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Issue 39 - Workingonthemaltline

Whisky Magazine Issue 39
May 2004

 

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Workingonthemaltline

Whataretheadvantagesofcommercialmaltsters,andwhydosomedistilleriesstillhavetheirownfloormaltings?IanWisniewskireports

Embodyingasenseofheritageandcraftsmanship,floormaltingsenabletheentireproductioncycletobeundertakenatthedistillery,ratherthanorderingin‘conveniencemalt.'Butvariousfactors(beyondevocativephotoopportunitiesforbrochures)areinvolvedinthedecisiontoretainfloormaltings,whichincludesTheBalvenie,Bowmore,HighlandPark,LaphroaigandSpringbank.

Withmaltedbarleyaccountingforaround55-60percentofthecostofproducingnewmakespirit,floormaltingsarealsomorelabourintensiveandlesscost-effectivethancommercialmaltsters,requiringmorestaffandspace.HighlandPark'sdedicatedmaltmanandfourkilnmen,forexample,operateona24hour,sevendayaweekbasis,includingnightshifts,butexcludingtechnology.

“Openingorclosingdoorsorwindowsisourlevelofautomation.FloormaltingsaredowntotheskillandexperienceofourguysandMotherNature,”saysRussellAnderson,HighlandPark'sproductionmanager.Headdsthatevenastrongwindinanadversedirectioncancomplicatekilning.

Potentialdifferencesinspirityieldareanotherconsideration.“Floormaltedbarleycangivealowerspirityieldcomparedtocommercialmaltsters.Thiscanbe5-8litrespertonlessonaverage,soitcanbeasignificantadditionalcostfactor,”saysIanMillar,distillerymanageratTheBalvenieandTheGlenfiddich.

Spirityieldscanalsobecompoundedbyapoorharvest,themostrecentdisappointmentbeing2002(toowetayear).Whoevermaltedthebarley,thisvintagesawinstancesofyieldsreducedbyupto10-12litresperton,fromageneralindustrypeakofupto420litresperton.

Recitingfactsandfigures,typicallyconsideredan‘accountant'sviewpoint,'isonepers...

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