You are on page 1of 7

ARDRISHAIG'S GLENDARROCH DISTILLERY

Glendarroch Distillery, built by Henry Hoey & Co in 1831 and also later known as Glenfyne, was sited on the banks
of the Crinan Canal at Ardrishaig. A succession of owners held the distillery until 1919 when it came under the
ownership of the Glenfyne Distillery Co., the distillery operation finally closing in 1937.

Glendarroch was complete and well laid out. Barley was unloaded from the canal direct to the malt barns then moved
through the process clockwise around a courtyard to the kiln, tun room, still house and warehouses. Whisky was then
shipped to market via the canal.

Eight houses were available for the workers and two for the excisemen. There was also Glengilp House and
Glendarroch House for the manager and the owner respectively.

The distillery closed in 1937, unusually as there was a distilling boom at that time, although the warehouses continued
to be used for storing whisky until the mid-1970's.

A brief life as a joinery followed until the 1980's when a salmon hatchery made use of the buildings, the large distillery
reservoir used as a fish hatchery.

Short sightedly, the distillery's water also feeding the drinking water supply for Ardrishaig and Lochgilphead, the old
Argyll County Council had rejected an offer to allow them to buy the distillery's water rights before the salmon hatchery
business took over the distillery and, in 1990 and at some considerable cost to the rate-payers, to allow new housing
developments in the area, Strathclyde Regional Council had to go through a prolonged period of negotiations to
purchase the distillery's water rights.

The only trace of the distillery left is wall facing the canal, the rest of the distillery removed, at least one other artefact
of the old Glendarroch remains, a pottery whisky decanter, manufactured, somewhere between 1884 and 1887, by
Henry Kennedy and Sons of the Barrowfield Pottery in Glasgow.

The blue-printed pottery whisky decanter pictures three men drinking, two dogs beside them, on its front and written

1
on the back is "Glendarroch Distillery, "Sma Still" Highland Whisky, Wm. Gillies, Distiller, Ardrishaig, Scotland", a
holding 'finger loop' added by hand to the decanter.

The dating of the decanter identified as William Gillies owned Glendarroch from 1884 to 1887 and too it can be told
that Henry Kennedy & Sons operated Glasgow's Barrowfield Potteries from 1866 to 1929, they incorporating
themselves as a company and adding 'Ltd.' their name and pottery marks in 1910.
Forsyth Hamilton, in his "Kipper House Tales" tells us that "Many a good dram was brewed in the Glenfyne Distillery
(which began as the Glendarroch Distillery in 1815) on the banks of the canal.

"At the time of the greatest activity there were more sore heads in this little village than anywhere else at the time. Each
man who worked at the distillery was given a bottle at New Year. The teetotallers, who hated drink as much as the
others liked it, were given fourpence, as that was what it cost to produce it at that time. The distillery started in
Ardrishaig in 1815.

"Mr Peter McPherson was the manager in the distillery in 1948. The house I lived in was the ATS cookhouse at
Inveraray Camp. We dismantled it in October 1948 and Peter stored it in the distillery till we were ready to build it in
March 1949. Many managers and officials from the customs were in this place from time to time.

"One manager who was sampling a lot of the water of life was confused. At that time the distillery sold coal to the men
who worked in the place, it was 10/- a ton. He sent them a second account for coal that had already been paid. He
told them he would score it from the books when he saw the receipt. Only one lady had kept the receipt, a Mrs Heath.

"The men waited till the Friday afternoon when the manager was well shot. They gathered at the foot of the stairs and
tripped up one at a time with the same receipt and his clerk scored off each name as they came in. He did not get any
better and one day he took all his clothes off and was seen for the last time as manager running up and down
the canal bank in his birthday suit.

"It must have been a great asset to the village with the number of people employed in the whisky industry. The nearest
stills would be in Oban and Campbeltown. It is a great wonder that this place was not created in Lochgilphead or
Inveraray but I think the good water supply and the large loch up with the three lochs above Ardrishaig ensured that it
came here and of course the convenience of the canal for transport.

"I lived in Ardrishaig and remember Mr Drummond who was the Customs officer. He was a very tall man, maybe 6½
feet and very thin. He said to somebody that he had a brother who was taller than him, but not as stout ! I'm sure he
knew all that was going on in and around the distillery. One day two local men filled a gallon can of whisky and took it
outside and put it in the lifebelt box on the distillery wall, hoping to collect it at night. Night duly arrived and when they
went to get it there was no gallon can, it had been stolen by some other drouth. One said to the other, "My, you can't
trust anybody these days" !

"The story is told that when the distillery closed and no more grain was brought in, rats came down the canal bank in
droves. This must have been a very frightening time in the village.

"I heard a story about a rat that fell into a big vat of whisky. He was shouting for help and along came the big black
distillery cat who shouted at the rat, "What's all the noise ?"

"The rat said, "I'm drowning in the whisky. If you pull me out you can have me for supper tomorrow night". So the
cat pulled the rat out and off he shot down into a hole in the wall. The next night the cat was shouting down the hole,
"Come up rat, I want you for the supper" !

"After a while the rat appeared and looked at him and said, "What's all this rubbish you are talking ?" So the cat
repeated about saving the rat's life from the night before and said, "You promised I could have you for supper tonight".
So the rat said, "Look, mate, last night I was drunk and didn't know what I was saying".

"The distillery burn or the main supply was not put in to the canal. They built a tunnel under it and the burn comes out
beside the power station. I suppose the rush of water taking sticks, leaves and stones during the heavy rain would have
been a perpetual hazard to the canal people. As this goes to Carnbaan they would have a big job to get the mud and
other debris shifted. Nevertheless, the supply of water would have been a great asset during the summer months. In
this day and age they could still use this valuable supply in this five-mile reach.

2
In 1828, a Mr Brothwick, in charge of the Excise and Customs at the Glendarroch, recorded one quarter of the
distillery's output being some 19,000 gallons.

Ardrishaig's Glendarroch, one of the 'Highland' grouping of distilleries, was founded as the Glenfyne Distillery,
sometimes referred to as the Glengilp or Glengilph, in 1831 by Henry Hoey & Co.

The distillery was bought, in 1852, by Peter MacNee, he then selling on to William Hay & Co. in 1857, they selling to
W. Hay Jnr. in 1869 and then, the following year he selling it on to William Smyth, who renamed it Glendarroch in
1878.

Messrs. Kemp & Co. then bought it the following year, in 1879 and, in turn, sold it to William Gillies in 1884, Gillies
selling to Scotch Whisky Distillers Ltd. in 1887 and they re-instating the distillery's Glenfyne name.

Three years later, in 1890, the Glenfyne was bought by William Foulds & Co. and then, finally, The Glenfyne
Distillers Co. bought the distillery in 1919 and, though they eventually closed the distillery operation in 1937, the
warehouses continued to serve their purpose until the mid 1970's.

Situated in beautiful surroundings, uphill from The Crinan Canal and below Ardrishaig's Achnagbreach Hill, the
distillery is noted to have been operating with 1 wash and 2 spirit 'pot stills' and with 5 washbacks, each of 5,500 gallon
capacity, had an annual production average of 80,000 gallons, water for process being drawn from the Ard Burn.

Visited by Alfred Barnard in 1887, he writes that the distillery, re-named Glenfyne shortly after his visit, was then
owned by its proprietor William Gillies and Barnard continues "We left Greenock on the morning of the 26th of July
by the "Columba", one of Mr. David MacBrayne's swift passenger steamers, bound for Ardrishaig. The boats on this
route are fitted up with every imaginable convenience and contrivance for the comfort of passengers. On board there
is a post office, with telegraph and money order departments; a daintily stocked fruit shop, bookstall and a
magnificent dining saloon. In addition to the "Columba", MacBrayne's also operate the "Iona" on their summer
Ardrishaig services, the "Grenadier" carrying out the winter service .

"The scenery on the journey is most picturesque and varied and it would be difficult to find a more romantic district
than that round about and on either side of The Kyles of Bute. The grand background of hills with shady vales nestling
on their slopes, the beautiful deep waters of the lochs with their pretty sea-side retreats, combine to make this one of
the most popular of Mr MacBrayne's "summer tours."

"We reached Ardrishaig at 1 p.m. and, after securing quarters at the hotel, made our way to the 'Glendarroch', distant
about half a mile.

3
"The distillery is planted on the banks of the far-famed Crinan Canal and is quite an object of curiosity to the thousands
of tourists who on board the celebrated little canal steamer "Linnet" pass by on their way to Oban.

"It is built at the foot of The Robber's Glen which runs upwards from the banks of the canal into the heart of the hills
in the background; this glen was once the haunt of smugglers and no more romantic spot could have been chosen for
a distillery.

"The Darroch, a burn which might almost be called a river, issues from the higher hills and flows through the glen,
falling in its onward course over numerous rocks; reaching the grounds of Glendarroch it farms a lovely cascade falling
seventy feet and clashes over other rocks into a trout pool below; then, passing through a tunnel beneath the canal, it
finds its war to the sea.

"From the back walls of the distillery the ground rises in the farm of a steep thickly-wooded hill, where ferns and blue
bells grow in rich luxuriance.

"We scrambled up the zig-zag path for about a quarter of a mile, frequently, to keep the path, having to stoop low
under bending trees that had overgrown the track. Crossing the burn by a rustic bridge we climbed higher up the glen
where, amid trees of every shade of green and sylvan beauty and the air filled with the rich perfume of hawthorn and
lilacs rising from the luxuriant gardens below, one is lost in a scene of indescribable charm and beauty.

"Above are the higher hills covered with heather; below a vast stretch of the waters of the loch the sea beyond.

"On the opposite side stands Kilmory Castle with a background of mountains shading from green to purple, some
parts thickly wooded and the whole tinged with a roseate suffusion of the setting gun.

"This lovely wooded glen is a favorite resort of tourists and artists but, in olden days, smugglers located themselves
here where, defying the law, they made a celebrated whisky which was in great demand.

"Tradition says that there is a smuggler imprisoned, in the heart of the hill, who is kept in durance vile by the avenging
spirit of a revenue officer whose life he took. He is allowed to come forth once a year at midnight, on the anniversary
of the day upon which the crime was committed and, should he then happen to meet the spirit of the comrade who
betrayed him to the officers of the law, the spell would be broken and he released.

"Proceeding on our way, every turn in the pathway brings out fresh views of the valley and causes us to linger here far
4
longer than the brief time appointed for our sojourn by our friends waiting below.

"It is a spot of enchantment and no wonder that such a scene should excite us to enthusiasm when I recalling those
days spent at Ardrishaig.

"Descending the hill by another pathway, we cross by steppingstones over the Ard Burn which adds to the water
supply of the distillery. It runs from a loch three miles in distant, higher up the hill and we noticed that it was dammed
up in several places where it is filtered over fine stones and gravel, eventually falling into a circular concreted reservoir
on a level with the top of the works.

"The Glendarroch Distillery covers three acres of ground and is solidly built of stone in the farm of quadrangle, with a
frontage of 500 feet to the canal.

"We entered the enclosure through a gateway, which has a running door sliding to the right and left, and were
courteously received by Mr. Hunter, the manager, who conducted us over the works.

"He informed us that the barley is brought to the Distillery by canal, and the vessels discharge it at the Granary doors.
The water from the Achnagbreach Hill, before referred to, is used for distilling purposes, and that from the loch and
Darroch Burn for driving power.

"We first visited the granary and maltings, which are on the left of the quadrangle as you enter. They consist of a lofty
two-storied building, measuring 131 feet by 48 feet and at the western end there is a fine concrete steep capable of
wetting 66 quarters of barley at one time; a small part of the upper floor is also used for malting purposes, but the
larger portion is for storing the barley and is capable or holding 2,000 quarters of barley; the grain is hoisted direct
from the ships in the canal to the barley loft.

"At the end of this building there is a new kiln, one of the finest we have seen in this part of Scotland, it is 51 feet
square, floored with wire cloth and heated with peats only, dug from the neighbouring moors. The malt is delivered
by a steam hoist to the kiln floor, which, when loaded, dries 1,000 bushels at one time, the dried malt is thrown
through a shoot direct on to the floor of the malt deposit, the top floor of the adjoining building which farms the

5
centre of the quadrangle and facing the main entrance, it is 48 feet long by 40 feet broad and the lower story is used for
No 3 Bonded Warehouse.

"Our guide next conducted us through a doorway direct on to the top floor of the mill building, which forms the grist
loft, a chamber 50 feet by 30 feet, having a large hopper on one side.

"Underneath is the mill which contains a pair of metal rollers, driven by steam; here also is the engine department.

"The pulverized malt is lifted by elevators to the grist hopper above, already referred to and, as will be seen, the
process of whisky making in this establishment is mostly clone by gravitation and works round the quadrangle, ending
in the spirit store.

"Passing into the next building we find ourselves on the central platform of the mash house, where there are two
timber heating tanks, each holding 5,000 gallons.

"The first object that attracted our attention was a Steel's Mashing Machine, which is red from the hopper in the grist
loft.

"Descending to the ground floor we come to the mash tun, a vessel 17 feet in diameter and 6½ feet deep; enclosed
within it there is a treble-acting stirring gear driven by the water wheel. At our left and under the floor, is the metal
underback, 11½ feet in diameter and 5½ feet deep, with a scmi-circular opening guarded by a railing and underneath
this vessel is the box of the wort pump, the only one in the premises, all else, besides pumping the worts, being done
by gravitation.

"The draff from the mash-tun falls through a sluice into a hopper below and is removed by water power straight into
the draff house in the outer yard. The mash house is a capital building 60 feet high, 39 feet broad and 27 feet long.

"All the old-fashioned coolers have long since been clone away with, and the rare now pumped up to a Miller's
Refrigerator, fixed in the roof of the neighbouring building and copper pipes run the worts direct from thence into the
fermenting tuns.

"Ascending a staircase, we found ourselves in the tun room, some 10 feet above the level of the mash tun; it is 40 feet
square, well lighted and contains five washbacks, averaging 5,500 gallons each; the switches therein are driven by a
second water-wheel, to keep the liquor in motion during the process of fermentation. The floor underneath is
occupied as No 4 Warehouse.

"We then passed through the brewing department and entered the still house, considered by same to be a model of its
kind. It is 65 feet long, 40 feet broad and 60 feet high; its walls are painted white and it is lighted by eleven large
windows. At the eastern end, on a level with the bottom of the washbacks, is the wash charger, a timber dish holding
6,000 gallons, to which the wash runs by gravitation.

"On the floor of the house are three "small pot stills", a wash still holding 4,726 gallons and two low wines stills; one
of them holds 1,000 gallons and the other 500 gallons.

"The worm tub is at the back of the house and in close proximity to the Darroch. It is a fine timber vessel raised on
piers and fed by a continuous stream of cold water from the reservoir it farms a conspicuous object from the canal, as
will be seen in the illustration and occasions many a question from tourists, who are uninitiated in the mysteries of
distillation, as to its use and purpose.

"We now ascended a flight of steps to a large gallery overlooking the canal and the beautiful Loch Fyne. Here there are
placed two feints receivers, the No 1 holding 1,571 gallons and the No 2 holding 1,549 gallons; also two spirit
receivers, No 1 holding 1,544 gallons and No 2, 500 gallons.

"Besides the safe and sampling safe, we noticed a portable fire engine and other appliances for the speedy
extinguishment and prevention of fire. We were informed that Glendarroch is considered by the Excise authorities to
be one of the most complete distilleries in the district.

"Following the course of the whisky, we proceeded to the spirit store, a neat, light little building, which contains a
spirit vat holding 3,248 gallons and an ullage vat holding 231 gallons, the weighing apparatus and an office for the

6
Excise clerks. There are four large warehouses, capable of containing 2,000 casks and others at Waterloo Street in
Glasgow, where also are to be found the public offices of the distillery.

"Continuing our inspection of Glendarroch, we next visited the engine department; it contains a very handsome 25-
horse power engine and a steam boiler, 31 feet long by 7 feet in diameter and afterwards visited the manager's and
Excise offices. The farmer is over the spirit store and the latter over No 1 warehouse.

"Glengilp House, the residence of a former proprietor of the distillery, is now occupied by the manager and the large
old-fashioned garden, crowded with fruit trees and flowers, which stretches to the canal banks, has been divided
between that gentleman and the two Excise officers, Mr Gillies having provided these latter with picturesque houses
opening into same.

"In the park there are also eight houses for the workmen, each with a small plot of ground. The delightful meadows
which skirt Glengilp House are in the occupation of Mr Gillies and produce unusually heavy crops of hay of fine
quality. At the back of the establishment and convenient to the kiln, is a large peat shed, containing upwards of 500
tons of peat ready for use. Near the worm tub and facing the burn there is a large cooperage, stables and cart sheds.

"The house of Glendarroch, which has lately been acquired by Mr Gillies and used by him as a summer residence, is
on the other side of the waterfall. It stands in lovely grounds and is almost bidden by trees and, climbing over its walls
and roof, are roses of every variety and hanging over the path which leads to it fuschia trees, 8 feet high, under which
you walk, testify to the mildness of the climate in this district.

"At the back of the estate rises a small park from which delightful views can be obtained of the extensive and
celebrated demesne of Auchindarroch, which immediately adjoins.

"It is a place of sequestered beauty unequalled in the district and it skirts the canal for a considerable distance, forming
a fringe of brushwood and trees festooned with honeysuckle and other trailing plants, familiar to all who have passed
along this lovely route on their war to Oban and the north. The whisky made in the Glendarroch Distillery is pure
Highland Malt and the annual output is 80,000 gallons.

"The signal gun warned us that it was time to take our departure, so we stepped into the distillery boat and were
quickly taken across the canal to our quarters on the opposite shore where we donned our "war paint" and proceeded
to the house of Glendarroch to enjoy the hospitality of its owner".