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Issue 74 - The experience game

Whisky Magazine Issue 74
September 2008


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The experience game

Gavin D Smith discovers Glentauchers unplugged.

The expression ‘unplugged' in musical circles has come to denote an acoustic set performed by an artist or group.

The implication is that there is no electronic wizardry to distract audience attention from technical virtuosity or to act as a ‘safety net.' It is stripped down to basics, with skill at a premium, and there are no hiding places.

The distilling parallel works on the premise that most large-scale, modern distilleries are designed to be operated by a minimum number of people and a maximum number of computer chips. Chips are cheap, by comparison with today's relatively well recompensed distillery operatives, and while people are fallible and may make mistakes or interpret instructions and data in different ways, a computer program never varies.

So it is that few of today's mainstream distilleries are allowed to perform ‘unplugged'. But is this always a good thing?

There is surely a danger that the industry creates a generation of distillery employees who do not need to think beyond the touch screen or computer mouse to what is actually happening as a result of their remote activities.

One distiller who has identified this issue and is taking steps to address it is the industry's second-biggest player, Pernod Ricard, via its Chivas Brothers' subsidiary.

The overall company ethos is to develop one man per shift operations where applicable, with a single technician on each shift controlling everything from the input of malt to filling spirit into the spirit ...

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