THOUSANDS of motorists drive past it every day without giving it a second glance.

That changes on the odd occasion when its resident mascots — four Highland cows — make a surprise appearance at the front of the field next to the busy road.

As it is down a slight slope from the A82, Auchentoshan Distillery is almost hidden from the locals and commuters.

It has been there for almost 200 years.

It produced over 1.6 million litres of whisky last year.

It is the only distillery in Scotland that triple distils every single drop — and it attracts between 22,000 and 25,000 visitors to Clydebank every year.

It is hardly surprising then that VisitScotland has rated Auchentoshan Distillery a five star visitor attraction.

The Clydebank Post recently went along and met with distillery manager Alistair McDonald who has worked at Auchentoshan for more than 30 years and learned all about the production of its whisky, produced for almost two centuries.

And to try out a few tasters of course.

“Triple distillation is the main unique selling point for Auchentoshan,” said Alistair.

“We distil our spirit here three times whereas most other distilleries in Scotland only do it twice.

“Some of the Irish distilleries triple distil — Bushmill’s, Jameson’s for example.

“We’ve always done it this way and we feel as though it creates a really clean, delicate, new-make spirit, quite different to all the others.” We arrived just as a group of around a dozen foreigners were finishing a tour. They were quick to stock up on bottles of whisky, sweets and other presents from the Clydebank distillery’s visitor shop.

This was at 1pm on a Wednesday in April. We thought we would have the place to ourselves.

Turns out that the distillery offers four Classic one hour tours per day. And a range of Experience and mini tasting tours.

And even behind closed doors tours where groups of people can hire out the distillery in the evening.

The majority of visitors come from the US, UK and central Europe, but Auchentoshan’s visitor centre manager Wendy Dunlop tells us that tourists from all corners of the globe stop by Clydebank to visit the distillery.

Wendy said: “I have worked at Auchentoshan now the visitor centre manager so my role has changed somewhat over the years.

“I have got to meet and greet some very interesting people over the years and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy my job so much.

“There’s always a story to be told. We are all brand ambassadors here at Auchentoshan and, when our visitors leave, hopefully it’s with a smile, and that’s what it’s all about.” Auchentoshan exports its various ranges of whisky around the world, with North America and Canada being the biggest markets.

All spirits are produced here in Clydebank, taken offsite to be put into casks, and then brought back to be stored and matured in Auchentoshan’s five warehouses.

The company has five core range bottles: * American oak * 12 year old — mix of bourbon and sherry casks * Three Wood — which matures in three different casks * 18 year old — bourbon only * 21 year old — bourbon and sherry A 50 year old limited edition bottle — labelled ‘The 1957’—is also available to those with a few extra quid to spare.

The darker Three Wood or 12 year old bottles sell well at around £30 — but that just won’t do for golfers from Taiwan.

Alistair explains: “After 50 years there’s only a select amount remaining at the bottom of each cask and that becomes very rare. So we normally bottle that as a limited edition in a smaller batch. “Our ‘1957’ bottle was on sale three years ago for about £2,600 but that now costs £5,000. “The more rare they become, the more collectable they are — and that obviously reflects on the price.

“There have been a few sold to the Russian market but you can never tell who is going to come in and buy that bottle.

“There was a group in, who I think were here on a golfing holiday from Taiwan. They did the tour, ended up in the shop and then bought a bottle of each of the expressions.

“Then when they got to the 50 year old, they asked for a bottle and said, ‘can we have 10 glasses with that?’ “They kept all the other cheaper expressions — and opened the 50 year old!

“It was drank on the minibus going to their next golf course.” We had a sit down chat with Alistair in one of the distillery’s two bars before he gave us a guided tour of the distillery and explained the process for making whisky on site.

The barley is bought in ready malted and mixed with water sourced locally from Loch Katrine. Stewart Maitland, from Old Kilpatrick, Drumry man Colin O’Hara, and Daniel Borzacchiello from Alexandria, work at Auchentoshan as production operators.

They explain how they oversee the process where both water and barley are converted into a sugary liquid, then alcohol, and finally triple distilled in the site’s three massive copper pot stills.

It was only right that editor Marc McLean and reporter Alan Ferguson, who was filming the visit for our website, tried out the end product.

The 18 year old whisky — and whisky liqueur range — went down nicely.

And we took home a few tasters which, in small clear jars, looked more like samples for the doctor.

They will come in handy for a prank or two.

We couldn’t leave the distillery without meeting the distillery’s best known faces...

The four Highland cows resident in the adjoining field. ‘Alice VII Heather Hills Glenlivet’, ‘Alice of Kilpatrick’, ‘Alice III of Kilpatrick’ and ‘Fiona XXIV Craigowmill’.

They are owned by the distillery’s grounds keeper John MacKay and have been stars of Highland shows over the years.

And John revealed that two calves are due to be born at the end of next month.

The Highland cattle prove popular with all visitors, and the historic distillery itself makes for a dram fine day out.