INTRODUCTION • 3
Contents 04 Society news
The latest updates on Society life from all over the world
07 Jim Murray
The last missive from our world-renowned whisky commentator
08 The Knowledge
Digging deeper into the whisky world. This issue, we focus on copper
23 A to Z guide to the Society
Pick your letters and learn more about the Society
32 Aide Mémoire
A round-up of Society events around the UK and our international branches
8 The quest for whisky enlightenment continues THE INSIDE
THAT COUNTS IT’S WHAT’S ON
This issue, we lift the lid on a still and look at copper’s role in whisky-making WORDS: GARY ATKINSON
When the early distillers began to replace glass and ceramic stills with copper versions (mainly because copper is much easier to bash into shape), it proved to be serendipitous as, along with water, barley, yeast and wood, copper plays a signifi cant role in shaping the fl avour of whisky
Copper’s role Copper acts as a purifi er, suppressing the compounds responsible for sulphury and meaty aromas, thus producing a lighter spirit. One such compound is dimethyl trisulphide, which smells like rotting vegetables – even very small amounts can have a big infl uence on the spirit. Professor Paul Hughes,
Director of the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University, explained: “When the liquid comes in contact with the copper in the still and condenser, the copper combines with some of the sulphurous compounds, neutralising their fl avour and aroma, to create an extremely insoluble material. “These solids are left behind in the stills and waste by-products. However, low levels of copper do make it into the fi nal spirit.”
Condenser choice is crucial It is in the wash still’s
THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY
condenser where a lot of the copper and sulphur reaction takes place – this is where the spirit vapour is condensed into liquid form. The choice of condenser has an impact on the amount of sulphur in the fi nal product. A worm tub comprises a coil of copper tubing, through which the vapour from the still passes, immersed in a tub of cold water. A more modern version is the shell and tube condenser, made completely from copper, where cold water fl ows through a number of copper tubes, all housed within a larger tube where the vapour fl ows. Because there is a greater surface area of copper within the shell and tube condenser, more sulphur is typically taken out of the spirit than compared with a worm tub.
Sacrificing the metal With the wash being slightly acidic, this accelerates the rates of copper reactions with sulphur compounds. But a greater reaction also means greater erosion of the copper. Richard Forsyth of still
makers Forsyths said: “In the two-part distillation process for whisky, it is in the fi rst part – in the wash still – that the sulphur in the vapour is particularly harsh on the condenser, the lyne arm and the swan neck, which all need to be
replaced within 8-10 years. “In the second part – in the spirit still – the opposite is true, it is the pot that needs replaced after that period. The entire still and condenser apparatus will need completely replaced typically every 25 to 30 years.” Richard continued:
“Typically, a pot still and condenser will weigh between four and fi ve tonnes. In a pot’s lifetime, it will lose about half of its weight due to erosion.”
In with the new Every year, distilleries check the thickness of the copper in their stills and condensers. Tapping a hammer against the metal and listening to the noise was the traditional way of assessing thickness, but today, ultrasound technology is used. When a replacement is needed, it will be forged from a wide range of sources. Richard explained: “About
70 per cent of the copper to make our stills and condensers comes from recycled copper, such as from old pipes, electrical wires and even old stills. The remaining 30 per cent comes from ore, mined from places in South America, such as Chile and Mexico, and also South Africa.”
From the glass to the body Copper is actually essential for human health; it helps produce red and white blood cells and triggers
the release of iron to form haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body. The recommended daily intake is 1.2 milligrams a day for adults. A dram of whisky, however,
typically contains just a miniscule 25 micrograms, according to Professor Hughes. He added: “If you were to try and get your daily copper allowance from whisky alone, then you will have greater problems than a copper defi ciency!” A varied and healthy diet, particularly of copper- rich foods such as shellfi sh and nuts, will give you all the copper you need.
Is there an alternative? If whisky makers were feeling particularly fl ush, there is another metal that could take the place of copper. Professor Hughes explained:
“Technically, you could use gold stills for whisky distilling. It has a lot of the same properties as copper. For example, it could take out sulphur compounds, but perhaps not at the same level of copper, which is a more reactive metal generally. It is also an excellent conductor of heat, and as the most malleable metal, it can be easily shaped. The cost, however, would obviously be an issue!”
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE WILKINSON
COPPER TOPS ~ 1 Copper
has antibacterial properties. In one study from the Centre for Applied Microbiology & Research, it took a strain of E. coli bacteria 34 days to die on steel, but just four hours to expire on copper.
2 Typically, the thickness of a still’s base is six millimetres at the base and up to the shoulder. From the shoulder upwards, the thickness is four millimetres.
3 Copper is number 29 in the periodic table and is represented by the symbol Cu.
THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY APRIL 2012 ~ 10 My whisky world
WORDS: ROBIN LAING
Gunter Sommer runs the Smallest Whisky Bar On Earth (SWBOE) in Santa Maria, a village in a remote corner of Switzerland, close to the Italian border. Gunter also sells Swiss whisky under his own SWBOE label and recently launched some Swiss bottlings that reveal an innovative, and perhaps controversial, approach to maturation
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW YOU, TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF I am originally from Germany. After school I trained as a dental technician. Four years later, I started my own business and opened my fi rst health club. I ran various health clubs until
2003 when I damaged my right hand in a motorbike accident and had to change my work.
HOW DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER A PASSION FOR WHISKY? The passion came to me when I moved to Switzerland in 2003. After the accident, I had to
recover for nearly two years. Around the same time, I became a single parent and wanted to make a good life for my four- year old daughter. A friend gave me the opportunity to move to Switzerland and it seemed like a much-needed new start. For the fi rst time in my life, I had the time to think about whisky, instead of just drinking it!
HOW SMALL IS THE SWBOE EXACTLY? The bar is 8.53m² – it can hold 20 people comfortably, but the most we have ever had in there was 32 people.
HOW MANY WHISKIES DO YOU STOCK IN THE BAR? We stock about 225 diff erent whiskies. The oldest is 50 years
old and, among the more interesting bottles, are some from the Queen Elizabeth 2 [QE2] ship, which we got before it was sold to an investment company in Dubai.
WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR WHISKIES IN THE BAR? Our own Secret Inspiration [a SWBOE single malt whisky from Switzerland], Bruichladdich’s Octomore, Aberlour’s A’bunadh, Bowmore’s 17 year old and The Macallan 1851 Inspiration all go down well when we recommend them to customers.
AND YOU RUN A WHISKY MUSEUM? The whisky museum, which is underneath the bar, is a result of all the beautiful items I have collected over the years on my travels in Scotland. Diff erent things to see include a malt shovel from 1881, which was donated by Jim McEwan [from Bruichladdich] and dipsticks from Mortlach and Port Ellen. I also have a Thorne’s
whisky bottle from 1911 (distilled around 1890) and various other Thorne’s items collected from all over the world. I am looking into the possibility of arranging the comeback of Thorne’s whisky, which went out of business in 1921
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE WILKINSON 11 10
WHEN IT COMES TO RELEASING YOUR OWN WHISKY, WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH? My new products, which are produced at Karl Locher’s Appenzeller distillery, are the result of many years of experiments and tests. I noticed that the price of
whisky is mostly determined by its age, but high price and high quality is not always the same thing. Sure, there are very nice old whiskies, but you also fi nd very good young whiskies. My new products, in particular ‘Extended Surface Maturation’ and ‘Perpetual Maturing Whisky’, are an attempt to get more taste and quality in shorter time, while hopefully respecting the traditions of whisky making.
YOUR SAY HAVE
What do you think of Gunter’s ideas on new ways to approach maturation? Post your thoughts on the Unfi ltered Facebook page at www.Facebook. com/unfi lteredmagazine
THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY
WHAT MADE YOU THINK UP THE IDEA OF ‘EXTENDED SURFACE MATURATION’? We know that a small cask matures faster in the same conditions than a large cask because of the relation between alcohol and wood surface contact. So I developed casks with up to ten times more surface. This involved carrying out various experiments with casks, especially working on the internal surfaces of these casks to increase the wood to spirit contact. This way, we get maximum benefi t from the residual fl avours of the cask and from the oak itself, but in a shorter time. I understand this is
controversial for some people, but I believe that tradition and innovation have always gone together in whisky making. This idea raises the quality for younger whiskies, allows stock to leave warehouses faster, making more space for new casks, less angels’ share and quicker return on investment.
HOW DOES PERPETUAL MATURING WHISKY WORK? Perpetual maturing is a form of continual maturation, even in the bottle. A piece of stave from the
cask is attached to the cork and goes into the bottle. Often people buy a bottle and put it in their cabinet and sometimes years later they fi nd it again – but still in the same condition. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a range of bottles that have actually changed in that time? For example, a young
three-year-old whisky, which has been forgotten for 12 years in your cabinet, could now have been matured for 15 years – why not? Compare the taste with a brand new version of the original whisky and you will see the diff erence. Was it stored in a warm living room or in your cold, dark cellar? All will have a diff erent infl uence on your whisky. Now the whisky drinker or collector can have some control over maturation. It is nice to see how the colour and fl avour is changing; normally you don’t get this chance because you can’t look into a cask during maturation.
WHAT OTHER IDEAS DO YOU HAVE UP YOUR SLEEVE? I have an idea to convert the Clock Tower in Duff town into a whisky bar. Duff town is the malt whisky capital of the world and to convert the Clock Tower into an iconic whisky bar is a dream of mine. But a project like this is really complicated and diffi cult, so I can’t say much more about it at the moment...
THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY
Read our intriguing interview with Gunter Sommer
We have had great fun tracking down old stories and unearthing nuggets of information for this issue’s special ‘A to Z’ guide to the Society (p23). I’m sure it will bring back some fond memories for some and provide an interesting insight for members that have joined us in recent years. If there are any alternatives that
you would like to suggest, then please post them on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/unfi
lteredmagazine Elsewhere in this issue, you will encounter more wonderfully colourful
12 13 12 being green It’s not easy
Going green is all the rage these days, but how is the whisky world dealing with reducing its carbon footprint?
WORDS: TIM POWER O
n the face of it, the ‘green’ credentials of the whisky industry appear to be very good: from the purity of using local and natural raw materials to
recycling by-products. And in recent years, there has been a wave of green projects appearing in the media – from large-scale projects such as Diageo’s £65 million combined heat and power plant at Roseisle to headline-grabbing schemes such as the Bruichladdich car that runs on electricity created by using the waste products from the distilling process. Being seen to be green is a very fashionable
trend across all industries. But do these green schemes in the whisky world actually reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, and do they make commercial sense? Or is there a sense that some of them are more about being seen to tick the green box and perhaps benefi t from some positive publicity in the process? The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) says that its members have a strong history in sustainability. Julie Hesketh-Laird, Director of Operational & Technical Aff airs, said: “The industry is rooted in sustainability, but although there was a feeling that we were already a very green industry, we thought collectively we could do more to build on this reputation. That’s why the industry came together to develop an industry environmental strategy in 2009, which is very much aligned to the
Scottish Government’s CO2 reduction targets and the expectations of consumers and green groups.” The SWA undertook a ‘life-cycle analysis’ of
THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY
Scotch whisky, from the environmental impact of growing cereals, including factors such as fertiliser input, to the emissions created by transporting whisky to the markets around the world. This made interesting reading, as Julie
explained: “It established that 39 per cent of the industry’s impact on the environment came from production of whisky itself, while more than 50 per cent came from the supply chain [the network of companies involved in getting the product from supplier to customer] and the remaining 11 per cent from distribution. “That’s why, as an industry, we’ve tried to tackle the production aspects fi rst, as these are the areas we have most control over: energy, water and what we procure in terms of cereals.”
good example of the Scottish whisky industry’s long heritage in sustainability is The Combination
of Rothes Distillers Ltd (CoRD), which was established in 1904 to recycle the pot ale produced by the distilleries in the Rothes area. This later expanded into processing pot ale and draff into animal feed and today the organisation represents most of the major distilleries in Speyside. CoRD, through its joint venture Helius-CoRDe
CONTINUED OVERLEAF THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY
A good example of the Scottish whisky
industry’s long heritage in sustainability is The Combination of Rothes Distillers Ltd (CoRD)
Our panellists look at what the whisky industry is doing to be more green
THE OFFICERS’ MESS WITH THE MARINES P 18
Create the trip of a lifetime through the new SMWS partnership with luxury travel specialists Dream Escape
CREATE YOUR BESPOKE ITINERARY
Dream Escape offer an endless variety of choice when it comes to arranging tailor- made trips, activities and accommodation. There are currently four sample itineraries for SMWS members to view on the Dream Escape website – these range in duration from two days up to 11 days, and take in locations across Scotland, from Edinburgh, Islay and Mull, to Skye, Speyside and Fort William.
A typical itinerary could commence in Edinburgh with a stylish stay in the 5-star
Missoni Hotel, followed the next day by a private tour of the Glenkinchie distillery in the morning and a spot of fine dining and whisky for lunch at the Society’s elegant 28 Queen Street Members’ Rooms in Edinburgh. A scenic drive north would
DID YOU KNOW?
Dream Escape is one of only a handful of travel companies in the world to be appointed as a ‘Virgin Galactic Space Agent’ – one of around only 100 agents worldwide qualified to sell trips to Space.
then take you to Scotland’s most famous stretch of water – Loch Ness. What better way to experience it than with a Society whisky tasting on board a private boat? The evening could end with dinner and a restful night at the 5-star Rocpool Reserve, an award-winning boutique hotel in Inverness. And of course you can expect Society twists and touches throughout your trip – from SMWS whisky chocolates after dinner and Society-cured salmon for breakfast, to surprise Society gifts.
16 SMWS/DREAM ESCAPE TOURS There
may well be no fi ner place for a contemplative dram than this spot in the grounds of Aldourie Castle.
With the fairytale turrets and towers of this 17-century castle in the background, and the calming waters of the mysterious Loch Ness just beyond, this is a truly impressive peaceful and private place. Aldourie Castle off ers discreet and luxurious accommodation of
the very highest standard – and it is just one example of the type of exclusive location that will feature in the Society’s trips thanks to its new partnership with luxury travel experts Dream Escape. The Edinburgh-based company specialise in creating tailor-made
travel experiences and they can help Society members create their own exceptional whisky tours, all with a trademark SMWS twist. There are many whisky tours around Scotland available, but the
Society has teamed up with Dream Escape to provide trips for people who want a truly extraordinary experience of Scotland and its whisky. Dream Escape possess an unrivalled little black book of contacts
around Scotland who can organise insider access to hidden experiences and open the doors to a range of amazing accommodation that is usually only available to royalty and rock stars; from castles like Aldourie to suites in 5-star hotels and boutique hidden hideaways. Through our partnership with Dream Escape, Society members will receive additional special privileges, which could include complimentary hotel upgrades, special SMWS whisky gifts and luxury activities. There are a range of Dream Escape/SMWS trips available
(see box, top right); each one will include a series of exciting new adventures every day and each trip can be tailor-made for parties of all sizes.
PHOTOGRAPHY: PETER SANDGROUND
HOW TO ARRANGE YOUR OWN DREAM ESCAPE… CONTACT DREAM ESCAPE ON +44 (0)845 260 1085 OR EMAIL: ENQUIRIES@DREAMESCAPE.CO.UK
VIEW THE SAMPLE ITINERARIES AND DETAILS AT WWW.DREAMESCAPE.CO.UK
Find out more about the Society’s partnership with luxury travel
specialists Dream Escape
Investigating the role copper plays in whisky- making
34 The last drop
This issue, we hear from the Society’s husband-and-wife team in Switzerland
WORDS: WARREN POLE THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY
the bottle They’ve got
… and then some. The Royal Marines of 45 Commando have a mightily impressive malt collection, as Unfiltered discovered during a very special tasting. Attention please!
itched between Aberdeen and Dundee on Scotland’s north- eastern coastline, the town of Arbroath is home to the
fabled Arbroath Smokie, the majestic preserved ruins of a fi ne 12th-century abbey, and the 600 Royal Marines of 45 Commando, who have called the RM Condor base just outside the town ‘home’ for more than 40 years. Quite what all this is doing within the
pages of Unfi ltered immediately becomes clear as soon as we step into the plush confi nes of the offi cers’ mess at RM Condor – the bar here is home to a vast malt whisky collection (at the last count, there were about 200 bottles in all).
“45 Commando initially moved here to form part of NATO’s Atlantic fl ank in 1970 during the Cold War,” explains Lieutenant Tom Hudson, “and being in Scotland, whisky very naturally became part of the culture here.” It was a culture that was willingly embraced, and soon whisky had woven itself into the fabric of the unit’s social life. “If there is any mess function,
whisky will feature one way or another. Invariably, it will be people having a dram and enjoying it, but when people leave the unit there is also a custom that they have to leave a bottle to add to the collection,” Hudson tells me. Visitors often donate to this good
cause too, as Unfi ltered is doing on this occasion with a bottle of Cask No. 35.29, the aptly named ‘Explosive impact with after-tremors’. And, with so much whisky to be looked after, 45 Commando even has its own ‘whisky offi cer’ [who can’t be named here as he is in a special forces unit] to manage and maintain whisky stocks and standards. He’s got his work cut out though
because, with so many guys here refi ning their whisky palates, the marines of 45 Commando are breeding a discerning bunch of drinkers. “We have plenty of blokes coming
characters from the whisky world (have a look at pages 10 and 18), while we have also been fascinated by what we’ve learned about the whisky industry’s green credentials (p12) and the role of copper in the whisky-making process (p8). On p32, you will see we’ve made some
A tough tasting with the Royal Marines from 45 Commando in Arbroath
Watch the video of our day with the Marines on the Facebook page at Facebook.com/
changes to the regular Outturn section by asking three members for their views on a crop of early preview bottlings. I hope that you fi nd this a useful and interesting development. Enjoy the issue.
PHOTOGRAPHY: PETER SANDGROUND THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY
Kai Ivalo, editor unfi firstname.lastname@example.org
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