The grand whisky tour for Harpers Weekly Gazette
To place this whisky in a historical context I added some texts from a famous whisky book: "The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom".
Between 1885 and 1887 Alfred Barnard visited all active distilleries in the United Kingdom and published them in separate stories in Harpers Weekly Gazette" a spirits journal of the time. It wasn't until 1887 that he decided to combine all these stories into the book mentioned above. During this trip he also visited the Lochindaal distillery. Below you can read his findings on the illusive distillery. Since Lochindaal is mothballed and partly dismantled and partly Youth Hostel the Whisky in our Cask was distilled at Bruichladdich (by Master Distiller Jim McEwan) according to what is thought to have been the character of the Lochindaal Whisky. Therefor I think it's interesting to also add the report of Bruichladdich by Alfred Barnard. It's worth mentioning that Bruichladdich bought what is left of the Lochindaal Distillery in 2007 and is still planning to revive distilling in the village of Port Charlotte.
Proprietor: J. B. Sherriff.
On the other side of the loch, and nearly opposite Bowmore, is Lochindaal, and it's there we first drove the next morning. It is six miles from the hotel, and situated in the heart of what is called the "Garden of Islay'. Our way lay through the village of Bridgend, which is planted at the head of the loch and almost hidden by trees. The gardens of every house and cottage are well cultivated, and such a profusion of flowers we have never seen in any village in Scotland. The hawthorn, laburnums, and roses, literally filled the air with their fragrance, and the lawn-like meadows, the fresh green foliage of the beautiful trees, and the dog-roses in the hedges all reminded us of old England. As we crossed the ancient stone bridge we had a peek through the trees of a long stretch of the river wooded to its waters edge, where several of our companions at the hotel were busy fishing, and who supplied our table with some fine trout, the result of their day's sport.
We next passed Islay House, which stands in an extensive park surrounded by fir plantations. Thousands of rhododendrons adorn this park massed together in deep rich colours or planted in patches and groups on the fringe of the woods. after passing Islay House the road skirted the loch for the rest of the journey. Lochindaal is really an arm of the sea, expanding into the Bay of Laggan, and terminating at the Point of Rhynns on the west, and the Maol-na-Ho on the east, where it forms the capacious Bay of Laggan. The cliffs on the Maol-na-Ho rise to a great height, and in one of them is a large cave called Sloc Mhaol Doraidh, of historical and smuggling fame, many a good cask of Whisky having been removed therefrom to the coasting ships. The nefarious and immoral trade of illicit distillation used to be carried on all over the island to a very great extent, and Whisky making was formerly, as now, the staple commodity of Islay. The steady and persistent discountenance which the illicit traffic received from the proprietors of the island in the early part of the present century, and the introduction of legal Distilleries, has well nigh put an end to smuggling. Along the route our driver pointed out several abandoned haunts of the smugglers.
As we drove along, the sea was smooth and calm as an inland lake. but here after a gale the Atlantic waves break in most magnificent array, and it is a sight never to be forgotten. We next
passed Bruichladdich Distillery, which lies on the side of the road. Two miles further on we reached Port Charlotte, a village of little importance and interest except for the large Distillery owned by Mr. Sheriff, which employs a number of the labouring class, and gives some little life to the locality. At the back of the Distillery the ground rises into hills near the top of which are two beautiful lochs, the Garroch and Octomore, from whence the water supply to the Distillery is obtained.
The works, which were built early in the century, cover about two acres of ground, and although old fashioned are very compact and conveniently arranged for the operations of the Distillery. We entered by a gateway which faces the sea; on the right are small offices and a residence for the Brewer, on the left the spacious Granaries and Malt Barns, and in the front the Distillery proper. The Kiln is floored with German wire cloth, the first we have seen in the island, and we were informed that it is very expensive. Peat only is used in drying the malt, fired in open chauffeurs. The old Mash-house, which is kept very clean and is white- washed, contains a circular Mash Tun, the Underback, and two heating Coppers. In the Tun-room there are eight Washbacks, with an average capacity of 10,000 gallons each. The Still-house, which is a neat building, well lighted, contains three old Pot Stills and the usual Receivers and Chargers. On the opposite side of the road, on the sea shore, are several large bonded Warehouses, capable of holding 5,000 casks. The Whisky is pure Islay Malt, and part of it is shipped from Bruichladdich pier, the remainder floated out to the ships, ten casks being lashed together by iron ping and a chain called II clogs," and towed out by boatmen. Mr. Miller is the general manager. the output in 1884-5 was 127,068 bulk gallons.
Proprietors: The Bruichladdich Distillery Company, Limited, Islay.
In the afternoon we returned to Bridgend, calling at Bruichladdich on our way, as previously arranged. When we neared the Lighthouse, which is built on the margin of the sea, about a mile from Port Charlotte, we obtained a fine view of Islay House, called by the natives the White House, surrounded by its magnificent policies and stately woods, also the ridge of low hills on both sides of Lochindaal, which are cultivated in fine arable slopes almost to the edge of the sea. Day by day, as we get better acquainted with this fertile and interesting part of the island, we are convinced that it well deserves the appellation of the 'Queen of the Hebrides."
Bruichladdich is quite an aspiring and tastefully built village, and is planted on one of the finest and most healthy spots in Islay. The Distillery, which is two miles from Port Charlotte and six from Bridgend, was built in 1881, covers a little over two and a half acres of ground, and faces the sea it is a solid handsome structure in the form of a square, and entered through an archway, over which is a fine stone-built residence for the use of the partners when staying on the island.
Our inspection of this Distillery commenced at the Barley Lofts, two in number, both very spacious and airy, built above the Malting Floors, which in their turn are built over Bonded Warehouses, in one case of two storeys, and in the other of one. The barley, which is hoisted to these lofts in the usual manner, is thus conveniently placed for filling into the Steeps, which is effected by gravitation through iron shoots, which deliver it from different parts of the lofts.
We next visited the Malting Floors, which are laid with tiles, and connected with the Kiln by gangways, over which the malt, when ready for drying, is carried in bags. When dried it is placed in the Malt Deposit Room, situated immediately over the Mill House, and after being ground in the Mill, the ground Malt is conveyed by a long Elevator to the Grist Loft, which is in the distillery buildings proper, and commands the Mash Tun, to which it is supplied through a Mashing Machine, in which the grist is mixed with hot water, thus obviating any dust rising in the Mash House, and facilitating the mashing process.
The Mash House itself is a fine high room, containing a Mash Tun, 16 1/2 feet In diameter by 6 feet deep, the stirring gear of which, as indeed all the other machinery in this Distillery, is worked by a powerful steam engine, situated in the courtyard. There are also in this room two Brewing Tanks, an Underback; an intermediate Cooler, and a Morton's Refrigerator. The cooling of the worts in this machine is effected by cold water supplied from a large reservoir far up amongst the hills, and from thence conducted in pipes, and is of sufficient pressure to rise to the Brewing Coppers, into which it flows at a high temperature, thus materially reducing the time and cast otherwise necessary to boil the water in these Coppers for mashing purposes.
The worts, after passing through this refrigerator, run by gravitation to the Fermenting Backs, which consist of six large Tuns situated in the adjoining Tun Room, each capable of fermenting 7,000 gallons; the fermentation completed, the Wash is pumped to the Wash Charger in the Still Room, and thence supplied to the Wash Still. In this Still Room, which is particularly cool and clean, all the firing of the Stills being done from the outside, there are two Stills, both heated by fire, capable of running over 3,000 gallons of spirit per week, besides the usual Feints and Low-wines Receivers and Chargers, and Spirit Receiver. From the Spirit Receiver the Whisky is run into a large vat in the Spirit Store and from this filled into casks for bonding.
The Distillery having been completed all at one time the buildings are more distinct and separate than in same of the other large works, where many additions have been made, the Malt Barns and Bonded Warehouses being entirely separate from the Kiln, Mill and Engine Room, as also from the Distillery buildings, thus insuring the greatest possible security against fire or the Whisky lying in Bond. Round the yard are six Warehouses, covering 30,000 square feet, all with good head room. The water used in the Distillery is brought from a reservoir in the hills, and is said to be of good quality. The make is Islay Malt, and is shipped to Glasgow by the steamers which leave the quay every Tuesday. Mr. Henry, the manager, resides on the premises. The annual output is 94,000 gallons.