|Dallas Dhu Distillery Museum, railway siding ran here to the right|
|Dallas Dhu kiln pagoda, viewed from the Dava Way|
Turn this plan (click to enlarge) of Dallas Dhu upside down and place that mirror image on the other side of the Forres railway junction and you will have a good approximation of Benromach when it was built. Benromach’s washbacks were moved into a combined room with the stills when it was redeveloped in the 1990s; Dallas Dhu remains true to an earlier layout after being mothballed in 1983 and now held under the guardianship of Historic Scotland, more on which later.
Seemingly uninterrupted by the Pattison’s crash that halted Benromach for a decade the new proprietors continued production until selling to another Glasgow company, J.P. O’Brien & Co Ltd in 1919, although closed for the intervening war years. J.P. O’Brien only survived two more years at which point the distillery was taken over by Benmore Distilleries Ltd who owned Benmore and (later) Lochead distilleries in Campbeltown and Lochindaal distillery on Islay.
Benmore were taken over by DCL in 1929 and their four distilleries were all closed at that time. Of the four, Dallas Dhu was the only one ever to resume production when it began again in 1936 under DCL’s subsidiary SMD. This was a short venture to begin with as a major fire destroyed the still house in 1939 and the distillery then remained silent until 1947.
|Benmore sign on filling store at Dallas Dhu|
The water for mashing was piped from the Altyre Burn which is formed from the confluence of other burns, including the Romach Burn, on the west side of Romach Hill. By the time it flows past the distillery, a kilometre to its south, it is known as the Burn of Mosset before it feeds the Sanquhar Loch, the source of Benromach’s cooling water and first created on the south side of Forres around the same time as the distilleries were built. The Manachy Burn flows past Dallas Dhu just a few metres to its north and this was the source of its cooling water and powered a water wheel until the 1970s.
Maps from before the time of Barnard’s journey record the Burn of Mosset as the Burn of Bogs, recalling to mind a similar ‘sanitisation’ of a name at Cawdor which lies 20km east of here, the Bog of Cawdor there being renamed as Cawdor Moss. The local name for the Altyre Burn is the Scourie Burn and there was a building (a scourie is a shed shieling) and a well named Scourie beside it, about a kilometre east of the distillery. The name Dallas Dhu is interpreted as either ‘field by the black waterfall’ or ‘black water valley’, the latter I think a more likely reference due to that flat boggy (sorry, mossy) ground nearby.
The distillery was mothballed by DCL in 1983 and came under the care of Historic Scotland in 1986, albeit still owned by DCL. HS reopened it as a distillery museum in 1988 and it has been run as such ever since. The distilling licence was returned in 1992 but it is believed that the fixtures and fittings are all maintained in a way that could permit them to recommence production here relatively easily, although the operations now seem very dated and almost certainly uneconomical to run in their current form.
|Dallas Dhu courtyard|
|Dallas Dhu Barley Loft|
|Dallas Dhu Kiln|
|Dallas Dhu washbacks|
|Glenlossie 1920s fire engine at Dallas Dhu|
|Dallas Dhu stills|
|Dallas Dhu steam coil heating inside the spirit still|
|Dallas Dhu worm tubs|
|Dallas Dhu still bases|
|Dallas Dhu spirit safe and receiver|
|Dallas Dhu dunnage warehouses|
|Spring lambs by the Manachie Burn, Dallas Dhu|
The last commemorative stone I visited in this area is also one of the most decorative and it stands on the east side of Forres, just off the main road to Elgin. Sueno’s stone is a Class III Pictish symbol stone with panels detailing the story of a fierce battle on one face and a Celtic cross almost the full length on the reverse. The sides of the stone are decorated with an intricate vine pattern.
This type of stone is known as a cross-slab and Sueno’s Stone is the tallest surviving example in Britain at over 6 metres and also one of the last known to be carved, the style suggesting a date around the 9th or 10th century. The symbols are carved in relief and include many Pictish and Celtic motifs. The tiered base that secures the stone upright was a later addition during restoration work in the early 1700s after the stone had been found buried; the name Sueno also relating to the finder of the stone rather than dating to it’s origins.
Like a number of other important carved stones in the north east this one has been surrounded by a glass canopy that is lit up in the dark evenings, designed to protect its already worn surfaces from further erosion by the elements and the touch of inquisitive hands. You can be tactile with the recent history at Dallas Dhu but the unique carvings on this millennium old and now fragile stone require protection for future generations to appreciate.