Whisky from the past (Part 4)
28.05.20 by Tim Foster – Sales Manager, Lindores Abbey Distillery
Basically, maturation wasn’t really a thing, or at least not a deliberate one. In fact it wasn’t even a legal requirement until 1915, when the Immature Spirits Act was created and stated that Whisky must be warehoused for 3 years. Merchants would buy Whisky made to order and provide their own containers to transport their product. The time between production and consumption was short.
After a time, more prosperous merchants began to order and store larger volumes of Whisky. They began to notice that the Whisky held in storage was smoother. Now, we’re not talking 10, 20, 50 years here. More like 5-10 months. As the merchants began to twig on to the benefits of maturation the solera* system started to be used by some entrepreneurial traders, which no doubt began to introduce some sort of consistency to Whisky.
Cask choice would probably have been determined by the products that the merchant was involved in the trade of, for example Sherry, Wine, Port or Beer. Most likely the cask would have been used multiple times and in effect was really nothing more than a means of transporting spirit from A – B. The ability for the cask to influence flavour or quality was not of concern.
When it comes to bottling finished product, there weren’t any rules concerning additives, which is where things get pretty interesting. Citing my friend Yash Bashmere’s research again, he describes a method for the ‘clarification of whisky before bottling. As per the receipt one should take a half pint of clear Lemon juice and half pint of orange juice in some water. And a pint of whisky is added to this. This mixture is then added in a barrel of whisky which after 2 to 3 weeks will be ready for bottling’ ((Recipes for making whisky (1613-1927)). And there was me thinking that ‘Barrel Aged Cocktails’ were a modern construct, sounds to me it’s been common practice for a while. The irony now is that the market is shifting towards ‘non chill filtered’ Whisky, a process that was introduced to stop the effects of ‘chill hazing’ or in other words ‘clarification’.
As we learn more about the world around us and how we can exert influence on aspects of the Whisky making process, there has been a shift towards more and more standardisation. This is no bad thing, our customers expect to get the same bottle of Glen McGlen today that they did two, five and ten years ago.
Being able to exert more control, does though mean that we are much better able to make consistently high quality spirit. This is a mantra that is sewn deep into Lindores Abbey Distillery. Our distillery team have worked tirelessly to fine tune every aspect of our production process, from our locally sourced barley, long fermentations in traditional wooden washback’s, gentle twin spirit still distillation and casks sourced directly from Kentucky and Jerez. At each stage we’re using centuries of expertise, handed down through time to ensure that everything we do creates quality and value in every single bottle. Although we have nothing to compare with (John Cor left us naught but a written reference), we’d like to believe that our spirit would be very highly regarded by those who came before us.
*Solera – a somewhat complex fractional maturation and blending system used by all Sherry and some Whisky producers
Extra Special thanks go to:
Mike Aikman – Mothership (visit their website and Bramble, Lucky Liquor & Last Word Saloon to sample some incredible cocktails when they open again – the Last Word has an amazing Whisky selection and do a breakeven bottle). Mothership also independently bottle Whisky
Iain McPherson – Panda & Sons/Hoot the Redeemer & Nauticus – Some of the finest libations available on the planet. Nauticus have a very fine selection of Single malt and have done some collaboration bottlings with Royal Mile Whiskies and The Thompson Brothers (maybe more, I don’t know).
Francisco Rossa – The Oxford Artisan Distillery & current van life vagabond
Cask Ownership at Lindores Abbey Distillery
The distillery is of course currently closed but you can still chat to Elliot, our Cask Custodian about our cask ownership scheme and what is involved. We still have a lot of exciting projects going on with different types of casks coming through – but they are all very limited so get in touch if you would like to explore different opportunities within the whisky world. You can contact Elliot on firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more at https://lindoresabbeydistillery.com/welcome-lindores-abbey-distillery/cask-ownership/