The Still Man

The Still Man

Find a new distillery installing Forsyth pot stills and you know it's serious about distilling. The company represents quality. Dominic Roskrow reports

People | 04 Mar 2011 | Issue 94 | By Dominic Roskrow

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Malt whisky has many evocative images to reflect its uniqueness and quality. Golden fields of barley, pagodas, oak barrels, even the Porteus mill...but none is quite as powerful and iconic as the copper pot still.

Pot stills are malt whisky’s totem poles, the very heart of the magic distillation process, the towers of ingenuity which ensure malt whisky’s consistently high standards on the one hand, and permit individuality and diversity of the spirit on the other.

Speyside-based Forsyths has become synonymous with the very finest copper stills. Across the world, from South America to the Far East, companies preparing to make whisky have turned to Forsyths for its technology, its craftsmanship, its expertise and its advice.

There has been a coppersmiths based in Rothes since the mid 1800s, originally owned by a man called Robert Baillie. But the Forsyth family began its association with the whisky industry when coppersmith Alexander Forsyth bought the Morayshire Copperworks in Rothes in the 1930s from his employer, who had no family to take over from him. The business is situated in the heart of the Speyside malt distilling industry and has, for decades, serviced all of its needs.

For the last 80 years or so various Forsyth family members have worked in the business, most recently two Richards: Richard senior, who is the company’s chairman, and his son Richard, who joined three years ago.

“While whisky stills are what we most associate the company with, it has diversified and has interests in the paper making industry and in oil and gas, which accounts for about half of its turnover. But malt whisky remains at the company’s core,” says Richard Senior.

“We are still very entrenched in the drinks industry worldwide,” he says, “we have done it by building on a strong reputation for delivering quality products on time and within budget.”

Unsurprisingly the installation of a distillery is an expensive and time consuming business, particularly in a foreign country. Great care needs to be taken to ensure that potential whisky makers are not blinded by the romance of distillation and have the cash-flow to fund it.

A project will take a minimum of two years and even up to seven.

“When talking to a potential client we firstly have to establish a few basics,” says Richard.

“What product does he want to make, what are the maximum volumes he is likely to produce say in a five year projection, what equipment should sensibly be made in Scotland and what could or should be sourced local to them. We then work out a contract and programme with sensible progress payments based on defined milestones and assess Forsyths input on installation and commissioning of the plant.”

It’s an intense, costly process but Forsyths has built its reputation by not cutting corners. It invests in making sure it has the finest artisans, and by maintaining quality it has flourished.

Whisky making is a cyclical business but worldwide trends are positive and Forsyths is set fair for the future. In the last two or three years the company has contributed to the distillery expansions of The Glenlivet, Macallan, Glenmorangie and the the new distillery Ailsa Bay at Girvan. It designed, installed and commissioned the fully automated distillery in Taiwan which is now so producing rising star Kavalan, and it has involved in projects in Jamaica, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Sweden, among others.

“Our view on the worlds spirit industry is that it is very buoyant,” says Richard. “People worldwide are increasingly enjoying various spirits, malt whisky in particular and we, Forsyths, are optimistic in the future of our company in
this field.”



Richard Forsyth


59 Years

Where do you live?

Rothes, Moray, Scotland Favourite whiskies?Used to be the heavy Speyside malts such as Macallan, Aberlour, Glenfarclas and others. Now settle for a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc in my later years.
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