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Caledonian

Whisky Collection Bar > C

CALEDONIAN  MALTS

1991            Allied Distillers introduce the Caledonian Malts:
  
                    First Edition; Miltonduff, Glendronach, Laphroaig, Tormore
                    Second Edition; Miltonduff, Glendronach, Laphroaig, Scapa

Caledonian Distillery
Haymarket, Edinburgh

Caledonian Distillery was built by Graham Menzies & Co. in 1855. This firm owned Sunbury Distillery, near Dean Bridge on the Water of Leith, and needed a more convenient location for carrying on a larger trade. It acquired five acres (2 hectares) of green fields, just beyond the city's built-up area, which then stopped at the Haymarket. The site lay between two railway lines, the Edinburgh & Glasgow and the Caledonian, from which branches were laid down, converging at the centre of the works. The distillery was one of the first to be sited to take advantage of railway transportation. An abundant supply of water was drawn from the Union Canal. It flowed by gravity along a subterranean pipe-line about 4000 feet long, with a fall of 65 feet, into the heart of the distillery.
An architect's drawing of the north and east elevations, dated 1855, depicts the still house, the mash house, the tunroom and the granary, much as they look today. All of these massive stone buildings are still used for their original purposes. The makings was built at a later date. It is mentioned in a description of the works in David Bremner's book, The Industries of Scotland, 1869, where Caledonian was stated to be one "of the two most extensive distilleries" in the country. Its owners stayed out of the combination of six Scotch grain whisky distilleries, formed as The Distillers Company Ltd. in 1877. They decided to join in 1884. The enlarged company took over Men-zies' gin rectifying business in London, for which Caledonian Distillery continued to make gin spirit for the next twenty years.
Alfred Barnard, author of The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, 1887, reckoned that Caledonian was "the model distillery of Europe", because it contained "every improvement of machinery and every patent" known to the industry. For instance, grain was delivered in bulk, every twelve hours, in trains of purpose-built waggons fitted with trap doors. When these were unbolted, the grain fell into a continuous screw, "which almost in an instant sends it to the elevators carrying it up to the top floors, and delivering it by the screws to the various grain departments -almost doing away with manual labour". All the machinery on the premises was driven by steam power, "there being seven powerful engines from 10 to 150 horse power, and eleven boilers each 30 feet long and7 ½ feet in diameter." There was one Coffey, "said to be the largest in Europe", which made grain whisky, and three pot stills; two of these, according to Bremner, had been "fitted up" around 1867 "to meet a growing demand for the variety of whisky known as 'Irish'". Scotch malt whisky, according to company documents, was being made in 1891.
The distillery was substantially re-equipped after the end of the Great War. An engineer's drawing of 1919 illustrates a "new power house" and a mechanical coal-handling plant, and another, dated 1921, accommodation for silos in the grain store. According to a contemporary description of the distillery in a trade paper, "electric and steam power arranged on a rigidly self-contained basis combine to render a complete breakdown of any part of the process a virtual impossibility". Steam for the Coffey still, and for power, was raised by means of seven Lancashire boilers, all mechanically stoked by under-feed screws. Generating power was supplied by two vertical double-acting steam engines, which had dynamos coupled to their main shafts. These supplied power for the working of the plant and for lighting the premises until they were replaced, before 1935, by an Adamson turbine and a reciprocal engine for standby purposes.

In the course of an enemy raid on 29 September 1940, a 500 lb. bomb struck the warehouse in Duff Street. The explosion and the resulting fire largely destroyed the warehouse and many neighbouring tenement houses. No fewer than 148 firemen and 30 engines were deployed to control the fire. About 1,0 original proof gallons of whisky were lost. One cask, blown out of the warehouse, crashed through the roof of a tenement and came to rest on a table, still half full of blazing spirits.
Production on a long-term basis restarted after the end of the war, with home-grown barley as the raw material. Maize was not available until 1956, and Canadian barley was not used until 1958. By that time, a programme of re-equipment and reconstruction was in full swing. A new copper column had supplanted the wooden analyser of the Coffey still in 1948, although the wooden rectifier was not so replaced until 1955-56. Between that time and 1960, Colclad washbacks superseded their wooden predecessors at the rate of two every year. Three coal-fired boilers were installed in 1957, and converted to oil-burning in 1967. The power house supplied direct-current electricity for all purposes until 1959, when alternating current from the mains began to be installed. The steam turbines disappeared in the course of the gradual change to the public electricity supply, completed in 1964; so did the hydraulic lifts (mentioned by Barnard) in the warehouses.
Carbon dioxide gas has been collected from the fermentation process at the distillery since 1927. Since 1971, Caledonian also processes the C02 produced by the North British Distillery Co. Under another agreement, spent wash from Caledonian's distillation process is pumped along a second pipeline to North British, where it is evaporated, together with that company's spent wash, into a syrup, for inclusion in an animal feedingstuff, distillers' dark grains.
The floor makings worked until 1965, since when all malt has been supplied by the Company's Saladin plant at Kirkliston, West Lothian. The makings on the "Old Side", dating from the last century, lies empty; the makings on the "New Side" has been demolished to make way for the present C02 recovery plant.
Water for reducing spirit is drawn from the Edinburgh town supply and cooling water from the Union Canal. The Canal was officially closed to navigation in 1965.
The distillery is owned and operated by Scottish Grain Distillers Ltd., a subsidiary of The Distillers Company p.l.c., of Edinburgh.



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