"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

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Gleniffer Distillery, near Paisley

Barnard’s last visit in the wider Glasgow area in 1885 was to this small distillery south of the town of Johnstone, near Paisley, from where he had travelled by train. At the station in Johnstone he was provided with a “dog-cart and a fast stepper” to reach the distillery some 2-3 miles away. This was a memorable journey on a beautiful summer day and Barnard describes “…a perfume of hawthorn scenting the air, smiling hedgerows, and rich plantations thick with foliage…”.

I’m not sure what a smiling hedgerow is but the setting for the old distillery on the slopes above Johnstone is still rural and not (yet) absorbed into that town, although the outward growth hints that it may not be long. The Gleniffer Braes beyond the site are verdant and a walk there provides stunning views across the lower Clyde Valley to the Kilpatrick Hills and the Highlands beyond.

Barnard doesn’t describe the distillery equipment with his usual facts and figures, here only mentioning the number of buildings and their purposes. It seems this was a quick stop off on his way from Paisley to Greenock and he describes the countryside more than the distillery in his short report. He does describe the buildings as old fashioned and quaintly built and the output was only 70,000 gallons pa (318,000 l).

Old Kilpatrick Water at distillery site
The water source for distilling was the ‘Glen Burn’ rising from the top of the Braes. Barnard was likely referring to the Gleniffer Burn which supplied water to Johnstone and Paisley via the Stanely reservoir. The Old Kilpatrick Water flows from another part of the Braes, through the distillery grounds, over miniature waterfalls, and drove the water wheel that powered the mill at the distillery.

The distillery name was changed from Glenpatrick to Gleniffer in 1858 under new ownership and stayed that way until finally closing in 1894. The distillery buildings were hidden among trees and today the grounds are the wooded gardens of two remaining private cottages, named Glenpatrick and Gleniffer, and once likely the homes of Distillery Manager and Exciseman. A few small workshops in the grounds may once have been part of the distillery but nothing else remains.