, and a library of scientific books. We experimented on one or two varieties of Whisky and thus fortified retraced our steps through the brewing department and up a stair into the Back house, which is a peculiarly shaped brick building in the form of the letter L, 209 feet long by 30 feet wide. This old fashioned place has been mended and patched up very many times during the last century; the beams of the ceiling are as thick as a man

We then made our exit through a doorway, and found ourselves on an outside platform, where there is fixed a Morton’s Refrigerator for cooling the spirit direct from No. 2 Coffey’s Still, also a large Worm-tub, communicating with the No. 1 Coffey’s Still, for the same purpose. At the suggestion of Mr. Glen we climbed by a ladder into the roof of the Still-house, where, from the windows, we obtained a splendid view of the Valley of the Clyde, bounded by the Campsie Hills to the north, the Kilpatrick Hills on the left, and the Gleniffer Braes opposite.

One of the lower floors of the Still-house is used for the Ballman’s platform, and contains the safe and sampling apparatus, two Spirit Receivers, and a Feints Receiver, all these vessels are called “dishes” in this establishment, as they were a century ago. We then crossed to the Spirit Store, a large brick building with asphalted floor, which contains two spirit vats, each with a capacity of 1,500 and 1,600 gallons respectively, and from thence to the Racking Store, which is under the same roof, and only used for local trade. The Bonded Warehouses are very extensive, and eight in number. They are built of brick with slated roofs, and are well ventilated; the Whiskies therein date from 1873. The No. 7 Warehouse is not devoted to storage purposes, although it is equally under the surveillance of the Excise. It is a smaller building than the others, and contains a Patent “Ageing Apparatus,” where new Whisky is subjected to an immense pressure of heat. This process is said to have the power of destroying the aldehyde or fieriness of new Whisky and converting it into a mature spirit of three to five years old. This patent is at present in its infancy, but arrangements are being made to work it in this Distillery on a larger scale.

On returning to the yard we pass a large Draff-house, and two huge spent Wash Tanks. The draff is largely used in the dairy farm attached to the Distillery. The cooperage and store houses, etc., are in close proximity to the engine department, which is on a large scale. As we entered the chief engine room we were struck with the order and brightness displayed; it is a square building and contains a compound horizontal sixty-horse power engine, seventeen years old, which works as well now as when new; also a horizontal pumping engine of ten-horse power for the Stills, and a three-horse power champion pump by Clarkson, of Glasgow, for feeding the boilers. Distributed elsewhere there are a Gwynn’s centrifugal engine for pumping wash, three double-action pumps for worts and wash, and another centrifugal for same purpose, also a force pump for hot feints, three water pumps, and an old-fashioned single bucket pump for water. There are altogether four steam boilers, one 25 feet long and 7 in diameter, one 26 feet long by 8 in diameter, one 23 feet long by 8 diameter, and one 28 feet long by 8 diameter; we noticed also two sight feed lubricators, for lubricating the cylinders of engines. There is a railway siding from the North British Railway direct through the works, and the Distillery is in telephonic communication with the office at 48, St Enoch Square, Glasgow.

The Whisky is Grain with an admixture of Malt, and no acids have ever been used in the Distillery. At present the annual output is 600,000 gallons.

Fifty to sixty persons are employed in the establishment and six Excise officers, the supervisor being Mr. Macfarlane. We visited the farmsteading to see the cattle; it consists of two sets of bytes, both neatly arranged buildings, well drained and easily kept clean, where are one hundred and twenty head of cattle, fed on the Draff of the Distillery. Across the roadway is the Dairy where the churns are all driven by steam power, and the butter made on the most approved principle. Glasgow is only six miles off, and the butter is sent there daily, and fetches the highest price in the market.

Mr. Barnett Harvey resides on the property; his house is quaint and picturesque, with an old-fashioned garden in front, whilst on one side there is a large bowling green, kept up by Mr. Harvey for the use of the men in the distillery and the village.

The whistle of the train in the distance reminded us that we must be off and, as it takes five minutes to reach the station, we shook hands with our guide and brought our interesting day’s work to a close.

Images of Yoker