The Water Behind The Glenturret
Now that we have welcomed in 2020, a year that will celebrate Scotland’s coasts and waters, we’ve been inspired to write about our beautiful and iconic distillery water source, the Loch Turret.
The ancient freshwater Loch Turret lies in the picturesque foothills of the Grampians at around 1200 feet above sea level, with a rugged upland catchment dominated by Ben Chonzie (meaning Mossy Mountain), a local Munro, that stands at 3,048 feet. It is the source of the Turret Burn which falls steeply away down The Glenturret, passing over the Falls of Turret before flowing to join the River Earn at Crieff.
The ‘Spout Hoick’ the original source of the Turret water
The name Turret in Gaelic is ‘Thuraid’. It comes from the Gaelic ‘tur’ meaning dry, with the suffix ‘-that’ meaning little. It therefore means the ‘little dry one’ as the loch shrinks in the summer. Today, the name “Glenturret” refers primarily to the land surrounding the Loch Turret and Turret River. The Latin spelling “Torreglen” is derived from the words torrens and glaeba. One of the meanings of torrens is a rushing stream (torrent), and glaeba can mean an area of land and according to this ancient translation we are situated in the land of the rushing stream. Standing by the River Turret as it charges past the distillery it’s easy to see why this ancient water source has had such an impact on the landscape over the years.
Loch Turret Stylised Engraving
The famous Scottish poet Robert Burns, while staying at Ochtertyre House in October 1787 as the guest of Sir William Murray, made a visit to the Loch Turret. As a result, he penned the following lines…
On Scaring Some Water-Fowl In Loch Turit
Why, ye tenants of the lake,
For me your wat'ry haunt forsake?
Tell me, fellow-creatures, why
At my presence thus you fly?
Why disturb your social joys,
Parent, filial, kindred ties?
Common friend to you and me,
Nature's gifts to all are free:
Peaceful keep your dimpling wave,
Busy feed, or wanton lave;
Or, beneath the sheltering rock,
Bide the surging billow's shock.
Conscious, blushing for our race,
Soon, too soon, your fears I trace,
Man, your proud, usurping foe,
Would be lord of all below:
Plumes himself in freedom's pride,
Tyrant stern to all beside.
The eagle, from the cliffy brow,
Marking you his prey below,
In his breast no pity dwells,
Strong necessity compels:
But Man, to whom alone is giv'n
A ray direct from pitying Heav'n,
Glories in his heart humane
And creatures for his pleasure slain!
In these savage, liquid plains,
Only known to wand'ring swains,
Where the mossy riv'let strays,
Far from human haunts and ways;
All on Nature you depend,
And life's poor season peaceful spend.
Or, if man's superior might
Dare invade your native right,
On the lofty ether borne,
Man with all his pow'rs you scorn;
Swiftly seek, on clanging wings,
Other lakes and other springs;
And the foe you cannot brave,
Scorn at least to be his slave.
The water resources of Loch Turret were first utilised in the early 19th century, when a low dam was built across the loch outlet with sluices to control the discharge down the Turret Burn to provide water power for a number of mills in Crieff. Later, just over 100 years ago, Crieff Town Council promoted a scheme to draw the Burgh’s water supply from the loch. This aroused considerable local controversy including strong opposition from the mill owners, but eventually the necessary Parliamentary powers were obtained. Turret water was turned on to the distribution system in Crieff by Lady Keith Murray of Ochtertyre at an official ceremony in May 1872.
Over these early years the demands for water for both mill power and public supply purposes gradually increased, resulting in successive risings of the original dam to an eventual height 10 feet above the natural surface level of the loch. Whilst satisfying the needs of the time, this scale of development harnessed only a small part of the potential resources of Loch Turret.
At the end of the Second World War, the Department of Health for Scotland at the time suggested that the possibilities of the source be examined as the basis of a regional water supply scheme. This was the subject of a report submitted to Perth County Council by consulting engineers in March, 1946. The report recommended that advantage be taken of the favourable features of the Loch Turret basin to create a large impounding reservoir into which the flows from several outlying streams could be diverted. This was to be the start of The Loch Turret Water Scheme that would eventually see the building in 1963, of the impressive 1,100 feet long dam that is still in operation today. The Water Treatment Works situated on the drive up to Loch Turret sits at 1,178 feet above sea level making them the highest in Scotland. An impressive 85 million litres of water from the loch are drawn from the loch every day to supply the surrounding areas.
Sadly, several Glenturret homesteads were lost due to the significant increase in the level of the loch. One of the buildings lost to the loch water was the beautiful Glenturret Lodge also known as Ruadh Maor. Ruadh Maor was a large shooting lodge thought to have been originally built in the latter half of the 18th century and was substantially added to in 1866. It was a charming building with turrets and crow-stepped gables nestled on the shore of Loch Turret. It is still possible to see the ruins of the lodge on days where the loch is sitting at a lower level. There are many local residents who recall Ruadh Maor, one of whom remembers the local workers being called to lunch by a large dinner gong positioned just outside the front entrance. Another resident recalls playing in the empty property before the bulldozers moved in, he remembers that the stairway to the tower featured purpose made William Morris wallpaper. The design within Ruadh Maor depicted the wildlife of the area.
Glenturret Lodge ‘Ruadh Maor’
The beautiful Ruadh Maor lodge was the inspiration behind the name of our peated Glenturret Single Malt Scotch Whisky that we produce at the distillery alongside our unpeated Single Malt. Our smokier expression of Glenturret is akin to the original characteristics that the whisky would have had in its early production days. In 1825 John and Hugh Drummond, owners of the distillery at the time, established an agreement with Sir Partick Murray who owned the Ochtertyre estate to dig peat to be used at the distillery. Peats for Glenturret were originally procured from the moss at Loch Turret once more confirming the loch’s importance to Single Malt production as water and peat source.
Eventually Glenturret moved away from using peats from Loch Turret and began bringing in this precious source from elsewhere in Scotland. In 1885 the first recorded cargo of peats was imported from Orkney into Dundee destined for delivery to Glenturret. In 1887 Alfred Bernard’s publication “The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom 1887” noted that The Glenturret Distillery was storing about 300 tons of peat at the time. Although today we continue to source our peat from different areas of Scotland, we still remember how important Loch Turret was and continues to be in our whisky’s production. The Turret water provides the vital water source that we require to produce our whisky today as it has from the beginning of production in the 18th Century.
The History of Crieff by Alexander Porteous, 1912
“…the water was second to none in Scotland”
The Loch Turret
For our readers that are yet to visit this hidden gem we would encourage you to explore our picturesque water source and visit the Loch Turret, you won’t be disappointed, it is truly breath-taking! There are additionally some incredible coasts and waters featured in Visit Scotland’s Guide to the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 that are must visits as part of your Scottish tour.
If you are also interested in tasting our historic Single Malt Scotch flavours, you can find peat perfection in The Glenturret Peated Edition available in our online store. This unique Glenturret showcases our Ruadh Maor peated Single Malt akin to our historic routes and gently balances peat smoke with notes of subtle oak, toffee apple and vanilla for a truly special smokey dram.