Following on from years of planning, Angus Dundee Distillers have announced the installation of a water wheel at the highland Glencadam Distillery. This addition makes it the only whisky distillery in Scotland to possess a working internal water wheel.
Glencadam was established in 1825 with a water wheel built into the centre of the distillery, this was powered by The Barries Burn, an internal stream which ran through the distillery. At that time it was integral to the distillery’s operations, powering the malt intake, the mill, and the mash tun. The wheel turned for almost 100 years, however, with the introduction of electricity at the distillery in the early 1900s the wheel was made redundant and after falling into disrepair it was removed.
Distilleries director, Robert Fleming, said: “When the distillery was established in 1825 there was no electricity, so the only power sources available to make whisky were fire and water. The water wheel was positioned right in the centre of the distillery, so that it could drive pullies, belts and cogs throughout the building.”
From 2003, when Angus Dundee Distillers bought the distillery, the plan was always to reinstate the unique piece of distillery history and now the vision has been fulfilled. The new water wheel has been placed in the original location in the centre of the distillery and is powered by the same water lade. It will form the centre-piece of future distillery tours, when the planned Visitor Centre is opened.
Local engineers and blacksmiths, Ewan G Milne of Brechin, were commissioned to design and build the new wheel, which was modelled on the original one from 1825. The challenge faced by the team was to develop a wheel which could be fitted into the incredibly compact space inside the distillery, while also generating power. The result is a beautifully balanced water wheel which weighs 1.9 tonnes and is 14ft in diameter, with 32 wooden buckets. This design maximises the water holding capacity, to create the power that can be fed into the distillery’s energy system.
Once the new Visitor Centre is complete, visitors to the distillery will be able to see the water wheel as part of their tour thanks to a specially designed glass floor is being constructed.
Glencadam distillery’s manager, Douglas Fitchett, said: “We are incredibly excited about this project to re-instate the water wheel. It’s taken a lot of planning and hard work to get here, but it’s all been worth it. The wheel is such an important piece of the history of Glencadam, and it makes me enormously proud the see it back where it used to be, right in the heart of the distillery”.