Whisky Investment - Grain To Glass

Cask Trade

"Welcome to Aberlour in Speyside, I'm Colin Hampden-White and I'm travelling in Speyside and around Scotland with Cask Trade to tell a story. It's the story of casks, it is how they're made and also where they end up at the end of their lives. That story starts with distillation really, it's what goes into the cask, the spirit and then how the cask is filled, how then it spends its life with the spirit in its maturing that spirit over the years to then bottling. So for us our journey will start at the Speyside Distillery and we will look at the distillation process, let's go and do that Journey."

Distillery Tour
"So it's good to see you again Finley, and we're here in this fantastic distillery in the place where the magic happens, where the spirit is created, can you tell us a little bit about how that happens."

"Yeah so in Speyside here it's always about slow distillation, to ourselves, here we don't push on the spirit still or the wash still essentially our spirit runs around two hours but if it takes two hours thirty minutes it's fine, same as our fermentation times, we've got long fermentation here that's where we get our fruity floral character from."

"So that differentiates you from other distilleries, you think that long implementation helps with the fruity character."

"Yeah a little bit longer helps the fruity floral character that always shines through and finishing off with the slow distillation, it's the icing on the cake for us."

"Do you think that the spirit at the Speyside Distillery lends itself to being matured in different types of wood then."

"Yes it does, I mean mainly just now we're just in but I'll be starting off in Bourbon but we are being more experimental our tonic forecasts as you know has been very successful for us that we're experimenting in lots of new things so it'll be great to see what's coming along for us next."

"Fantastic, if you had to pick an age what, when you would like to drink this particular distilleries whiskies, is there a particular age where for you there's a sweet spot."

"A sweet spot for us here, it all depends on the casks you're using, the casking, it's quite good, it's very good and it's young, I've had older whiskies as well on Speyside and they have all got their place they've all got a secret place to me."

"So it very much depends on the cask."

"On the cask as well, yeah as you know along with all the other things, mood, time of day, yeah yeah."


"Yeah, sometimes you've got a whisky there it could be your favourite one every night and then one night might not be quite for you so you'll change to a different age profile."

"Okay, well that's absolutely fascinating and good to know that it's definitely spirit plus cask makes the whisky."

"Spirit plus cask makes a whisky, fantastic, great."

"Fantastic, good to see you."

"Good to see you again."

Cooperage Tour
"So now we have the spirit, the spirit needs a cask to go into. Casks start their lives in cooperages and we're going to visit the Speyside Cooperage. The casks arrive in the cooperage and then are broken down and then rebuilt so casks may start as barrels from America, ex-bourbon barrels, and then broken down and rebuilt into hogsheads which are slightly larger. Sherry casks will come over from Spain and old sherry casks will be broken down and then rebuilt again so they are properly watertight. There are many different skills needed to build a cask from the making of the hoops through to charring and making the cask watertight and this is all done by one skilled Cooper."

"Thousands of casks come into the cooperage are broken down and then remade into barrels. To find out a little bit more about the Speyside Cooperage I had a conversation with Kyle."

"It's a pretty amazing place, we've had a good look around, it seems like it's always busy."

"Always busy here, every day there's something to be done not just with the coopering thing there's other little orders coming in going out oh there's always something to do here."

"And you're looking after the apprentices as well."

"Yeah that's it, I've been stepped up into a new role, assistant foreman, so there's always something to do with them, looking after them, to keep them in the straight and narrow but it's sometimes harder than the actual job itself, keeping them right, but just trying to hand down the skills I was shown, to hand them down from, I was shown from Malcolm, who's now the Workshop manager, he was my journeyman so I'm trying to show them what he showed me."

"And when I was walking around I saw that there were there were different types of wood, do you find that there are more different types of wood coming through the system now than in the past."

"Yeah, yeah lately different types of woods coming through, there's Scottish Oak we've kind of started getting involved with so we're seeing more and more of it becoming more and more popular so every week there's more orders for it coming in so it's good to see."

"Do you think that with these different types of woods coming in is that because of people liking different finishes or there's a shortage of wood so that they're using many different types to sort of fill that shortage."

"Yeah I feel it was kind of about both, people are like, a lot more people are experimenting with different stuff now but then there is also the shortage of wood worldwide not just locally in Europe and that, so yeah I feel it goes a lot of people experimenting with different stuff now putting their whiskies into different types of Oak to see what happens."

"Once the cask has been finished it then needs to be filled with spirit and this is done at a filling station. At a filling station the spirit arrives in huge tankers and those tankers are then emptied into big vats and then the vat fills the casks so several hundred casks can get filled in one day, in a modern filling station a set amount of liquid for each Cask can be preset and the ABV for the liquid also preset once the casks are then finished then we go to maturation."

"We're now going to discover the maturation stage of a cask's life where it takes the spirit and matures it into what would become whisky. We're at D & M Winchester, this is in Speyside and this is their lovely old warehousing at the Old Coalburn Distillery we're going to meet Gareth and he's going to tell us all about Dunnage warehousing."

"So yeah, thank you for bringing us here, this is a fantastic old lovely dunnage warehouse, we're seeing all sorts of different types of warehousing on this trip, could you tell us what you think is different about dunnage than the other types of warehousing."

"Well this dunnage here is, it sits in our Valley so the temperature is much more controlled for a longer maturation which shoots the the type of cask that the liquids are in as well as that the materials are of traditional stone, um, so they don't heat up that hard with sunlight on it and they stay very very constant day and night and as well as that, um, it's a very much a nod to the, the tradition past and the character of the industry from 50-60 years ago there's not much of the technology changed in the way that we store the casks here so it's much more traditional as well."

"So with having the low ceilings and you're only stacking them three high does that keep again a constant temperature rather than having very high rooms."

"That's right, that's right, there's not so much air to heat up now so the heat doesn't affect the liquid so much as well and reduces the Angel's Share as well."

"Yeah, see, okay and with the thick stone walls the airflow do you still get enough airflow but yet a reduced Angel Share too."

"Yeah so we've got pockets of ventilation, uh, throughout the whole warehouse so that helps the airflow to control it but then the heat is, is dissipated and held as a constant inside yeah."

"So cool in summer and yet not too cold in Winter."

"Yeah, yeah that's it, yeah nice and easy."

"Only a small proportion of casks in Scotland are kept in dunnage warehouses, simply they don't hold enough whisky, so whisky is also stored in two other types of storage facility, there's palletisation and there's also racking. Palletisation as you can see here, has all the casts stacked very very high and the younger whiskies which in the way we're not going to be testing so often tend to be at the back and the older ones towards the front, with racking one can get at the casks more easily so that taking samples is more easy and therefore the older casks tend to be kept on racking."

"We're nearing the end of the journey, we're in Edinburgh at Young spirits who are bottlers and they also do re-gauging. I'm going to meet a guy called Chris Murdoch who's going to tell us all about those two things."

"Hey Chris, yeah good to see you thank you very much."

"Here we have the re-gauging process, we start with a barrel or Cask being rolled up into position and it will be opened up by one of the the blenders, we put in the pipes connected to the pump and filter the whisky into IBCs, so we can do this in two directions, it can go into the IBC when we want to check for the re-gauging process which will be ultimately now checking ABVs and everything from clarity to colour so things like this can be changed and checked at this stage or going back in to the barrel to continue to age, having done these tests and the next step from here having ported into the IBC is to move it through to the bottling over the production staff to start bottling and we have turntables here that lead onto the conveyor belts, all the bottles are air washed to decontaminate them and then they are loaded onto the lines where they'll head up, and we've got the four-head filler, our big hydraulic system, everything's powered by air here so we fill the the bottles here and they're put back on the line where they are capped and either a tin capsule put on them which is rolled on by a machine or they are heat sealed, so we put a plastic seal on them and they go through a heat tunnel, they go past the lot coder which will put the dates and the production line on so that we can sort of accountability wise, we can trace the bottles and then they either pass through this big labelling machine or are hand labelled by the girls who will apply front labels, back labels, any special neck labels, and then ultimately any Duty stamps that are required. The bottles are packed up and either into tubes, gift boxes or just palletized and shipped out based on the country and ultimately client."

"So I've come back to my favourite Whisky Bar at the Dowans Hotel with Jess Simmons from Cask Trade who's head of operations. I just wanted to recap on what I'd done over the last week in telling the story of a cask starting with distillation Speyside Distillery through to the cooperage where you see all the barrels being made and then filling and then maturation and all the different types of maturation that there are into bottling and then finally into drinking, which we might get around to in a bit, and then of course where does a cask end up eventually, maybe in your garden, but I wanted to know from you Jess, what was your favourite bit, which bit excites you the most.

Probably the maturation stage I think once you've gone through all of the distillation and you've chosen your cask it's actually what happens over the years of maturation in those warehouses and I think it was exciting to see the different types of warehousing and then obviously at the end the end product the end product.

Before we get to that if you could choose a particular type of wood you like your whisky matured in is there a particular type of wood.

I'm a fan of Sherry casks so I do like the different variations of Sherry but I also do like to have something maybe a bit different so maybe a rum cast finish ever so often.

Okay so finishing is a thing and it's good for the whisky.

Yes definitely.

Okay, let's give it a go, cheers.

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