05 Sep By Hand and By Heart Blog – Stillman Stories with Brian Garriock
When you produce whisky in small, exclusive batches like Glenturret does, naturally you create a small, exclusive working environment.
There’s a kind of shorthand that exists among the five stillmen working there, and it’s something Brian Garriock appreciates. “You know what everyone’s doing and thinking,” says Brian, one of the stillmen.
Brian has been at Glenturret Distillery since 2005 but with our parent company, Edrington, since 1997. He joined Highland Park in Orkney back in 1997 working on its peat hill, preparing the peat that would help flavour the whisky.
“I was only out there for three weeks when one of the warehouse workers broke his leg so I was moved into the warehouse to replace him.” His progression in the whisky industry began from there. “You could say somebody’s misfortune was my fortune,” says Brian.
A stint with the world famous Macallan brand in Speyside followed before he joined Scotland’s oldest working distillery, Glenturret. Brian was lucky to be taken under the wing of stillman Hugh Malloy, the titular stillman behind the 28-year-old single cask bottling The Brock Malloy Edition, one of Glenturret’s most successful special edition malts. “He was very old school, one of those people who just got on with the job,” says Brian of Hugh.
Like the other stillmen at the distillery, Brian relishes the process of making whisky by hand. He began his working life in his native Orkney as a panel beater in the car industry. “I loved it because you had a lot of pride in the work, just as I do now in producing whisky.”
Working with just four other stillmen, Brian is at the crux of Glenturret’s By Hand and By Heart promise. Glenturret’s assurance is that only five pairs of hands touch its whisky. Brian’s favourite part of the job is working in the stillhouse, and in particular with the Spirit Sample Safe, which the spirit passes through as the stillman controls the distillation. At Glenturret the distillation process is cut by eye, an age-old process in which the stillman’s experience, rather than a computer, makes the call.
As much as Brian lives and breathes his work, he doesn’t drink it. “I don’t drink that much and I’m not a whisky drinker,” he admits. But that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate what goes into a dram and what sets Glenturret and its small batch production apart in the industry.
If he were to serve a dram to a friend, he says he would choose the Glenturret 10-Year-Old Single Malt for its taste of orange zest with vanilla, and aroma of spicy citrus and mild peat – a reminder of those first whisky working days in Orkney.