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Issue 70 - The silent season

Whisky Magazine Issue 70
February 2008


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The silent season

A distillery's year comprises more than four seasons,with the addition of an annual silent season.But while nature's seasons happen quite naturally,the silent season requires a lot of planning.Ian Wisniewski explains why.

It's called the silent season but that's the wrong name for it, as it's a very busy season.

“Silent just means that you're not producing spirit,”says Alan Winchester of Chivas Brothers.

In fact, there's plenty of alternative activity, as the silent season allows for various inspections,maintenance and repairs.The distilling season traditionally ran from around October-May, with June-September the silent season.This followed the agricultural cycle, with the labour force moving to farmwork and cutting peat (some were also laid off as seasonal employees).

A seasonal fluctuation of water, with less available during the summer, was another factor.

The silent season started to shorten after World War Two, as production levels increased.However, with Scotch whisky's varying fortunes meant that production levels, and the length of the silent season,were revised accordingly.

The current silent season generally lasts about three weeks, if no major repairs are required, otherwise it's usually four to five weeks from the middle or end of June to mid-August (more recently the Christmas break, and in some instances Easter, is an additional mini silent season).

With the summer silent season being the principal opportunity, it's imperative to maximise on this. And that means preparing the ‘to do' list, way ahead.

“We do on-going maintenance planning during the year,and everything is programmed in advance,”says Alan Winchester.

While distillery staff are encouraged to take t...

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