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Issue 55 - A balance of tradition and efficiency (Speyburn)

Whisky Magazine Issue 55
April 2006

 

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A balance of tradition and efficiency (Speyburn)

Deanston Distillery is something of a hidden gem. Ian Buxton visited it

“We need to work smarter,not harder”

That's the view of Graham MacWilliam, Inver House's Distilleries general manager, and you can't argue with that.

After all, in Speyburn Inver House has taken a distillery largely under-exploited by its previous owners and built sales in one of the most demanding markets in the world.

Speyburn single malt won't be familiar to United Kingdom readers, but it is wellknown in the United States, where it sells in notable volumes.

But what's Graham on about? Well, he was explaining the economics of running a small distillery, especially when you're not one of the giants of the whisky business.

Like many of the distilleries constructed at the end of the 19th century, Speyburn is quite compact, with a maximum potential output of perhaps 2,000,000 litres of alcohol a year. But getting there is quite a trick.

There are certain limits to how hard you can run the equipment without encountering bottle necks in the system and, if you push too hard, the quality of the spirit suffers. Speyburn is not alone in this. You could say the same about any distillery, but it's a particularly pressing problem for plants of this size: too large to be small, and too small to be really large.

That's why former owner, United Distillers & Vintners (now Diageo), closed or sold off so many of these smaller late-Victorian operations (think Dallas Dhu, now a museum; St Magdalene, now a block of flats; Knockdhu, also sold by UDV to Inver House and so on).

“We c...

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