Extract from Alfred Barnard’s historic tour of every whisky distillery in Great Britain, published in ‘1887’
EARLY next morning we left Keith for our day’s journey to Benrinnes. On arriving at Craiggellachie Junction, we again procured a dog- cart from Stewart’s Livery Stables, the proprietor himself being our coachman. For a good part of the way our route was the same as the day previous; first along by the Spey, then through Aberlour, and afterwards up the beautiful mountain road. But soon the trees cease, and we are manifestly attaining a considerable elevation. Here, as we look back, we get a view of all the beauties we have left behind, and reel almost sorry that we have so soon exchanged it for the mighty hills, with their apparel of gloom and shade. These sudden and great changes in Highland scenery are very exciting, and leave impressions on the mind not easily effaced. We afterwards traversed this route in the depth of winter with the snow lying deeply on the ground, and marvelled at the vivid green of the fir trees in the valley, and the distances revealed by the clear cold atmosphere of the mountain heights. The road ascends very gradually at first, but afterwards on leaving Aberlour, it becomes very steep, and here we get a fine view of Benrinnes. The Distillery is planted on its eastern side 1,030 feet above the level of the sea, and no more weird or desolate place could he chosen. The founders selected the site on account of the water, which rises from springs on the summit of the mountain, and can be seen on a clear day some miles distant, sparkling over the prominent rocks on its downward four se, passing over mossy banks and gravel, which perfectly filters it before it reaches the Distillery. The front of the Distillery commands a view of an unbroken expanse of moor and hill, with scarcely a tree or hedge to break the monotony, and it was not difficult to imagine the loneliness of winter in these latitudes.
As we drove into the yard, we noticed that the workmen were busy re-building the Maltings, on a modern scale, with stone quarried in the district. On alighting from our carriage we at once adjourned to the office to refresh ourselves with a little of the Benrinnes Malt Extract to remove the dust from OUT throats after OUT long drive in the gun. The works were built in the year 1835, and from that time to the present have been continually altered and enlarged. Our first visit was paid to the new Maltings referred to. They are two in number, and 170 feet long by 30 feet wide, and each consists of three floors, the top being devoted to the storage of barley, and the lower for malting, each of the latter floors containing a stone Steep, capable of wetting 40 quarters of barley at one time. The Kiln, which is a new building of lofty elevation in the farm of a tower, is placed at the end of these Maltings, and is floored with German steel wire flooring, and heated with peat only, which is dug in close proximity to the Distillery. The malt is brought by elevators to the top of the Kiln, which is shut off from the adjacent buildings by double iron doors.
We now descended to the adjoining building, wherein is the Malt Mill, containing a pair of malt rollers for crushing the malt. The pulverized malt is raised from here by elevators to the Grist Loft above, from whence it is tipped into the Hopper above the Tun. This 10ft is exactly under the malt deposit, so that the dried malt falls direct into the mill hopper. The heating copper, holding 2,000 gallons, which supplies hot water to the Mash Tun, is placed in the Still house. Through a doorway, on the ground level we come to the Mash House, a triangular building, which contains a circular Mash Tun, 12 feet in diameter, and 5 feet deep, which possesses the patent stirring rakes driven by water power.
In connection with the Mash Tun there is a Steel’s Patent Mashing or Mixing Machine, and the vessel contains the usual draining plates at the- bottom. The undershot water wheel, which drives the stirring rakes, switches, &c., is under this house.
The Underback is below the Mash Tun, and is a metal vessel, 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Fixed on a gallery in the Still House we noticed the Wash Charger, a handsome new square metal vessel containing 3,000 gallons. The Tun room is differently arranged from the others in the district, being placed at the top of the buildings and floored with solid concrete. It is light and lofty, and contains five Washbacks, each holding 4,000 gallons. Built over the staircase, which leads to the Tun room is one of Hodgson & Stewart’s Refrigerators, also a fine worts Receiver, holding 1,000 gallons. The four-inch Worts Pump is driven by water power. It is the only pump in connection with the Distillery.
Outside now conducted us to the Still House, which contains two old Pot Stills, the Wash Still holding 1,080, and the Low-wines 1,004 gallons, also a Low-wines and Feints Receiver (a timber vessel holding 1,815 gallons), a Charger and a metal spirit Receiver, the latter holding 1,815 gallons. We should here note that the Distiller believes in using only small Stills to produce a rich thick Whisky. The Worm Tub connected with the Stills consists of a square concrete tank built at the back of the Still house, and close to the chimney from the Furnace Stills. This shaft or chimney is 63 feet high.
We now bent our steps to the Spirit Store and Warehouses. The former building contains two vats, one holding 526 and the other 1,500 gallons. There are seven Bonded Warehouses, two of them two decker buildings, another of one floor only, and the whole containing 1,700 casks of Whisky of various ages.
The Brewer, Mr. A. Mackintosh (late of Kirkliston), conducted us through the place, and explained the various stages of Whisky making. This Distillery works on through the summer, the high elevation allowing malt to sprout and produce as well in summer as in winter.
The make is Highland Malt Whisky, and the annual output is 50,000 gallons.