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Issue 41 - Outwiththeold,inwiththenew?Notquite...

Whisky Magazine Issue 41
July 2004

 

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Outwiththeold,inwiththenew?Notquite...

Canwhisky-makingbetaughtproperlyatuniversity,andisourunderstandingofscienceleadingtobetterwhisky?GavinSmithlooksattheissue

IfyouwalkintoanypubonSpeysidewhereretireddistilleryworkerscongregateandaskthemwhetherthingswerebetterintheirday,you'llreceivetheresoundinganswer‘yes!'Partly,ofcourse,thisishumannature.Nobodywantstoadmitthatsomeonewhohassucceededthemhasfoundabetterwayofdoingwhattheydid.

Itisafact,however,thatforbetterorforworse,manydistillerieshavelostthe‘humantouch'asaresultofincreasedautomationandresultantcutbacksinstaffinglevels.Timeandagain,retireddistillerspointoutthatwhentheywereyoung,therewouldhavebeenasmanyas50staffemployedinalotofdistilleries,whereasnowtwoorthreemenpershiftoperatetheentireplant.

Thesedays,theysay,experiencecountsfornothing,andmakingwhiskyisnolongeracraft,itissimplyaclinicalprocesscontrolledbyacomputer.

Accordingto‘BigAngus'McAffer,retiredstillmanatLagavulin,“thewhiskywemadetasteddifferent,itwasn'tso‘forced'thewayitistoday.Niceandsmoothandeasytotake,itwas.Whenyouwererunningspiritfromaspiritstillyoudampedthecoalfirewithashovelfulofdrosssoitwasonlytrickling,andtherewasnotraceoffeints,itwasrunningmoreslowlythanitisnow.Theyaredoingmoremashingnow,andmoredistilling,sothey'vegottopushon.”

ItiscertainlytruethatthenecessityofincreasingthescaleofScotchwhiskyproductionandmakingcostsavingsinaverycompetitiveenvironmenthasshapedtheindustryasweknowittoday.

Almostalldistillerymaltingshavelonggone,removingsignificantnumbersofjobs,andinmanycasesnewspiritisnowtankeredawayforremotefilling,eliminatingthenecessityofstaffundertakingfillingandwarehousingroles.

Theprocessofwh...

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