"Having long been possessed with an ardent desire to see the Distilleries of Scotland...", Alfred Barnard, 1885

"O Thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink", from Scotch Drink, by Robert Burns

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Dalintober Distillery, Campbeltown

Barnard’s report on his visit to Dalintober Distillery begins with one of those clues that suggest the order of publication of his reports is not the order in which he visited the Campbeltown distilleries.  He opens by stating “after living in Campbeltown a few days we began to feel quite at home in the town, and were on familiar terms with most of the Distillers and a good many of the inhabitants.”

He also describes going for a sail at the invitation of “our friend” Mr. MacCallam (sic).  Presumably this is Duncan MacCallum who owned Glen Nevis Distillery at the time of Barnard’s visit and whose obituary describes yachting as his favourite recreation (Stirk, 2005).  Barnard thoroughly enjoyed the sail before being dropped near to the distillery, perhaps at the quay on the north side of the bay which was a short walk away.

Dalintober was named after the immediate area in which it was situated.  The area was previously a small fishing village of that name which was absorbed, along with the adjacent village of Dalaruan, into the expanding Burgh of Campbeltown which had begun on the south side of the loch.  The distillery was also an expanding enterprise, riding the boom within the town and moving from its initial small premises off Queen Street across the way to a much larger complex facing Kinloch Park.

Old Dalintober at Queen Street
Barnard describes a “frontage to Kinloch Park of five hundred feet, commanding the finest view of any of the distilleries, which includes the town, mountains and bay”.  The NLS map from 1865 shows only the small Queen Street Distillery which was established in 1832, a later 1899 map shows the extensive buildings facing the Park.

Townsend (1993) states that they moved to a site on the park in 1868 however this seems early.  The park was formed as reclaimed land from a mussel ebb in 1877-1881 and the Lochruan Distillery, having been rebuilt by new owners after 1867, is shown on an 1869 map on a site behind where Dalintober moved to and abutting the old mussel ebb.  In his visit in 1885 Barnard wrongly states that the “works were erected in 1832” as this refers to the old site and the date for the new site on the park remains uncertain.

The usual detail of the malting and distilling process is described and is here presented as “the whole process of the manufacture of Campbeltown whisky which we here detail for the benefit of our readers”, although it is really no different in principal to the process for any other kind of whisky.  Barnard has by now become more proficient in his understanding of distilling and the end to end process described here is a nice snapshot.

Springbank cooling tank
One element he describes is the “natural cooling” of the worts before running into the washbacks.  Most other distilleries have been noted as having refrigerators for this purpose, and those normally manufactured by Morton.  His previous report on Springbank records one of these devices but they also had an open topped air cooling tank which I picture here.  Perhaps this was also the natural cooling method at Dalintober.

Unlike many other distilleries in Campbeltown, Dalintober remained in the same name, Reid & Colville, throughout the 1800s and right up to 1919 when it was one of five in the town purchased by West Highland Malt Distilleries.  This new venture finally went into liquidation in 1927 during that dark decade for the whisky industry.  Dalintober had ceased production in 1925 and was later demolished to make way for housing (Stirk, 2005), possibly in the 1930s although the exact timing is uncertain.  The old Queen Street site was also demolished and today stands derelict, seemingly never redeveloped.

Housing on site of Dalintober Distillery

View of town, mountains and bay from Dalintober

The housing on the site today looks of that period and still commands the uninterrupted view across the park described earlier by Barnard.  In his next report he commented on the situation of the park and the hills he could see.  A number of interesting stories are told about this landscape by local people and I hope to recount some of them in my next post before moving onto Benmore Distillery.