Whisky Distilleries

The Historic Balmenach Distillery

Picture Credits: www.pinterest.com

The Balmenach distillery is one of the earliest distilleries in Speyside. Located at the bottom of the Haughs of Cromdale in the Spey valley, it sits on the historic site of the defeat of the Jacobite uprising in April 1690. It was in these hills that dragoon guards ambushed an army of Jacobite soldiers on 30th April 1690 during their sleep. They killed many Jacobite soldiers and chased the rest into defeat.

History of the Balmenach Distillery

In the early 1800s, the McGregor brothers set up a farm in these areas. One of them, James McGregor, also set up a secret still on the site. James obtained a license for his distilling operation in 1824 and formally set up the Balmenach distillery. The McGregor family owned and operated the distillery until 1922 when DCL bought it. Balmenach distillery continued to run smoothly until 1993. UDV decided to mothball the distillery in 1993, and for the next five years, the distillery lay silent.

In 1998, Inver House Distillers bought the Balmenach distillery and reopened the distillery. The first distillate of Balmenach flowed in March 1998 under the watchful eyes of Inver House’s master blender.

Operations at the Balmenach Distillery

Balmenach distillery uses traditional machinery and methods used in the olden days. The distillery uses a cast iron mash tun which mashes around eight tonnes of barley every seven and a half hours. The wash is then fermented in six Douglas fir washbacks for at least fifty hours before it is ready for distillation.

The stillhouse of Balmenach has three wash stills and three spirit stills. The total capacity of these stills is around two million litres of whisky a year. The spirit travels through a worm tub before entering one of the two spirit safes in the stillhouse. After that, it transfers into a spirit vat. Finally, the spirit goes in oak casks before getting transported to the warehouses where they mature.

Single Malts at Balmenach Distillery

Balmenach is still maturing their single malts in the warehouse. Despite rumours that said Balmenach would soon launch their official single malts bottling, our chat with Master Blender, Stuart Harvey, proved otherwise. Stuart shared that it will be some time yet before the world gets a treat from Balmenach’s official single malts bottling. Nonetheless, you can find fantastic Balmenach single malts by independent bottlers such as the one from The Single Cask that we had some time ago.

The Distillery Today

The distillery is producing both whisky and gin today. Balmenach distillery produced Caoruun Gin, Inver House Distillers’ premium gin. Five Celtic botanicals found in the surrounding hills of the Balmenach distillery go into Caoruun Gin. Handcrafted and distilled in small batches, Caoruun Gin’s quality is tightly controlled by Gin Master, Simon Buley.

The whisky produced at Balmenach continues to define this historic distillery that honours the traditional methods of production. We look forward to the day when we get to taste the first official bottling of Balmenach Single Malts.

 

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    Explore the Viking Souls of Highland Park

    Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

    Highland Park Distillery is located in Kirkwall, Orkney. Known as the most northern whisky distillery in Scotland, its history is shrouded in mystery as to who the actual founder was.

    Orkney, the Land of the Vikings

    Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

    Historically, a succession of Viking Earls ruled Orkney from 800AD to 1468. The group of 70 islands swept into the embrace of the Vikings in the early 9th century and remained so until 1468. King Christian I of Norway and Denmark gifted the islands to Scotland as part of Princess Margaret’s dowry for her marriage to James III, King of Scotland in 1468. While it ended the Viking’s rule over Orkney, the roots of the Vikings continue to influence the people till today. The Vikings who had settled on the islands become part of the Orcadians. The descendants of the Vikings are proud of their heritage, and live to bring glory and honour to their Viking roots.

    History of Highland Park Distillery

    Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

    In official records, a priest by the name of Magnus Eunson first distilled whisky on the site of Highland Park Distillery in the 1790s. He was a respectable member of the Orcadian society as well as a priest. He ran an illicit whisky trader at night and legends had it that he hid the whisky under the pulpit in his church. When excise men eventually caught up with him in 1798, charges against him were dropped mysteriously after a short time. Eunson escaped justice.

    David Robertson officially founded Highland Park Distillery in 1798. He bought the High Park estate and built Highland Park Distillery. After running the distillery for a few years, he sold it to a syndicate in 1816. Interestingly, the syndicate included Eunson’s arresting officer, John Robertson and another former exciseman, Robert Pringle. The syndicate built up the distillery in 1818 and the current premises dated back to those eras.

    William Stuart (who owns Miltonduff) bought Highland Park Distillery in the 1870s. It finally stabilised under his care and in 1885, James Grant (previously the manager of Glenlivet) joined Stuart as his business partner. Grant took full control of the distillery in 1895 who proceeded to expand the distillery and built up a great relationship with Robertson & Baxter (R&B).

    In 1937, Highland Distillers (who had shares in R&B) took over Highland Park Distillery. Highland Distillers was the owners until the turn of the century, where they became the object of take-over. Edrington Group acquired Highland Distillers and Highland Park was taken into the folds of the Edrington Group. Since then, Edrington Group makes efforts to uphold Highland Park Distillery as a distinctive whisky maker. Today, Highland Park is the only Island distillery in the Edrington Group profile.

    Highland Park Whisky-Making Process

    Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

    Highland Park builds its whisky-making process on 5 keystones of production. They are proud of their traditions because no other distilleries use all five keystones.

    Keystone 1: Aromatic Peat

    Highland Park recognises the importance of peat in their whisky-making process. They obtained their peat from Hobbister Moor, located 7 miles from the distillery. Hobbister Moor has no trees, as Orkney does not have a conducive environment. As a result, the 9,000 years old peat used by Highland Park is rich in heather.

    Keystone 2: Hand Turned Floor Malting

    Hand-turning the malt by hand is a labour intensive method that many distilleries no longer employ. At Highland Park, they take pride to hand turn their malt because they believe in the traditional process when producing the distinctive aromatic smokiness of their whiskies. Highland Park turns their barley by hand every 8 hours, 7 days a week. The turning maintains a constant airflow and the right amount of moisture to fully absorb the intense smoke from the peat.

    Keystone 3: Sherry Oak Casks

    Highland Park is obsessed with their casks. The staves are cut from American and European oaks before shipping to Jerez in Southern Spain. These staves are made into casks and filled with Oloroso sherry. After a minimum of 2 years maturation, these casks are emptied and shipped back to Orkney. Highland Park uses these casks to fill their whiskies for maturation.

    Keystone 4: Cool Maturation

    Highland Park is in a perfect location for whisky maturation. Orkney has a temperate temperature, reaching highs of 16°C in summer and lows of around 2°C in winter. Therefore, the maturation of their whiskies takes place in a long, cool and evenly paced environment.

    Keystone 5: Cask Harmonisation

    Cask harmonisation is crucial in creating a balanced whisky. Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion, makes sure that every release of Highland Park has the chance to rest in their vatting tun for at least a month before bottling. The time allows the newly married spirit to harmonise into a balanced whisky.

    Highland Park Whisky Collection

    Picture Credit: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

    Highland Park has a wide range of whiskies to suit every palate. Below is a list of their current expressions that are still available from the distillery.

    Aged Whisky Expressions:

    10 Years Old – Viking Scars (New Packaging)
    12 Years Old – Viking Honour (New Packaging)
    18 Years Old – Viking Pride (New Packaging)
    25 Years Old
    30 Years Old
    40 Years Old

    Special Releases and Limited Editions

    Magnus
    Dragon Legend
    Valkyrie
    Rebus30 10 Year Old
    Svein
    Einar
    Harald
    Sigurd
    Ragnvald
    Thorfinn
    King Christian 1
    Ice Edition 17 Year Old
    Fire Edition 15 Year Old

    Highland Park Today

    Highland Park continues to be the driving force in Orkney as they commit to keep the Viking’s proud heritage. In the regular business sense, Highland Park is also a forerunner as Edrington Group focuses on making it more famous.

    The Good Old Fettercairn Distillery

    The Fettercairn Distillery (Picture Credits: www.panoramio.com)

    Fettercairn distillery is situated in the Grampian foothills in the Howe of Mearns. Fettercairn means “the foot of the mountain” in Gaelic and reflects the ideal location for a whisky distillery. Natural ingredients are aplenty for the distillery – ice-clear Grampian mountain spring water and barley growing from the fertile soil surrounding the distillery allows this distillery to create stunning whiskies from its stills and barrels.

    History of Fettercairn Distillery

    The history of Fettercairn is as complex as most of the distilleries found in the region. Alexander Ramsay, the owner of the Fasque estate, founded Fettercairn in 1825 by converting a corn mill into the distillery. He lost his wealth in a few short years and sold everything to Sir John Gladstone. His son was the four-time British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. The distillery remained with the Gladstone family until 1923 and was mainly run by tenants. Thereafter, the distillery was almost mothballed by new owners Ross & Coulter (1923-1927) and James Mann (1927-1939) before it was sold to Associated Scottish Distillers (ASD), the Scotch arm of National Distillers of America in 1939.

    ASD closed in 1954 and the distillery was sold to a private owner – Mr Tom Scott Sutherland. Finally, in 1971, it was bought by Tomintoul-Glenlivet and both distilleries joined the Whyte & Mackay umbrella in 1973. It remains with the company since.

    The Emblems of Fettercairn Distillery

    The emblems of Fettercairn (Picture Credits: www.tripadvisor.com)

    Some emblems of Scotch whisky distilleries have a history behind them, and Fettercarin’s is no exception. The unicorn in the Fettercairn logo is part of Alexander Ramsay’s clan crest. The unicorn represents purity and strength and is also a symbol of Scotland since the reign of King Robert III.

    The huge, red sandstone archway that stands at the entrance to Fettercairn is another symbol. It was built to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1861.

    Whiskies from Fettercairn

    Fettercairn has an interesting whisky range. It mainly contributes to Whyte & Mackey’s blends but is also bottled as a single malt. The Fettercairn label gains some popularity since 2009 when more efforts are put into single malt bottling. Currently, the Fettercairn Fasque and the Fettercairn Fior are available as official bottlings.

    The distillery also has older bottles such as the Fettercairn 875 which was produced in the 1970s for the Italian market. Such bottles are rare and hard to come by in present day.

    Fettercairn Distillery Today

    Fettercairn continues to be one of the many distilleries that contribute most of its whisky into blends. While we believe that the fate of the distillery may continue as such, there is a chance that more of its whiskies may make its way into single malt bottling in the future.

    A Relatively Short History on Allt-A-Bhainne

    The Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery (Picture Credits: www.whisky.com)

    The Allt-a-Bhainne distillery produces the whisky for the Chivas Brothers blend and currently belonged to the Chivas Brothers. It has a relatively short and undisturbed history but having been mothballed once, it is an interesting distillery to explore.

    History of Allt-a-Bhainne distillery

    Seagram built this lesser-known distillery in 1975. The Canadian drinks company also owned Chivas Brothers back then. The company built Allt-a-Bhainne to cater to the rising demand for blended whiskies such as the Chivas Brothers and other popular blends owned by Seagram.

    During the economic downturn, Seagrams ran into problems and sold off its assets to other drinks company, primarily Diageo and Pernod Ricard. Pernod Ricard took over Allt-a-Bhainne and Chivas Brothers in 2001. They promptly inaugurate the distillery into the Chivas Brothers brand. The distillery mothballed in 2003 for some unknown reasons but reopened in 2005 by the Chivas Brothers to produce whisky for its blends.

    Uniqueness of the Distillery

    Working on Distillation in Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery (Picture Credit: www.scotchwhisky.com)

    Allt-a-Bhainne distillery stands out as an oddball in Speyside mainly because of its modernistic design among the rest of the fanciful distilleries. It is located in the Fiddich Glen, near to Dufftown. The name meant “milk on the burn (steam)” in Gaelic.

    The distillery’s design is extremely functional in order for it to be run with minimal staff. All its equipment is located in a single large room with the mash tun at one end and four stills at the other end. The distillery currently produces 4 million litres of pure alcohol per year for the blend production of Chivas Brothers.

    It has no official single malt bottling as it is mainly a workhorse for the Chivas Brothers blend. Nonetheless, you can find single malt independent bottlings that carried the Allt-a-Bhainne name such as the one we tried from Gordon and Macphail.

    The Distillery Today

    Allt-a-Bhainne distillery remains as a workhorse for Chivas Brothers and its liquid goes into Chivas Regal, Passport and 100 Pipers. Due to its nature as a small, productive distillery, it is not open to the public and has no visitor centre since it is not looking at expanding its name and produce to the world.

     

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      Dufftown Distillery (Formerly known as Dufftown-Glenlivet Distillery)

      Picture Credits: www.whisky.com

      Dufftown, Scotland is an amazing place. It has the highest concentration of distilleries in Scotland that its name is synonymous with Scotch whisky. It was said that Dufftown earns more capital for the UK Government per head of population than any other towns in the UK. Dufftown distillery is one of the nine distilleries. There were 7 previously, promptly a popular rhyme that goes, “Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown stands on seven stills”.

      History of Dufftown Distillery

      The Dufftown-Glenlivet Company founded Dufftown in 1895. It was formerly called the Dufftown-Glenlivet distillery. Old bottles under the Dufftown-Glenlivet are still in the market. In 1897, Mackenzie & Co acquired the distillery and kept it for the next 40 years. Arthur Bell and Sons purchased the distillery in 1937. It marked the beginning of Dufftown distillery’s association with blended whiskies. Most of Dufftown’s whiskies go into the Bell’s whisky blend, as it still is today.

      In 1974, the distillery expanded its stills from 2 to 4, and again from 4 to 6 in 1979. This quick response to a rise in demand contributed to Dufftown’s reputation as one of the most best-functioning distilleries in Scotland in terms of production. In 1985, United Distillers acquired Dufftown distillery. They were in turn, acquired by Diageo. In 2006, the appearance of the Singleton of Dufftown signalled some changes in the distillery.

      Dufftown Distillery

      Picture Credits: www.tripadvisor.com

      The Dufftown distillery is one of the most cramped distilleries in Speyside, Scotland, largely due to its haphazard expansion. The site was converted from a mill and space was limited. Nonetheless, the expansion allows the distillery to produce 5.8 million litres of pure alcohol every year. The distillery has a full lauter mash tun of thirteen tonnes, 6 stills, and 8 warehouses with almost 100,000 bourbon barrels and sherry cask of malt whisky. The malting house closed down in 1968. Dufftown distillery now sourced its malts from a Diageo-owned industrial malting site.

      Dufftown distillery is closed to the public but it is possible to tour the facility if you ask the distillery nicely in advance!

      Dufftown’s Whisky

      Picture Credits: www.spiritsociety.ch

      Dufftown distillery produces whisky as a component for Arthur Bells and Sons’ blended whisky. In 2006, it joined the Singleton family. As a result, single malt from Dufftown begins to surface in the market. The Singleton of Dufftown 12 Years released in travel retail in the same year. The Singleton of Dufftown 15 and 18 Years Old followed after. In 2014, there were 2 special releases – Singleton Tailfire and Singleton Sunray.

      Dufftown Distillery Today

      We believe that Dufftown distillery will continue to be part of the blending for Arthur Bells and Sons in the near future. However, with the success of the Singleton of Dufftown, it is possible that this amazing distillery may divert more of its spirits for the single malt market in the future. We hope to see more from Dufftown distillery in future!

      Royal Brackla Distillery – Once the favourite of the King

      Picture Credits: geograph.org.uk

      The Brackla distillery, or more commonly known as the Royal Brackla distillery is not always wearing the prefix “royal”. It was given to the distillery by the King of United Kingdom, King William IV in 1833. How did it come about and what happened between those years and now?

      History of Brackla Distillery

      Captain William Fraser of Brackla House founded the Brackla distillery on the Cawdor Castle estate in 1812. He was a hugely unpopular man, but his whiskies were received as one of the best in its time. King William IV came to hear about it and tried it personally. He loved it so much that he decreed the whisky to be his chosen drink in the Royal Court in 1833. The King granted a Royal Warrant to Brackla Distillery. That warrant gave the distillery the permission to add a prefix “Royal” to its name. Therefore, Brackla distillery became Royal Brackla distillery since 1833.

      Royal Brackla distillery is one of the three distilleries in Scotland to ever bear the prefix. The other 2 distilleries are Royal Lochnagar (active) and Glenury Royal (mothballed).

      William Fraser passed the distillery to his son Robert Fraser in 1852. He disposed it to the firm Robert Fraser & Co in 1878. The firm promptly changed its name to the Brackla Distillery Co Ltd the following year. The distillery remained with the company until 1919.

      Royal Brackla in the 1900s

      Picture Credits: www.potstills.org

      John Mitchel and James Leith of Aberdeen bought the distillery in 1919 and sold it to John Bisset & Co Ltd of Leith in 1926. The Distillers Company Ltd took over John Bisset & Co in 1943 and the distillery went along with it. Shortly after that, the distillery closed down due to the restriction on the use of barley for distilling during World War II.

      Royal Brackla distillery reopened in 1945. During this time, it became closely associated with blends. The distillery closed again in 1964 to 1966 due to renovations and rebuilding, where the owners changed from direct firing of the stills to internal heating. The distillery also expanded the number of stills from 2 to 4 in 1970 and built new warehouses in 1975.

      Royal Brackla distillery closed again in 1985 but the whisky remained on site where they continued to mature and use for blending.

      The Royal Brackla distillery reopened in 1991 with John Bisset & Co Ltd getting the license to the distillery in 1992. It remained with them till 1998. During the short period, 2 expressions were released – a semi-official 10-year-old by Fauna & Flora and a 20-year-old UD Rare Malt.

      In 1998, the Royal Brackla distillery was sold to John Dewar & Sons – the subsidiary of the Barcardi. The distillery released an official bottling of Royal Brackla in 2004 and that was probably the end of it. Nonetheless, older bottles released during the 1970s and 1980s are available. One such example is our review of the Royal Brackla 12 Years Old.

      The distillery continued to be a producer for the Dewar house blends such as Johnnie Walker and the various Dewar blends all through the 1990s.

      Royal Brackla Today

      Picture Credits: www.forbes.com

      Dewar announced a surprise for Royal Brackla’s fans in 2014 with a range of single malts that released in 2015. Among them were the Royal Brackla 12, 16 and 21 years old. The originally closed to public distillery are also open to the public with distillery tours. We believe that more plans for Royal Brackla may be underway. Let’s wait for it!

       

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        The Amazing History of Glenfiddich

        Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

        Glenfiddich is the world’s best-selling single malt owned and produced by William Grant & Sons in Dufftown, Scotland. Better known as a Speyside single malt, Glenfiddich clinched the most awards at the International Spirits Challenge so far. It is one of the few Scottish distilleries that are family-owned with its current owner being the fifth generation of William Grant’s descendants.

        History of Glenfiddich

        Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

        William Grant was a visionary of his time. For 20 years, he harboured the dream to “make the best dram in the valley”. He realised his dream in the summer of 1886, where he, together with his 7 sons and 2 daughters, set out to build the distillery by hand, with only one stone mason to help. It was completed one year later.

        Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

        William named the distillery “Glenfiddich”, which is Gaelic for “Valley of the Deer” and a stag became the distillery’s symbol. The first drop of spirit ran on Christmas Day, 1887. It was a memorable day; one that paved the way for Scotland’s single malts.

        William’s grandson, Gordon Grant joined the family distillery in the 1920s, when Prohibition was in full swing. Instead of halting distillation, he increased whisky production. Due to his insights, Glenfiddich was one of the 6 operating distilleries in Scotland with fine, aged whiskies, ready to be sold, after the Prohibition ended.

        In 1957, Charles Gordon (William’s great grandson), built an onsite infrastructure that included having coppersmiths onsite to maintain their copper stills. A dedicated cooperage followed in 1959. These 2 infrastructures proved to add strength to Glenfiddich as it made them self-sufficient later. Almost at the same time, Glenfiddich also launched its now-iconic triangular bottle, which houses all their liquids up till today.

        Growing the Glenfiddich Brand

        The 1960s to 1970s were tough years for whisky distilleries. Many of the smaller, independent ones were either bought over or closed down. William Grants & Sons increased the production of their whisky and introduced both advertising campaigns as well as a visitor centre in order to survive the tough years. This period effectively marked the “birth” of modern-day single malt category as the company decided to market single malt as a premium brand in its own capacity.

        It is interesting to note that William Grant & Sons are also one of the pioneers to package its bottles in tubes and gift tins. They also understood the importance of duty-free markets for their whiskies. These marketing strategies worked for the brand, and it grows to become the best-selling single malt in the world today.

        The Glenfiddich Ranges of Whisky

        Glenfiddich whisky is produced at its distillery in Dufftown, Speyside. They take water from the Robbie Dhu springs and use various oak casks sourced from the Caribbean and America (Rum and Bourbon) as well as sherry butts from Jerez, Spain. The distillery has 28 hand-made copper pot stills and a team of coppersmiths maintain them on site. Glenfiddich has an extensive range of whisky from the core to the rare and the experimental.

        The Core Range

        Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

        The core range includes their signature 12 YO, 15 YO, 18 YO and 21 YO. Each whisky is finely crafted to their individual taste profiles. The core range is popular and is enjoyed by many whisky drinkers around the world.

        The Special Edition

        Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

        The special edition range consists of expressions bottled for a reason. For example, Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix was created in 2010 after warehousemen worked 24/7 to rescue maturing casks in minus 19-degree Celsius after extreme snow collapsed some of their warehouse roofs. Snow Phoenix was the result of the marrying of the finest of those rescued casks.

        The Rare and Vintage

         

        Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

        The rare and vintage collection is Glenfiddich’s most exclusive and oldest single malt whiskies. The distillery auctioned these bottles for charity and broke records all over the world.

        The Cask Collection

        Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

        The Cask Collection is Glenfiddich’s global travel retail edition. They represent the family’s pioneering and innovative spirits.

        The Experimental Series

        Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

        This ground-breaking series of single malt whisky is the proof of the family’s philosophy of freedom and possibilities. Both of these expressions came from collaborations between Malt Master Brian Kinsman and someone outside of the distillery.

        Glenfiddich Today

        William Grant & Sons continues to bring exceptional whiskies to the international market with their Glenfiddich creation. There is no doubt that future generations of the family will continue the proud tradition of Glenfiddich and bring it to greater heights. We look forward to more amazing creations from the distillery in the future.

        What you should know about the Springbank Distillery

        Picture Credits: www.springbankwhisky.com

        The Springbank Distillery is a family-owned single malt whisky distillery located on the Kintyre Peninsula on Scotland’s west coast. It established on the site of Archibald Mitchell’s illicit still in 1828. It is one of the last surviving distilleries in Campbeltown, a place that once housed more 30 distilleries.

        Short History of Campbeltown and Springbank Distillery

        Picture Credits: www.springbankwhisky.com

        In 1591, Campbeltown was first associated with whisky in official records. By 1601, it became a popular whisky smuggling centre as well as the place to produce illegal whisky. The Mitchell family (founders of Springbank) moved to Campbeltown as settlers from the Lowlands with skills as maltsters in 1660s.

        Archibald Mitchell became a partner at Rieclachan Distillery in 1825 and was later joined by his brother Hugh Michell. When the laws were eased with the registration of whisky distillery, the Mitchell brothers founded Springbank in 1828. Built on the site of Riechlachan Distillery, Springbank became the 14th licensed distillery in Campbeltown.

        The family continued to expand their whisky outreach. In 1834, Archibald’s sister, Mary Mitchell, founded Drumore Distillery. By 1837, Archibald’s sons, John and William Mitchell, took over the distillery. The two brothers worked to expand the family’s whisky business, with William founding Glengyle Distillery in 1872.

        The family still owned many of the distilleries today. Currently, the 5th generation of the family is in charge at Springbank. He is the great, great grandson of Archibald.

        The whiskies of Springbank

        Picture Credits: www.springbankwhisky.com

        The distillery produces three types of peated and unpeated malt whiskies. Most of them are single malts that are sorted into one of the three distinct brands of Springbank. A small percentage are sold to large blenders or made into Springbank’s own blended scotch labels.

        The three distinct brands of Springbank single malts are

        1. Springbank Single Malt
          This is possibly the most popular variation that bears the namesake of the distillery. The standard bottling is a 10 years old that is medium-peated and distilled 2.5 times. It is bottled at 46% abv. There are also cask strength Springbank bottles of 12, 15, 18 and 21 years old. This brand also releases wine cask editions on a regular basis.
        2. Longrow Single Malt
          Longrow is a name that was taken from the mothballed distillery founded by John Ross in 1824. Springbank revived the brand and bottled the first Longrow in 1973. The standard bottles are no-age statement editions, heavily-peated and doubled distilled. Nevertheless, there are some rare age-statement bottles such as the 16 years old. Longrow also has a Red edition that uses a different type of wine casks each year. Longrow won Best Campbeltown Single Malt at the 2013 World Whiskies Award.
        3. Hazelburn Single Malt
          This is the newest edition to the Springbank Distillery. It is also named after another mothballed distillery in Campbeltown. The liquid is first distilled in 1997 and bottled as a 10 years old. A 12 years old expression was released in 2009. Hazelburn is a non-peated, tripled distilled whisky.

        Springbank’s whisky making process

        Springbank is the only Scottish distillery that completes 100% of their production process on site. They malt 100% of their barley using the traditional floor malting methods. They also used many old pieces of machinery that were preserved and maintained over the years.

        The whisky making process for Springbank is as follows:

        1. Malting – Traditional floor malting methods are used in this stage. Barley is steeped in cold, clean water and allowed to swell up to 3 days. After that, it is laid out in a 6-inch deep even layer on the malting floors where the Springbank team turns it at regular intervals.
        2. Kilning – Once the malt is ready, they are moved to a kiln where they will be dried over a peat fire, hot air or a combination of both, depending on the brand being produced. Kilning takes between 30 to 48 hours.
        3. Milling – When kilning is completed, the barley is crushed into a fine powder called grist.
        4. Mashing – Grist is then placed into a mashing tun where hot water is added. This process extracts all the sugar into a liquid. The team rakes the liquid 3 times during mashing.
        5. Fermentation – The liquid drained from the mash is known as wort. It is transferred to wooden wash backs and yeast is added to convert the sugars into alcohol over a period of 80 to 110 hours of fermentation.
        6. Distillation – The liquid from the wash back passes through the 3 copper stills of Springbank – the wash still, the low wines still and the spirit still. After that, the liquid is transferred to the spirit safe when the stillman monitors the progress. The different brands go through different distillation processes to differentiate their distinctive styles.
        7. Cask Filling – The new spirit is then transferred to empty casks specially selected for Springbank.
        8. Maturation – The new casks are then sent to the dark, moist warehouse and left for a minimum of 3 years in maturation. Most whiskies are matured for a longer period under the watchful eyes of the Distillery Manager.
        9. Bottling and Labeling – All Springbank whiskies are non-chill filtered with no artificial colours added. During bottling, the team inspects the whisky at key stages to ensure the consistency of high quality and correct labelling.

        Choice of Campbeltown

        Springbank is indeed a great choice if you are looking at sampling Campbeltown whiskies. WhiskyGeeks have tried 2 rare whiskies from them. One of them is a Longrow 16 Years Old while the other is a Springbank 8 Years Old. Both are exceptional!

         

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          Visit to Yamazaki Distillery Part Three

          In Part One, we brought you some history of Yamazaki through its museum. Part Two consisted of the actual distillery tour.  In Part Three, let us bring you back to the museum to see the different whiskies made by Suntory.

          All the whiskies ever produced by Suntory (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          The impressive display above caught our eyes as soon as we walked in. It showcased all the major whiskies produced by Suntory over the years. We couldn’t get a good shot of this display even with our wide angle lens, so we settled for a paranoma instead.

          Old Whiskies of Suntory

          Quiet little corners are often the best places to seek for treasures. We found a treasure cove behind some pillars and discovered the various old whiskies from Suntory!

          Akadama Port Wine – The Sponsor of Yamazaki Distillery

          The Akadama Port Wine imported by Kotobukiya (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          Torii-san imported the Akadama Port Wine by the name of Kotobukiya back in the 1920s. This Spanish port wine was popular among the Japanese.  The profits from the wine went towards the founding of the Yamazaki Distillery. In a way, we can say that Akadama Port Wine was one of the sponsors of Yamazaki Distillery.

          Shirofuda White Label – The first ever Whisky produced by Suntory

          Shirofuda White Label (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          This was the first whisky made by Suntory. It was a failure because it did not capture the hearts of the local community, but it was the reason why Suntory became better.

          Old Whiskies from Suntory (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

           

          Suntory Old Whisky (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          These are some of their really old whiskies made at Yamazaki Distillery. Rare aniques on their own, they are made more special by the roles that they had played in making Suntory and Yamazaki Distillery the way they are today.

          Tory – the popular post-war whisky (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          Tory Blended Whisky was a special whisky that played a huge role after World War 2. Produced by Suntory, it was the number one favourite whisky for many of the Japanese population – both men and women – after the war. It was so well received that bars named “Torys” popped up all over Japan.

          The Birth of Yamazaki 12 Years Old

          Story of the Yamazaki (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          This section is the most crowded as visitors clicked their cameras and crowded around the display. The birth of the Yamazaki 12 Years Old generated a lot of interest for all visitors alike.

          Birth of the Yamazaki (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          One of the Yamazaki 12 years was prominently displayed in the museum, with a simple write up of how it came about. There was also a flavour profile for some popular Yamazaki produced by Suntory.

          Flavour Profile of the Yamazaki (Credit: WhiskyGeeks)

          The Mizunara Cask

          For us geeks, the Mizunara cask generated more interest as we were keen to see the difference between this and other casks such as the Sherry and the Bourbon.

          The Mizunara Cask (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          During WW2, mizunara was used due to scarcity of sherry and bourbon. The challenges to use the mizunara were tremendous. Leakage, astingent woodliness that created bad whisky were all part of the reasons, but Suntory eventually figured the best way to use the mizunara as a second or third refill for a distinctive Japanese flavour of sandalwood and Japanese incense.

          The Whisky Library

          We head down to the highly anticipated whisky library after we have settled our curiousity for old whiskies and the mizunara cask of Yamazaki.

          The Whisky Library at Yamazaki (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          This is the famed Yamazaki Library. There are about two rows of such shelfing with tons of whiskies sitting on them. It was impressive at first look, but it became disappointing when we noticed many repeated whiskies. Nonetheless, we did find something of interest.

          Auchentoshan Whisky (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

           

          Laphroaig Whisky (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

           

          Macallan Whisky (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          There are Scotch whiskies in the library. We are not surprised given the history of Yamazaki. Torii-san had started the distillery based on knowledge from Scotland.

          Other interesting finds include new make spirits and a selection of young Yamazaki.

          New Make Spirits (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

           

          A selection of 4 YO, 8 YO and 12 YO Yamazaki (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

          The End of the Tour

          We ended the tour with a drink at the bar, but it was nothing fancy. We left the distillery shortly afterwards to head back to Toyko. It was an interesting tour, even if we felt a lack in enthusiasm in their whole presentation. Our opinions shouldn’t stop you from visiting the distillery though. It is a personal experience for everyone!

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            Visit to the Yamazaki Distillery Part Two

            We left off in Part One where we were recalled to the meeting point of the distillery tour. We were given English audio guides as our tour will be in most part Japanese. The audio guides also come in other languages – Chinese, French, German and other major European languages.

            Yamazaki Distillery Tour Starting Point (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            We were invited to explore the space within the starting point of the tour after gathering our audio guide. We managed to take a picture of the space before it was crowded and that’s what it looks like from the picture above! Nice, clean space with artful designs set to give visitors the maximum comfort.

            Mini Casks at the Starting Point (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

             

            Samples of whisky from Yamazaki Whisky Library (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            There are also miniatures casks on display as well as sample spirits from Yamazaki very own whisky library. More about the whisky library later. For now, let’s go explore the facilities!

            The Distillery Tour Starts

            The actual production house is of course, away from the main visitor centre but once we got there, the amazing aroma of malt drifted through the air and into our nose…making all of us go “mmm”…

            Station 1: Mashing House and Fermentation Room

            Credits: WhiskyGeeks

            The first station was the mash house where malted barley is produced for fermentation. Malt whisky is made from selected two-rowed barley and water. The selected barley is germinated and dried to produce malt, before it is finely grounded and mix with water in a mash tun. The enzymes in the malt will break down the starch contents into sugar. Once that is completed, the mixture is filtered to obtain clear, unclouded liquid called wort.

            The temperature in the mash house was high due to the ongoing mashing. The smell of malted barley was rather heavenly though, and we would not have left the station quite as quickly as the tour guide wanted us to if not for the heat.

            The Mash Tun (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            Once the filtered wort is collected, it is transferred to the washbacks, and yeast is added to the wort, starting the fermentation process. The yeast converts the sugars in the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide while generating “wash”, the distinctive flavours that define whisky.

            Temperature in the fermentation room was just as high, if not higher. The sweet smell of sugar was distinctive here, and many of us agreed that it kinda smell like fresh bread due to the yeast in the room.

            The wooden washbacks (Credit: WhiskyGeeks)

            Station 2: Distillation

            Next, we walked on to the distillation room, or what they called the Still House.

            The Still House (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            Distillating the alcohol “wash” generated by fermentation is an art on its own. The shape and size of the stills plays an important role in the characteristics of the final “new make” spirit. This character of the “new make” spirit will then influence the way it takes to the casks during maturation.

            Yamazaki Still Pots (Credit: WhiskyGeeks)

            You can see from the picture above that the stills are of different shapes and sizes. The difference in the tilt of the angle, the size and the shape produces different kind of new spirits. The distillation process happens twice to produce a high alcohol content “new make” spirit.

            Distillation in Process (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            At Suntory, they make use of different stills to produce different flavours of “new make” spirit. As you can see above, the new make are labelled for easy identification.

            Collecting the alcohol (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            This is how the “new make: spirit is collected. The clear liquid shown here has a high alcohol concentration. If it makes the cut as a premium “new make”, it will make its way into a cask for maturation into whisky.

            Station 3: Cooperage

            Coopering is part of the whisky making process. Being equally important when compared to the spirit itself, it certainly deserves a station of its own.

            The Cooperage Process (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            Coopering refers the the making of a cask and how each step of the cooperage experts will influence the eventual cask that they make. The casks used by Suntory are all hand-made, which makes the process even more challenging. We are sorry that the picture is rather blur as the bright light on top of the signage at the darken warehouse had made it difficult to take a good, clear photo.

            The different casks on display (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            These are some of the casks that were on display. The tour included education on the different names of the casks such as butts, and hogheads. We will write another article on the different names of the casks soon!

            Station 4: Warehouse

            This was the defining moment of the distillery tour! Casks upon casks of maturing whisky stood before our eyes, and we got to say that it was just pure delight to walk in and smell that lovely, familiar aroma of wood and whisky.

            The Yamazaki Warehouse (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            Just look at that! Rows and rows of maturing whiskies…Our hearts were so full at that moment we though it could burst. Here’s an upclose picture for you.

            Close-up look at the casks (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            Notice the different years on the cask? The years tells you when the new make spirit was distilled and poured into the cask. There are plenty of casks with different years, from 1970s, to 1980s and the 2000s. None of them, however, were as exciting as the very FIRST cask ever filled at the Yamazaki Distillery!

            The first ever cask by Yamazaki (Credits: WhiskyGeeks)

            Remember the replica we shown you at the extrance? The picture on top shows you the real deal. The real No. 0001 cask made and filled in 1923. All of us were so excited that we were told to tone down so as not to disturb the harmony of the maturing whiskies. It was a tough fight to just take this picture because of the excitement generated!

            End of the Tour but not end of the story

            We ended the tour with a tasting session. We will not be a spoil sport and revealed what you will taste at the session. To find out, go for the tour when you head for Japan next time!

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