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Issue 7 - Whisky clones

Whisky Magazine Issue 7
December 1999


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Whisky clones

Jim Murray ponders the relationship between increased automation in whisky making and brand parity.

It was only a matter of time before people started noticing. And worrying. So it was no surprise when Whisky Magazine's editor Jane Slade dropped me a line, "Can you help out on this one, Jim?" Too right I could.

It was a letter from James L Pickett, “Dear Editors: It is my understanding that Dalwhinnie has undertaken an automation program that has made several employees redundant. The program is to automate the production so that the only people required are those monitoring the computer. I would be interested in knowing more about this program and how this might affect the end product. Should one purchase Dalwhinnie before the automation takes place?”

As it happens, Dalwhinnie has not become an automated plant as such, more semi-automated. This means there are always two men on duty day and night, and you can see them battling with the crams to turn the stills on and off the old way.

Dalwhinnie has even gone back to using worms as opposed to condensers in a bid to recreate that famous sulphury note detected in its make in its first few years, before being replaced by something more honey-intense. But further up the A9 road, things are somewhat different. In Dufftown, the Mortlach distillery relies on just one distillery worker to oversee the whole lot. The stills are automated, but he still has to look after the mill and tuns. At night he is joined by a second worker.

Mr Pickett's question about how the product will be affected is a valid one. There is now a g...

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