Glen Mhor Stills Revisited


After nearly 3 years of research, we've managed to step into almost every area of Glen Mhor and track its changes over the span of its existence.

One of the biggies was identifying the missing 3rd still that is referenced in several books but in no great detail. The stillhouse is the heart of any distillery and where the magic begins to take shape and produce the liquid that we all appreciate. To make these discoveries is one thing, but to be able to bring them to life, with every element of photographs debated and analysed, is another piece of work entirely.

Following the discovery of a purifier at Glen Mhor, Alan Winchester kindly went back over the photographs of the stillhouse that we have so far identified. Using each of these he's assembled his thoughts based upon his experience and the detective work that has taken us to this point, so I'll let Alan take over...

The realisation that I had missed the purifier mentioned previously, has had me reviewing the pictures 3 of that feature the stills, here's some observations.

1.  Picture from 1898 (see lead image above) shows the stillhouse from South we can see two onion shaped stills, no sign of purifier return pipe, I can not make out a wooden ball for detecting the wash level when settling the still, on page 306 perfectly illustrates this at Glen Albyn in the James Eadie The Distilleries of GB and Ireland.

I think I can detect the rummager on the wall, which appears to go into the further off still, the rummager could be operated from the turbine power shaft, but this was normally run off the overflow of the worm tub, I am assuming the worm tubs here were cast iron rectangular.

2. The picture of the 2 stills in Page 298 appear to view the two stills in the 1898 image, we reckon from the Doig drawings this is the copper, however we can see the rummager is now linked by a chain, and unfortunately I can not detect where it goes to due the stillman being beside the still, also like the 1898 picture the lye pipes are going through the wall.  On the still nearest the camera there appears to be a return pipe from the purifier flanged to the side of the still, I think, the article mentions 1 of the spirit stills has been fitted with a purifier.  Also the article says the 3 stills have a joint capacity of 8,000 gallons.

3.  We move to the picture with William Birnie posing beside the stills, we have now a capacity for the still as 2,700 gallons, I would suspect this is the full capacity of the still and was marked for C & E purposes, unusual I do not see the Number of the still i.e. No 1 or No 2 written on it, a lovely onion shaped still, with a nice mandoor, a few things to be noted the lye pipe does not appear to go out the wall, this appears to be going out the roof, and this would indicate an increased capacity from the 1898 still, also notice the rummager power drive is passing to the still behind William Birnie, also a return pipe is coming through the wall, and does not appear to enter the still at the side like the 1920s' image.  Also a revelation to myself, I looked for the wooden ball on the still behind, but it appears that the still is a different shape, it has a tulip shape, and quite a big tulip shape this is a radical change of shape, this indicates to me they have installed a new still head, also of interest the mandoor of the still appears to be Fleming, Bennet & Mclaren shaped mandoor, so this could be the original mandoor, the mandoor of the Low wines still is similar to a more modern design. So, the Wash still has been repositioned?

4.  We move to Rodney Burt's picture, which appears to be the same still that William was beside, this appears to be a direct fired still, so will be early 1960's or earlier.  We can see the rummager drive behind and continuing along the wall,  as in William Birnie's picture, we can clearly see the pipe which we suspect is the purifier coming through the wall, I had assumed this was the tailpipe of the worm, but I am now fairly sure this is the purifier, question is this still the one in the 1920s' that was beside the copper.  The mandoor appears to be etched which could be the manufacturer of the mandoor but cannot read it.

I am now wondering when the 3rd still was installed was the still a larger wash still and the old wash still been converted into a Low wines and feints still (or Spirit Still as they are incorrectly termed these days). Ulf Brxrud, says it was a wash still in his Rare Malts, but he has the the still capacities which appear quite low also he says the mash tun is wooden, and a Porteous mill, so with the increase of the capacity with the new mash tun result in more wash capacity, they increase the Wash still by altering the existing still or buying a new one.  

So, was the this how the one Wash still two Low wines and feints configuration come about, this style of change I have seen at Scapa and Balblair, the 3rd still at Balblair is outside the Station Hotel in Rothes and the third still from Scapa is outside the Kilmalid bottling plant.