Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

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Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby engunear » Fri Jun 09, 2017 4:14 am

Below are my notes from doing the tour of Abelour and Glenlivet distilleries. A few surprises here for me.

Abelour

Abelour have no particuar preferred grain. They mentioned two which inlcuded Moonshine, a barley variety. (I forget the other).

They use electric kilning with no wood or peat. (This contradicts the claim by Bryan Davies that all Scotches contain some peat.)

The malted grain tasted nutty. So maybe some has been kilned at high temperature.

They do a three step mash. The temperatures 65 and 68.5 were mentioned.

Ferment 72h, with temp rising to 32C over that time. This temperature occurs at the end of fermentation.

The wash tasted nutty. It was a beautiful tasting wash, with no hint of lacto. A bit of alcohol warmth as would be expected from the gravity. I could taste Abelour in the wash. This was still in active ferment. (This was most unexpected. All they have in it is grain, water, yeast. Maybe they get some bacterial increase towards the end of the ferment. Someone, I forget who, has a tag about the still being a translator. I think I get what that means now.)

The wash has a potential alcohol of 8% (it may have been 7.5 or 8.5). The average alcohol content from the stripping run is 24%.

This is distilled a second time. In the second distillation, the alcohol percentage starts at 94%, drops to 74% producing the foreshots which are put aside. The hearts are taken from 74% to 64%. The rest of the feints are run in with the foreshots.

The foreshots and feints are blended with the results of the next stripping run and the process repeats. (This explains the high percentage at the start of the foreshots cut.)

They only discard the heads fraction of the distilled spirit is once per year when they take a month to shut down and do preventative maintenance. They did not say what happens to the water in the still at the end of the second distaillation.

The clearic is diluted to 64\% (... memory is weak here) with distilled water before being added to casks, claiming that this is the optimumum concentration for flaviur extraction from wood.

The clearic tasted beautiful. Also like a young Abelour. Although the guide talked about it having some nail polish character, my nose did not find it distinctive.
(My nose does not react to ethyl acetate like it used to, though it had no problem picking it up in a store-bought grappa last night.)

Genlivet

No preferred grain. After malting, again electric kilning, no peat or wood. The grind was quite fine but had whole husks. Grain was not as nutty flavoured as the Abelour.

They mash at 65, then lauter at 78 and 90 with the first two runoffs being fermented together and the latter being used as steep water for the next batch.

They do a mash in 4 hours, so they do 6 per day.

They pitch at 18C. There is no cooling on the fermenters and the temperature rises to 32-33C when fermentation ends. Yeast is pitched from the bottom. The washbacks (fermenters) are massive, and made of Oregon Pine. (What amazing bacterial control.) They considered switching to stainless steel but were concerned about a change in flavour. Washbacks last 70 years. Each holds 60,000 liters (?), producing 6000 liters of spirit. (8.5% -> 85%).

Distillation follows a similar process to Abelour. I did not find out what they do with the water in the still and the end of the second distillation.

Watching the sprit safe, the spirit was cloudy then quickly turned clear. (This is something I have read about, and long doubted as I've never seen it in my own observation window, but there it was. Presumably the continual recycling of foreshots and feints leads to a concentration to something not seen in a single batch process. Or perhaps you have to have a lot of spirit to seen it, as it was gushing through the spirit safe.)

Glenlivet age at 66%, after diluting with distilled H2O. The best concentration for extraction from wood.

The clearic is again wonderful and estery, as one would expect from Glenlivet. Again no heads. (If you want to taste the clearic you have to do the mid-priced tour. They don't provide it for the cheapest tour.)

It is then put into barrels. If they are ex-bourbon, then they use 250 liter barrels. The 200 liter barrels arrive in flatpacks and are rebuilt into 250 liters. Ex sherry are 500 liters. Barrels are used multiple times. European barrels are softer and get more penetration than American and give a darker color to the spirit. Bourbon barrels produce a pale spirit. Barrels are toasted lighltly before re-use.

The tastings after - various whiskeys up to 25 years old, was great. I left slightly light headed ... er ... pissed. My partner drove, as the legal blood alcohol is very low. 0.03 someone told me. The quantity and quality was lower at the Abelour tour, but that was the cheap tour.

Notes

I was surprised at the full flavour of the Abelour grain, and how good Abelour the wash tasted, how low in lacto. This is contrary to a long-held belief, from Bryan Adams book that bacteria are the key to good whiskey. Unfortunately I did not taste the Glenlivet wash as this is the more buttery whiskey so would be expected to have the higher lactic acid (-> ethyl lactate), but it might well be no lacto at all. Also, how much the wash taste ran into the clearic. Lesson: experiment with different grains, pitching rates, yeasts etc till I get a wash that I would enjoy to drink straight.

I was surprised at the complete heads recycling. Where does their ethyl acetate go? The acetone? Do they react in the still? Or are they so low that they don't count? The ferment is almost completely anaerobic, so maybe it is very low in ethyl a to begin with.

I was surprised at their method of heat control - pitch at low temperature and just let it rise. But it is sensible, they have lots of cold water, so this means they need only one heat exchange. I usually pitch hot as I get impatient and then have to pull heat out as it ferments. Not hard for a 25 liter fermenter, but harder with 65,000 liters

For both Abelour and Glenlivet the tour was great. Friendly, informative and I'd highly recommend.

The visit was in early June, the weather was beautiful, the whole area is incredibly beautiful. It was not crowded - a lot of the distilleries are not doing weekend tours yet.

I also did the Talisker tour. The guide was not as informative, and it was a "wind em through" effort with tasting of a single 15ml shot of the Storm. If I think of anything they mentioned that is not above then I'll add it. Obviously, they peat. They also do complete foreshots recycling.
Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to make whiskey. I think that what we have to say has more lasting value.

Anyone who tells you measurement is easy is a liar, a fool, or both.
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby der wo » Fri Jun 09, 2017 5:51 am

Thanks engunear!
I hope you forgive me some comments:
engunear wrote:Abelour

Abelour have no particuar preferred grain. They mentioned two which inlcuded Moonshine, a barley variety. (I forget the other).
According to http://wormtub.com/distilleries/distill ... y=Aberlour Malt Source: Black Isle, Moray Coast, Scottish Borders. Malt Type: Chariot & Optic.
They use electric kilning with no wood or peat. (This contradicts the claim by Bryan Davies that all Scotches contain some peat.) wormtub: 2ppm.
They do a three step mash. The temperatures 65 and 68.5 were mentioned. Probably "three steps" mean three waters, not temperature steps. Wormtub: the temps of the waters are 68°C, 68° and 82°C(will be the first water of the next batch)

Ferment 72h, with temp rising to 32C over that time. This temperature occurs at the end of fermentation. according to wormtub 48-60h

The wash tasted nutty. It was a beautiful tasting wash, with no hint of lacto. A bit of alcohol warmth as would be expected from the gravity. I could taste Abelour in the wash. This was still in active ferment. An active ferment tastes always more interesting than a done ferment. And a lacto starts not before the ferment is almost done. (This was most unexpected. All they have in it is grain, water, yeast. What do you expect? Added yoghurt? Maybe they get some bacterial increase towards the end of the ferment. Someone, I forget who, has a tag about the still being a translator. I think I get what that means now.)

The wash has a potential alcohol of 8% (it may have been 7.5 or 8.5) wormtub 8.5%. The average alcohol content from the stripping run is 24% wormtub 22.7% Probably after adding the feints a bit more.

The foreshots and feints are blended with the results of the next stripping run and the process repeats. (This explains the high percentage at the start of the foreshots cut.) Perhaps less than you think. I have numbers from Bruichladdich: low wines 22.5%, spirit still charge 27%.

The clearic is diluted to 64\% (... memory is weak here) with distilled water before being added to casks, claiming that this is the optimumum concentration for flaviur extraction from wood. wormtub: 69.1%. But this would be unusual high.

The clearic tasted beautiful. Also like a young Abelour. Although the guide talked about it having some nail polish character, my nose did not find it distinctive. After spending time in this odor intense environment it's hard to judge it probably.

Notes

I was surprised at the complete heads recycling. Where does their ethyl acetate go? The acetone? Do they react in the still? Or are they so low that they don't count? The ferment is almost completely anaerobic, so maybe it is very low in ethyl a to begin with. I think it evaporates between the runs and perhaps while heating the wash/low wines up. And in the barrel of course

I also did the Talisker tour. The guide was not as informative Damn. This would be most interesting for me. Talisker is probably my favourite Whisky. And you don't find as much information about Talisker than about most other distileries., and it was a "wind em through" effort with tasting of a single 15ml shot of the Storm. Yes. This one doesn't sell very well...
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby engunear » Fri Jun 09, 2017 9:38 am

Probably "three steps" mean three waters, not temperature steps.
That is what they meant. First two went into the ferment, the third was the mash water for the next batch.
What do you expect? Added yoghurt?
No, but the bacterial load of grain can be quite high. If I do an 8 hour mash the lacto gets so high the yield is reduced. And if lacto leads to ethyl lactate, which is buttery, then lacto at the start would be plausible.

After spending time in this odor intense environment it's hard to judge it probably.
Not so sure. Anyway, I have some Glenlivet clearic awaiting a good day to taste cold.

I think it evaporates between the runs and perhaps while heating the wash/low wines up. And in the barrel of course
Maybe. I cant see where it evaporates to between runs, its in a sealed container. In the barrel, maybe. Bryan Adams claims it reacts with peat phenols, which is bs if there is no peat. Of all the surprises, this is the one that puzzles me the most.

Talisker have an expensive tour, booked a month in advance. But we just showed up. Maybe the expensive tour has better info. They would have a tour guide who knows their stuff. Overall, their process is the same as the others, but with peated grain. The Speyside tours compete with each other, but there is only Talisker on Skye. (Another distillery opens in about a month).

If I do this again, it might be nice to have a few hd people together, to see a different point of view and kick around the observations later.
Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to make whiskey. I think that what we have to say has more lasting value.

Anyone who tells you measurement is easy is a liar, a fool, or both.
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby der wo » Fri Jun 09, 2017 10:36 am

engunear wrote:
What do you expect? Added yoghurt?
No, but the bacterial load of grain can be quite high. If I do an 8 hour mash the lacto gets so high the yield is reduced. And if lacto leads to ethyl lactate, which is buttery, then lacto at the start would be plausible. According to wormtub only 6h... But when starts mashing? Heating up the water or adding water to the grains? And when stops mashing? Lautering the second or third water or pitching the yeast?
Anyway, mashing produces easy fermentable sugars. Wild yeasts on the malt would be the first ones start working now, and they would produce alcohol and CO², not lactic esters of course. Lacto bacterias would start only when there are mostly unfermentable dextrines or starches, because the yeasts would remain dormant. This is why sour dough, yoghurt and sauerkraut works. Starches and lactose are not fermentable for yeast.
Anyway, they pitch a lot of yeast (2.5g/liter). If here is a lacto infection, it is immediately suppressed by the yeast. But will come back when the easy sugars are fermented.


I think it evaporates between the runs and perhaps while heating the wash/low wines up. And in the barrel of course
Maybe. I cant see where it evaporates to between runs, its in a sealed container. In the barrel, maybe. Bryan Adams claims it reacts with peat phenols, which is bs if there is no peat. Of all the surprises, this is the one that puzzles me the most. At least the high volatile acetaldehyde evaporates already partially before the foreshots. This is the smell before the first distillate comes. So at least acetaldehyde doesn't get endless more and more accumulated with each batch.

I visited Glenturret in the Highlands a long time ago. I was 14 perhaps. I drank a Whisky there, probably my first one.
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby OtisT » Fri Jun 09, 2017 3:32 pm

Thank you engunear. What a great description of your tours. I have some words to look up, but what a great read. :-)
Cranky's spoonfeeding:
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby Yummyrum » Fri Jun 09, 2017 9:17 pm

Thanks for sharing Engunear .
Awesome that they let you sample the different stages .
I would love to do that at my favourite Rum distillery but they don't allow it .

Look foreward to your next distillery tour notes . :thumbup:
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby kiwi Bruce » Sat Jun 10, 2017 11:20 am

Very good !!!...informative and well written... Ditto Yummyrum ( good add-ons der wo )
I'll just sit quietly in the corner over here, with a tall glass of something special.
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby just sayin » Sat Jun 10, 2017 1:55 pm

Thanks for sharing your tour notes, Engunear! Almost like you took our whole gang with you. Scotland's distillers are on my bucket list, Springbank, Bruichladdich and the Balvenie would top my list
I don't have enough understanding of the varieties of barley used in Scotland. I know there are few distilleries that still do their own malting.
Do you make your own malt whisky?
Thanks again for sharing your tour and I didn't even get one midge bite (nasty little SOBs).
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby Pikey » Sat Jun 10, 2017 3:50 pm

Yes thanks engunear, INteresting the continued re-application of heads and tails - except for the "Once a year" "Clean out" - This corresponds somewhat to something I read in a VERY old book about Rum distilleries and their re-use of "Backset - which is called dunder" - You didn't get any hint about possible re-use of "Backset" did you?
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby boda getta » Sun Jun 11, 2017 4:06 pm

Image

I too just back from a two tour of Scotland. I toured six or seven Single Malt distilleries and really enjoyed the experience. My favorite tour (and most expensive) was the Balvenie distillery , but several others were nice. All of my tour guides were fairly knowledgeable, but the best were older guys who have either guided for years or better yet, had retired from the production end. A few thoughts from my trip:
I am a little concerned about the direction many of the Single Malt distilleries are headed. Scotland’s whiskey industry is going through the same as our distilleries; independent distilleries are becoming a thing of the past and many (if not most) are now owned by large multinationals. Not always a bad thing but IMHO it often is. An example: I too toured the Talisker distillery (now owned by Diageo) and learned that they don’t do any barreling, aging nor bottling on site. They ship the new make whiskey in SS tanker trucks to a large facility on the mainland (don’t if it is even in Scotland or somewhere else in the UK) The NAS bottles in the gift shop was distilled there, shipped somewhere for barreling, aging and bottling, then shipped back to the gift shop. I brought a bottle of ten year old and hope it was aged on-site. You will be hard put to find a malting floor or real cooperage at these distilleries. Most of the distilleries buy their malt in bulk from large malting firms (likely owned by the multinational that owns them) I have a real question how this off-site aging will affect the terroir of the whiskey. Will the old style Talisker, aged on the banks Loch Harport (salt water) be different from the newer whiskey aged God knows where?
Most of the basic tours include a tasting of one or two single malts. Most have an option to purchase s higher priced tour (some very higher priced) that will include more, older single malts. I would recommend the basic tour. If you want to try an older, higher priced SM included in the “deluxe” tour I recommend finding a good pub and ordering a pour there, instead of paying the price of a thimble full. Make friends with your tour guide; being a home distiller I asked a lot of questions. Most of the others on these tours asked zero questions. I wanted to know the PPM peat, ABV of the wash, ect . I think the guides appreciated my interest. On two of the tours the guide sided up to me after the tour and said “hang around until the really good tasting and I will slip you in” We tasted a 26 Yr Old on one of them!
A few pubs, mostly in the really tourist areas, had fantastic selections of Single Malt. But I was surprised that many of pubs and bars in Scotland had a very poor selection. We stayed in a hotel in Aberdeen attached to a shopping mall with a large food court with 7-8 bars. Several of these bars didn’t have a single bottle of Single Malt on the shelf, maybe a brand or two of blended. I got the feeling that many Scots don’t really drink Single Malt but the white whiskies are very popular. That surprised me.

Buying Single Malt in Scotland: I had the bright idea to buy only from the distilleries and only buy what was not available in the US, then have the VAT refunded. Didn’t really work out. Firstly, most of the gift shop workers couldn’t tell me what was or wasn’t exported to the States, secondly, getting your VAT was not as near as easily as my research told me would be. I discovered that qt or even liter bottles are not common in Scotland. Most of the whiskey sold there is not even 750ml but 700ml. The only places you can find qt bottles are in the Duty Free airport shops. Their selections are not good and you have to carry them in carry on luggage. I decided about the middle of the trip to change tacks. I called Royal Mile Whiskey in Edinburgh and arranged them to ship for me; they even agreed to include a few bottles that I have already purchases. I recommend them to anyone planning to buy whiskey in Scotland. If they ship for you they do not charge the VAT (almost 20%), that saving almost pays the shipping cost and it is hassle free. I live in Alabama, which does allow whiskey to be shipped but I had it shipped to my sister in Ga. I did buy four bottles from the duty free shop and was resigned to pay the 3-4% for having over the 2 qt allowed. When I went through customs in Boston and told the customs guy I had four bottles, he just waved me through and didn’t charge any duties on the two extra bottles, I suspect the amount on two extra bottles wasn’t worth them doing the paperwork. The bottles I had shipped to Ga almost beat me home.

All in all a great trip and highly recommended .
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby Johnny6 » Mon Jun 12, 2017 3:13 am

I'm really enjoying this thread. Thanks for posting.
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby Pikey » Mon Jun 12, 2017 3:36 am

Thanks for that boda, I think I can confirm that most in the UK do not actually like the heavy peated single malts. Most of those I know (including SCots) prefer a milder blended or one of the really mild malts like Glenmorangie Original.

Sad to hear that Diageo ship their whiskys away for bottling and maturing. I found recently that they do exactly the same with "Captain Morgan" "Original" rum, which used to say "Jamaica Rum" and now says "Distilled in the Caribean, matured and bottled in Uk". :(
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Re: Tour Notes from Scottish Distilleries

Postby der wo » Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:17 am

Pikey wrote:Sad to hear that Diageo ship their whiskys away for bottling and maturing. I found recently that they do exactly the same with "Captain Morgan" "Original" rum, which used to say "Jamaica Rum" and now says "Distilled in the Caribean, matured and bottled in Uk". :(

IMO it is not the same. To mature Rum in the cold UK instead of in the hot Caribean is much more "breaking the rules" than to mature on the Scottish mainland instead of on the Isle Skye.
But yes, Talisker has lost much reputation, probably Diageo's fault. I said it earlier in this thread, it's perhaps my favourite distillery. But the new products without age statement (Skye, Storm, Dark Storm) are really shit. Other distilleries manage it to bring out young whiskies without such heavy quality loss, Talisker not. BTW Talisker uses "rejuvinated" barrels for those Whiskies, they grind out the old char and rechar the casks. So they get in a short time a Whisky with color and sweetness. I think, this ruins the taste.
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