Deanston distillery is a Single malt Scotch whisky distillery located on the banks of the River Teith, eight miles from the historic town of Stirling, at the gateway to the dramatic Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. It is the largest distillery owned by Scotch whisky producer Burn Stewart Distillers Ltd, who also own Bunnahabhain Distillery on the Isle of Islay and Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull.
Deanston Distillery started life in 1785 as a cotton mill designed by Sir Richard Arkwright, and remained as such for 180 years until it was transformed into a distillery in 1966. The constant supply of pure water from the River Teith contributed to the decision to turn the mill into a distillery and Deanston is now the only distillery in Scotland to be self-sufficient in electricity, with power generated by an on-site hydro-energy facility. Deanston sits in the Highland single malt region of Scotland and produces whisky which is handmade by ten local craftsmen, un-chill filtered, natural colour and bottled at a strength of 46.3% ABV.
Deanston first acquired its name in 1500, when Walter Drummond (the Dean of Dunblane) inherited the lands now known as Deanston from the Haldanes of Gleneagles. The Scots word ‘dean’ was coupled with the Scots Gaelic term ‘toun’, meaning farm/settlement, to make Deanston.
Deanston was largely an agricultural area until John Buchanan and his brothers from Carston had the foresight to convert an existing flax mill into a water-powered carding and roving factory with the latest machinery. Designed by Arkwright, inventor of the water-powered spinning frame, the mill was opened in 1785 as the Adelphi Mill, after the Greek word adelphoi meaning ‘brothers’. The mill was powered by the River Teith and was one of the first half-dozen mills of this type to be built in Scotland.
Its opening signalled the start of a period of great change for Deanston, which was inhabited with Highlanders who had been evicted in the Clearances and were reluctant to work in the mill. After a difficult start, the mill’s fortune was transformed by the arrival of Kirkman Finlay (of Glasgow merchants James Finlay & Co) and the vibrant James Smith, who was installed as manager in 1806/7, aged just seventeen, and remained at the helm for 35 years. Smith embarked on a massive modernisation of Deanston between 1811-1833, building a new spinning mill, a village, housing, roads, a new weir, new gas works, a large weaving shed, Deanston School, and a fish-ladder to give salmon access to the upper reaches of the river - the original model of which can be seen at the distillery today. His biggest innovation was the engineering works which built machinery for Catrine Mill, as well exporting to all parts of Britain and Europe. Smith’s talents did not end with the modernisation of the mill, as he also became famous for his deep soil drainage system known as ‘Deanstonisation.’
In its early days, Deanston Mill was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in Scotland and developed a number of nationally important innovations which continue to impact the distillery today. Due to a shortage of currency at the time, Deanston was the first major industrial works to produce its own currency. The French Revolution and Napoleonic War meant that silver and gold were drained away to pay for hostilities and as a result, Deanston Mill countermarked Spanish and French coins and issued them to workers and suppliers as pay. Very few of these coins still exist, however one is currently on display at the distillery.
The mill and village houses were originally lit by candles and oil lamps but in 1813, Deanston Mill was lit by gas – said to be the first gasworks in the west of Scotland and ahead of Westminster Bridge, which was not lit until 1913.
By 1833, Deanston was powered by four large water wheels - the first two small wheels were reconstructions of the original Adelphi Mill wheels and the third wheel was called Samson. The fourth wheel (named Hercules) measured 36ft 6in in diameter, was of 300 horse power, and was the largest waterwheel in Europe and the second largest in the world. Original footage of these colossal wheels in operation was recently unearthed and can now be viewed at the distillery. The wheels were dismantled in 1949 and replaced by a more efficient hydro-turbine and steam electricity generating plant, which currently provides enough energy for all of the distillery’s requirements, as well as producing a surplus which is sold back to the National Grid.
Deanston Mill was heavily influenced by Arkwright’s classical style of architecture and this is a striking feature of the distillery today. The elegant 204ft long, 136ft wide vaulted warehouse, previously the weaving shed, is recognised to be one of the greatest surviving Regency industrial buildings in Scotland, and is now used to mature Deanston Single Malt whisky. Construction began in 1834; its remarkable cast-iron cupola roof was insulated with soil to bring it up to the best temperature for weaving cotton (80 degrees farenheight) and also helped to deaden the noise of the hundreds of working looms inside. The soil on the roof was utilised as a community vegetable garden.