Photograph: John Thurm

Bladnoch Distillery

Bladnoch Distillery is located in south west Scotland. It is one of only three remaining Lowland distilleries, and is located at Bladnoch, near Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway. The distillery is situated on the banks of the River Bladnoch, and is the most southerly whisky distillery in Scotland.

History

The distillery was founded by John and Thomas McClelland in 1817 and during the period 1823 – 1826 produced 28,956 gallons of whisky, an average of 7,239 gallons per annum, and in the year 1826 – 1827 this had risen to 9,792 gallons.

By 1845 twenty workers, exclusive of tradesmen, were employed in converting 16,000 bushels of barley per annum into spirit. In 1878 the distillery was enlarged and modernised, presumably to cope with rising production. By 1887 the site occupied two acres with a further fifty acres being farmed by the proprietor, who was the son and nephew of the founders; the output had risen considerably to 51,000 gallons per annum.

In 1887 the distillery was described, by John Barnard on his tour of distilleries, as:

“A square pile of buildings erected around a courtyard, with all the water used in the works coming from a mill dam supplied from the upper reaches of the river; an overshot water wheel does all the driving power. The Malting House is a mainly stone building 118 feet by 28 feet with a slated roof, the woodwork painted red; it has three floors, the ground floor for malting and the top floors for barley, each possessing a stone step. There are besides, two other barns 95 feet by 32 feet similarly arranged. At left and right angles of the court are the kilns each loaded by a hoist, floored with perforated iron plates and heated with peats. On the top floor of the intermediate building there is a Malt Deposit on a level with the kilns and underneath there is the Mill and Grist Loft.”

Also within the quadrangle is the Mash House, 40 feet square containing two Heating Coppers holding together 5,700 gallons and a Tun 16 feet in diameter and five and a half feet deep with stirring gear. Sunk in the bed of the watercourse is the Underbank, holding 3,000 gallons. A few steps up from the yard is the Back House where against the wall are six Washbacks, two holding 6,000 gallons and four holding 3,500 gallons; also a Miller’s Refrigerator and the Wash Charger with a capacity of 3,500 gallons. The Still House, the oldest part of the establishment contains three old Pot Stills consisting of a Wash Still of 13,000 gallons and two Low Wines Stills each of 400 gallons.

“The Receiving Room contains three Low Wines and Feints Receivers, the Spirit Safe and a Spirit Receiver holding 400 gallons. Outside there are three Worm Tubs fed from the river and adjacent a Spirit Store containing a vat holding 530 gallons and the Excise and Distillery Offices. There are four Bonded Warehouses ranged round a second courtyard holding 805 casks containing 80,700 gallons. The Peat Shed is supported on iron columns and has a slated roof. In the main courtyard is a small cooperage and cask shed.”

During the 1890′s “misfortunes” which are not specified struck the distilling industry; these could have been the reduction nation-wide in the production of barley, a possible rise in excise duty and the growth of the various temperance movements. The other distilleries in Galloway were forced to close but Bladnoch survived. Between 1911 and 1937 it was owned by Wm Dunville & Co. Ltd, an Irish company, and on the outbreak of World War II whisky production ceased, but malt continued to be produced until 1949 when the distillery closed until 1957.

Upon re-opening under new ownership whisky production began again and continued under a number of different owners until 1983 when Bell’s took over and initiated a programme of modernisation and computerisation. In 1987 the United Distillers Group took over Bell’s and continued the modernisation as a result of which the weekly production rose to over 8,000 gallons, more than eight times the output in 1887.

The distillery was bought by Irishman Raymond Armstrong in 1996. His astounding energy has seen Bladnoch emerge from enforced silence into steaming, flowing production. Visit Bladnoch Distillery on the banks of the River Bladnoch, from which it takes its name. Located in this beautifully remote area of Galloway, the cluster of slate roofed stone buildings hold the promise of sights and smells that have enticed visitors to Scotland for many years. Wander through warehouses steeped in the atmosphere of sleeping whisky. Experience the noise and steam of the Mash House. Inhale the heady vapours of the Tun Room. Soaring copper stills await you as you enter the Still House to watch the spirit flow like liquid crystal through the spirit safe. Meander through the distillery gardens and make your way to the Dramming Room to enjoy a dram of Bladnoch’s finest single malt whisky and appreciate our little corner of heaven here in Galloway.