Our Railway Arch through the years
It starts with water...
The City of Aberdeen Distillery is located in a railway arch - Arch 10 on Palmerston Road. The land that Arch 10 is built upon was once the North bank of the River Dee. The road and area in front of the arch was a flood plane for the river – flooding with the tide. Over the years various plans were proposed to divert and control the river and some work was done as the port area was developed.
As the railways expanded across the country the railway viaduct (bringing the railway into Aberdeen from the South) was agreed in 1848 and Arch 10 itself was constructed in 1854. This connected the railway, which had terminated at the Ferryhill junction, to the new joint station (now part of Union Square shopping centre and transport hub). The progress in the area can be seen by looking at historic maps of the site.
In the 1864 map you can see the railway viaduct follows the North and West bank of the River Dee - that's the river right outside the railway arch front door!
*Red dots indicate the current position of the City of Aberdeen Distillery.
The land in front of the arches was reclaimed. This was done by redirecting the river. Of course in those times the work was done by hand and so took 4 years to complete, starting the work in 1868 and completed in 1872.
If you look closely, you can just about make out the arches.
The bridge is the Wellington Suspension Bridge. In modern day this bridge still remains and is open to pedestrians and it a great place to go to appreciate the river, watch the rowers and even spot the local heron & deer.
By 1902 the River Dee had been diverted and the land reclaimed to make what is now the entrance and road outside of Arch 10 and added a new collection of buildings to the area.
It's worth noting that the Devanha Brewery was just round the corner which supplied wash to the Devanah distillery.
Back in 2013, when we first started looking for a home for the distillery, we took a wide look at the property available in the city. We knew we wanted to be a proper metropolitan distillery and that put limitations on where the distillery could be. 200 years ago, people accepted living very close to industrial processes along with the smells and pollution that went along with that. Most city dwellers today would object to living next door to a distillery.
We were initially going to setup in one of the Aberdeen railway arches but quickly found that repurposing a 160 year old arch brought with it problems and restrictions. We wanted our distillery to have character – to have an authentic sense of history and purpose.
We looked at the older buildings at the harbour and merchant quarter and while they certainly ticked a lot of boxes, most of them had been converted to be offices or living accommodation.
We had in depth discussions with various local authorities, with HM Customs and with fire engineers – it’s a little-known fact that quite a few distilleries have burned to the ground in Aberdeen over the years.
The approval process for a distillery is long and involved. Special permission is required and without it the premises would not be legal. This meant that any property owner willing to lease their building to us needed to be aware of the process and agree to work with us as we went through the process.
Eventually we realised that our first choice of property was the best one – and possibly the only one that would work. We moved ahead with the licensing/permission process on a railway arch only to discover that the arch we had chosen was not suitable. On the second arch we got to within a couple weeks of getting the keys before the fire safety officer called time on it too. Finally, we were offered Arch 10 – it ticked every box for a metropolitan distillery and the rail authority not only supported us but also committed that they would not allow any of the other Aberdeen arches to become a distillery.
2020 and beyond
The styling of the arch is sympathetic to it's location and offers a warm welcome to all who visit. Next time you drop in to find out about our latest gin, look around and marvel at the changes in the area that have occurred over the last few hundred years.
Read our article on the distilleries throughout the years in Aberdeen.
Book an experience
We have a range of experiences at the arch so why not book an experience today?