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Issue 22 - The Forsyth's saga

Whisky Magazine Issue 22
May 2002

 

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The Forsyth's saga

Tom Bruce-Gardyne visits Speyside still-makers Forsyth's to find out about the leading coppersmiths

At the heart of every malt whisky distillery stands the still-room where its glorious diversity of weird shaped stills reside. The fact they are all so different allows each distillery to stamp its own genetic thumb print on its new-make spirit. This adds greatly to the fascination of Scotch whisky, but is also quite strange when you stop and think. Surely someone could have designed a standard pot-still for maximum yield and efficiency, and then sold it to every distillery in Scotland? Being machine-made in a mould on a production line it would be far cheaper than a bespoke still, one laboriously but carefully hammered out by hand.

The reason this never happened was because the early distillers were inherently conservative. The original stills would have been chosen to fit the space available, or even bought second-hand – like Glenmorangie's from a gin distillery – and once a half-decent spirit trickled out the end, there was no incentive to change. Gradually it became apparent that the shape and size of the still does have a serious impact on the character of the whisky produced, though even now the science is not fully understood.

Few have been as intimately involved in all this as Forsyth's in Rothes on Speyside. Now in its third generation, this family firm of coppersmiths has been supplying the Scotch whisky industry for almost 70 years. The original business dates back to the mid-19th century, and according to Richard Forsyth, the current MD, was probably suppl...

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