The original and indeed only Port Charlotte distillery was around for 100 years from 1829 to 1929 when prohibition and the stock market crash combined to make this large producer financially nonviable.
The distillery was built in the village on Islay of the same name and little of the facility is now left. Bruichladdich own what remains of the warehouses and still use them for storage. They are also the distillery which makes peated whisky of the same name. As I mentioned in my review of the book Whisky Dream by Stuart Rivans there was also plans to rebuild the distillery as a modern green 21st century enterprise but none of that has ever happened. It is clearly easier and cheaper to make a peated brand from an existing facility than also building a new facility. However, in that book a description of the distillery is quoted from the great Victorian whisky distillery reference book ‘The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom’ by Alfred Barnard . At the risk of this being a breach of copyright I will share it with you below for your education and amusement. The distillery was during his visit called Lochindaal distillery.
On the other side of the loch, and nearly opposite Bowmore, is Lochindaal and thither we first drove the next morning. It is situated in the heart of what is called “The Garden of Islay”. Our way lay through the village of Bridgend, which is planted at the head of the loch and almost hidden by trees. The gardens of every house and cottage are well cultivated, and such profusion of flowers we have never seen in any village in Scotland. As we crossed the ancient stone bridge, we had a peep through the trees of a long stretch of river wooded to its water’s edge, where several of our companies at the hotel were busy fishing and who supplied our table with fine trout, the result of their day’s sport. Along the route, our driver pointed out several abandoned haunts of the smugglers. As we drove along, the sea was as smooth and calm as an inland lake; but here, after a gale, the Atlantic waves break in most magnificent array. It is a sight never forgotten. We reach Port Charlotte, a village of little importance and interest, except for the large distillery, owned by Mr Sheriff, which employs a number of the labouring class, and gives some little life to the locality.
That the back of the distillery, the ground rises into hills near the top of which are two beautiful lochs, the Garroch and Octomore, from whence the water supply to the distillery is obtained. The works, which were built early in the century, cover about two acres of ground and although old fashioned, are very compact and conveniently arranged for the operations of the distillery. The kiln is floored with German wire cloth, the first we have seen on the island and we are informed that it is very expensive. Peat is only used in drying the malt, fire in open chauffeurs. The old mash house, which is kept very clean and whitewashed, contains a circular mash run, the underback and two heating coppers. In the tun room, there are eight washbacks, with an average capacity of 10,000 gallons each. The still house is a neat, well-lighted building, contains three old pot stills and the usual receivers and chargers. On the opposite side of the road, on the sea shore, are several large, bonded warehouses, capable of holding 5,000 casks.
The whisky is pure Islay malt. Part of it is shipped from Bruichladdich pier, the remainder floated out to the ships, ten casks lashed together by iron pins and a chain called “dogs” and towed out by boatmen. Mr Miller, the general manager, claims the output in 1884-5 was 127,068 gallons.
A really interesting if somewhat old fashioned read I hope you will agree. If you are up to speed on the Bruichladdich distillery I hope you will have heard a few of the names before and can add your knowledge of being to the villages to aid the descriptions.
The next stage for me is to buy the book by Alfred which has been reprinted many times and is still available from Amazon sellers.