Extract from Alfred Barnard’s historic tour of every whisky distillery in Great Britain, published in ‘1887’
IT would puzzle you to find a more desolate drive than that from Glendronach to Benachie Distillery. The mountain road is one of the bleakest and most lonely we have traversed. We saw no signs of a habitation for many miles, neither did we pass a single person or vehicle. It was with a sense of relief that we approached the Benachie Distillery, and came in sight of the little river Jordan, which flows through the property. The establishment takes its name from the Bennochie Mountain, which rises between Alford and Garioch, and is 1,442 feet above the level of the sea, and whose chief peculiarity is its bold peaks, which give it a remarkably imposing aspect. The Distillery was founded in the year 1824, by a pious distiller, who cal led it Jericho; we were not told if he also gave the name of Jordan to the pretty little river. If there is anything in a name, the spirit distilled from such a source should be of the best. Same of the old inhabitants of the district attribute sacred properties to the stream, and the Distiller informed us that its waters are of excellent quality and most suitable for mashing. The present proprietors, on assuming the property, changed the name of the Distillery to Benachie, and it has been known by that title ever since. As you enter the works the buildings are ranged on either side of the yard, and slope down to the stream.
The first places we entered were the two Malt Barns, each of which is 140 feet long and 25 feet broad, consisting of two floors, the top used for the storage of barley, the lower for malting, and the Steeps, which are of concrete and iron, are placed at each end of the barns. From the Barley Loft we passed through a doorway into the Kiln, an apartment floored with perforated iron plates, and measuring about 24 feet square, where peat only is used in drying. There is any amount of this valuable fuel dug in the district, of very fine quality. At a lower elevation is the Malt Store, which consists of two lofts, into which the malt is conveyed by shoots from the Kiln Floor; underneath is the Mill Room, which contains a pair of iron malt-rollers, driven by water power. From the Mill the ground malt is conveyed to the Mashing Hopper, situated in the Mashing House further down the hill, and placed above the Mash-tun. Thither we next bent our steps. It is a neat little house and contains the Mash- tun, an Iron vessel, 12 feet in diameter and 4 feet deep, with the revolving stirring gear, driven also by water power. Below the Mash-tun is the iron Underback, from whence the Worts are pumped up into the Coolers at the top of the building, and extending over the whole area of the adjoining Tun Room. The Worts, when cooled, are run into the several Washbacks, which are four in number, containing about 3,000 gallons each. The Tun Room is conveniently arranged, and is contiguous to the Still House, which is situated at the foot of the hill, and contains, besides the Wash, and Low-wines, and Feints Chargers, two Old Pot Stills and their respective Receivers. The Stills hold 1,400 gallons and 706 gallons respectively. Here also is the Safe, which is in connection with the Worm Tub, outside the Still House.
The Spirit Store adjoins the last-mentioned building, and contains a Spirit Vat holding 1,100 gallons, and all the necessary appliances for filling and weighing the casks of Whisky.
We were now conducted to the four Warehouses, which contained, at the time of our visit, 400 casks, holding 23,000 gallons of Whisky. The firm are also building a new Warehouse, which, when completed) will be larger than all the four combined.
We noticed a small Cooperage and Smith’s shop, adjoining the offices, also cartsheds and stables.
The district is noted for its fine barley, and the proprietors have no need to go from home to buy the raw material. The make is Highland Malt, and the annual output is 25,000 gallons. When the enlargement of the premises is completed the firm will be able to turn out 40,000 to 50,000 gallons.