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Issue 68 - I think a lot more is known than people realise (Dr Gordon Steele)

Whisky Magazine Issue 68
December 2007


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I think a lot more is known than people realise (Dr Gordon Steele)

Ian Wisniewski talks to Dr Gordon Steele,director of The Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI),located near Edinburgh.

How would you describe the role of the research institute?

We go all the way through from raw materials to bottling problems, it's very comprehensive.

We have a core of projects that we have to deliver on, some short term, some long term.

We have a membership that covers about 98 per cent of the industry.

Our staff are a mixture of pharmacists, food technologists, chemists, a broad base of different skills.

There are surprising amounts of innovation within Scotch whisky to be looked at.

Is demand for information across various areas fairly even?

Yes, and it's an illustration that Scotch whisky flavour comes from the whole process, not just one particular area.

The thing that works best is a dedicated help line, people phone up and say tell me about X, so we do.

One of the great pleasures of the job is that you get to see all the whisky companies, who are effectively trying to do the same thing, they all have the same problems, they all have different strategies of tackling it, and that's really interesting, trying different approaches.

What they require from us is very different in terms of knowledge.

What's known about malt whisky has increased enormously, while speculating on what isn't yet fully known is also very interesting.

I think a lot more is known than people realise.

We certainly understand perfectly well how to make it, we do understand where malt whisky flavours come from, what the main drivers are – there aren't ...

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