30 May By Hand and By Heart Blog – Traditional Tool and Techniques
It’s no secret that we are big on tradition here at Glenturret Distillery: our motto says it all – By Hand and By Heart. Our five stillmen’s hands are not used for pushing buttons, in fact, there’s not a bit of technology in sight at our base in the heart of Perthshire. In this machine-operated age, there’s not one bit involved in the crafting of our spirit.
With the word ‘craft’ being thrown far and wide in the drinks industry, we know we can truly say our whisky is a craft; an exceptional artisan delight, as you will. Let us tell you about Glenturret, a craft distillery unlike any other…
We’re proud owners of the last remaining hand operated mash tun of its kind left in Scotland. Made by Forsyth’s of Rothes, the stainless steel shell holds 1.1 tonnes of grist mixed with 5,200 litres of sparge. Whilst they have been replaced over the years, they are identical to those that would have been used at Glenturret Distillery when it was founded in 1775.
When mixing the mash, we use wooden rousers made on site, by hand, by skilled craftsman and stillman Ian Renwick. The oak rouser is used to mix the mash at various times throughout the drainage of the first water, which allows us to have a greater control of the mashing process, something we think is very important in the production process.
Our large wooden washbacks are made from Douglas Fir, an example of where we’ve sacrificed durability (as stainless steel would last longer) with traditional techniques, which we believe make a better spirit. Distillery Manager, Neil Cameron, uses these traditional washbacks for our long fermentation time at Glenturret. We are in no rush to craft The Glenturret and our longer fermentation allows us to achieve the distinctive fruity characteristics in our spirit.
Our tall wash still creates a very light spirit and we continue to use traditional pot stills made of hand-beaten copper, which have a shape and size that is unique to Glenturret Distillery. Not only are they some of the best, we run our stills very slowly to build a sweeter, lighter characteristic in our new make sprit. Our stillmen use their skill and judgment, which has been built up over generations of experience, to cut the spirit by eye using our hand operated spirit sample safe. We believe their skills and attention to detail is a craft in itself.
The heart of the run is then pumped from the still house to the filling store, where the strength of the new make spirit is reduced by the addition of Loch Turret water before being hand filled into oak casks. Due to the long fermentation time, we produce around 186,000 litres of Glenturret a year. We believe in the highest quality small batch production and the variety that brings, rather than the consistency of large scale production. And, when you have a true hand in the outcome, it makes the finished product all that more exceptional.
Much of the whisky world has moved away from the traditional methods we use, mashing by hand and cutting by eye, but we maintain and continue these traditions as we believe they are vital components of the whisky-making process. This unique approach firmly establishes the brand’s heritage as Scotland’s only remaining producer of hand-made, craft whisky and one we are very proud of.