07 Jul By Hand and By Heart Blog – Stillman Stories with Ian Renwick
Our stillmen are all craftsmen in their own right and Production Supervisor Ian Renwick brings with him more than just the ability to expertly hand-craft The Glenturret Single Malt.
A skilled blacksmith and welder, Ian was a regular visitor to Glenturret Distillery. “My first experience of Glenturret Distillery was when I was working for a local engineering company in the 90s” explains Ian.
During the dry period in January, Ian would come to Glenturret and undertake essential maintenance work. “One January, Neil Cameron mentioned they would be looking for two new stillman, so I decided to go for it – that was over 20 years ago now!” recalls Ian. “I’ve always loved the whisky industry and for me, it was the perfect job.” From his regular visits to the distillery Ian could see how dedicated the team were. “It’s a very respectful industry and none more so than at Glenturret. They are completely respectful of the history and preserving the traditional techniques.”
And so, in 1996, Ian joined Glenturret Distillery as a stillman, learning along the way under the skilful hands of the other stillmen. The last 20 years have seen him become Glenturret’s Production Supervisor, gain his General Certificate in Distilling and share his extensive knowledge of distilling with future stillmen as an assessor for the SQA.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still get to use his craftsmanship at Glenturret. If you walk around Glenturret Distillery you’ll find much of Ian’s handiwork, including the metal railings outside the mash-house and the wooden rousers that are used in the hand mashing of Glenturret.
As the last Distillery in Scotland to still hand mash, Ian explains why it’s important for Glenturret to stay true to their roots. “There’s been a real shift in the industry to computerised production but that’s just not an option for us. Everything is still done by hand at Glenturret and it’s a real team effort as there’s a huge amount of skill involved” explains Ian. “We still cut by eye and there’s a lot of calculations and timings to get right. We’re a tight team – there’s only five of us and everybody plays their part.”
Ask Ian what his perfect day at Glenturret consists of, you’ll perhaps be surprised to know it doesn’t actually involve any whisky-making. Ian is passionate about showing visitors to Glenturret the ‘behind the scenes’ of whisky production.
If you book a Stillman Experience, Ian will be the one to guide you through the traditional techniques, intricate details and expert craftsmanship involved in the creation of Glenturret. “It’s like having a day with your mates” says Ian. “The people that come to experience life as a stillman are so passionate about whisky that it’s just a pleasure to combine my passion for making whisky with their passion for enjoying it!”
However, Ian doesn’t just enjoy making whisky, but enjoys a wee dram. We asked Ian to pick a favourite whisky for our Dram of the Month. For him, he said, it was an obvious choice. “I’ve always been a peated fan so for me The Glenturret Peated Edition is the perfect dram. It’s sweet but still has the perfect amount of peaty flavour.” Pick up your bottle of Ian’s favourite Dram of the Month here.