Port Ellen Distillery, Islay, late 1800s

Proprietor: James Ramsay.

Port Ellen DistilleryBefore visiting the Distillery which is the subject of this brief chapter, we took a stroll along the shore to get a breath of the sea. Port Ellen possesses most delightful bathing sands, which would if cottages were available, and the place were nearer Glasgow. The lighthouse, at the opposite end of the bay from the Distillery, was erected in 1832, by the late Mr. W. F. Campbell of Islay, to the memory of his wife, Lady Ellinor, and is a conspicuous object from any part of the coast.

The Port Ellen Distillery is planted on the seashore, about half a mile from the village. The works cover three acres, and were built in the year 1825, but since that time several important additions have been made. In the absence of the manager, to whom we had letters of introduction, the distiller conducted us over the premises. We were first taken to the three spacious Barley Lofts, well lighted and ventilated, of the following dimensions, No. 1 is 100 feet long and 36 wide; No. 2, 110 feet by 52; No. 3, 135 feet by 30. The three Malting Floors are of the same size, each having the usual Steeps; in close proximity are two Kilns, floored with wire cloth, one 52 feet by 26, the other 36 feet square. A flight of steps leads into the Malt Store, off which is the Mill Room, containing a pair of malt rollers; and in the adjoining room is the Mash Tun, 14 feet in diameter by 5 feet deep, a Wash Charger containing 5,000 gallons, two heating tanks, etc.

From this department we proceeded to the Tun Room, which contains seven Fermenting-backs, of an average capacity of 7,000 gallons each. Passing from here we came to the Still House, containing two old Pot Stills, one holding 3,500 gallons and the other 2,100, also two Receivers, holding 1,400 and 1,600 gallons respectively. In a line with the Distillery are six handsome Warehouses, containing at the time of our visit 3,700 casks, holding 240,000 gallons of Whisky of different ages. We may here remark that only peat which is dug in the district is used in the drying, and the water comes from two lochs in the hills; the principal one used for distilling purposes is noted in the locality for its clearness and purity, the other is used for driving purposes. Elevators are used all over the works; there is a Cooperage and Seasoning House for casks, a fine Spirit Store, and one of Morton's Refrigerators. The Whisky is Islay Malt, and the annual output 140,000 gallons.

The following lines by a local wag refer to the reputed litigious character of the crofters and small farmers in Islay.

"It's a very good Island to live in-
To spend, to lend, or to give in;
But to beg, or to borrow, or ask for one's own,
It's the very worst Island that ever was known."

Next distillery: Bowmore

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