Dhu Historic Distillery
Dallas Dhu Distillery lies just south of Forres
on a minor road that branches off the A940. It is adequately
signposted, but you do have to overcome the sense of being
sent into a housing estate at one point. The distillery was
built in 1898-9 on the estate of Alexander Edward of Sanquhar
by a Glasgow based whisky blending company, Wright and Grieg
Ltd. Their main blend was called Roderick Dhu and sold well
in the 1880s and 1890s, especially in India, Australia and
Dallas Dhu was located on the Altyre Burn to ensure a good
supply of the most important raw material, water. Excellent
barley was also available nearby, and the site was served
by the (now long closed) railway line from Forres to Aviemore.
Dallas Dhu's fortunes fluctuated over the following 80 years,
and its ownership changed more than once. The distillery was
closed from 1929 to 1936; and the stillhouse burned down in
1939, being rebuilt just in time to be closed once more during
World War Two.
Significant investment in the 1960s and 1970s helped bring
the distillery up to date, but by the early 1980s it was clear
that there were more distilleries than could possibly be needed
to meet forecast demand. By 1983 Dallas Dhu was owned by the
Distillers Company, who took the decision to close some of
their smaller and older distilleries to reduce their capacity
and costs. One was Dallas Dhu.
At the same time, the importance of distilling to Scotland's
heritage was becoming more widely recognised. The organisation
that is now Historic Scotland was therefore looking for a
distillery to preserve. Of all those it looked at, Dallas
Dhu was about the most complete and original: and it had the
added advantage of being smaller than most and relatively
easy to manage and maintain. Dallas Dhu therefore reopened
as a visitor attraction in 1988.
A visit to Dallas Dhu begins, as with most distilleries,
at the Visitors' Centre. Here you are issued with an audio
"wand" that gives a running commentary on each of
the key stages in the distilling process as you stroll around.
This is a great idea that allows you to tour at your own pace,
or even take a second look at areas of particular interest.
The first important element in the tour is one that is becoming
increasingly rare in visits to working distilleries, the malt
barn. Here you get a real sense of the way the barley was
steeped then laid out to sprout. You then proceed to the kiln,
the building surmounted by the kiln head or pagoda that is
so characteristic of distilleries, yet which is now no longer
used in so many of them.
After the kiln, the going becomes more familiar to visitors
of working distilleries. The next main stage involves the
copper topped mash tun in which the crushed malt was soaked
with hot water. This feeds through to the huge barrels in
which the initial fermentation took place: the wash-backs.
Anyone who has ever stuck their nose into a wash-back at a
working distillery will notice the absence of some very characteristic
smells at Dallas Dhu; but against this must be set the ability
to look as closely as you like at the equipment.
This is especially noticeable in the still room. This houses
the two stills used at Dallas Dhu, and it takes you a while
to realise the main difference from a working distillery:
the absence of the usually oppressive heat of the still room.
Other differences are equally striking. We'd never before,
for example, seen the insides of a still. And you'd certainly
not be invited back if you tried to photograph inside a still
in a working distillery. And when you come to the spirit safe,
you again appreciate the differences from a live distillery.
Perhaps you lose the sense of the stream of clear spirit flowing
through the safe. But you would most certainly not be able
to manipulate the controls yourself if spirit was still involved.
Moving on again, visitors are taken through the cask-filling
area to the bonded warehouses; and finally back to the Visitors'
Centre. Here one tradition well known to visitors of working
distilleries is maintained. You are offered the chance to
taste a dram of the product, though (understandably) a blend
rather than the increasingly scarce and expensive single malt
still available from the years before Dallas Dhu ceased production.
Visitors to the unique time capsule of Dallas
Dhu can see and hear how whisky was made here – there
is an audio-visual presentation and free audio guide –
and sample a free dram.
2km south of Forres off the A940.
North and Grampian.
Grid reference NJ 035566.
Post code IV36 2RR.
Site on the National Cycle Network
From Inverness train station, take Scotrail train (Aberdeen)
to Forres (25 mins). Walk 15 mins to the Distillery.
Tel 01309 676548
Summer (1 April - 30 September), Monday to Sunday, 9.30 am
to 5.30 pm
Winter (1 October - 31 March), Saturday to Wednesday (closed
Thursday and Friday), 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
2007 Admission Prices
Adult £5.00 Child £2.50 Concessions £4.00
The visitor centre and shop are all on ground level. Due to
the many stairs, visitors using wheelchairs should visit only
the ground floor levels. There is a picnic area within the
grounds although grassed areas can be soft. The visitor centre
has a multilingual presentation and an audio tour is available
to all visitors.
Sound Loop available in the audio visual theatre and cash
Parking available beside visitor centre.
Courtesy of Undiscovered Scotland