10 November 2016

Islay Trip: day three: Bruichladdich tour (part 1)

The visit to Bruichladdich would be three fold. First a tour at 11, then a warehouse tasting at 12 and later the purchase of one of the Valinch bottles.

Our Tickets
We payed the tickets and the tour began. First up was the barley mill. The tour guide explained how we could take pictures of everything but any photos of her would mean an added £5,- . She was naturally kidding! But we got the message.

Mill and transport

The background of Bruichladdich was given. How it was set up by the Harvey brothers back in 1881. How the slope of the hill was used in order to use the natural flow of water through the buildings. The mill for the barley is the original one (minus spare parts and repairs). The steam engine that powered the belt was replaced by an electric motor, but other than that the whole place is original. I'm sure some of the wooden parts have been replace over the years but all in all it looks all very 1881-ish. Very cool indeed.



wooden parts

Victorian looking driver belt
There is a basked next to the mills to show the different stages of milling from barley to flour. The basked with flour was empty. It is emptied out by a lady who uses the Octomore barley for her bread! Would love to buy a loaf of that!!

Anyway, the flour/grist is moved to a container where it is contained until the container is emptied in the mash tun. I tried making another "contained" reference here by but I can't. Sorry.

Moving to the mash tun we learn that the cast iron mash tun is still in use even though modern regulations prescribe a stainless steal one. The mash tun predates the regulation. Hell it predates the invention of stainless steel! I wanted to ask of the rathe brown rusty looking cask iron is not a Health risk, but i didn't. It looked beyond further oxidation so I'm sure it's inert.

The blender was damaged during a particularly firm mash. It was out of commission for a lengthy time. The parts that are broken were replaced. This is where the legislation kicks in because the new parts do look rather stainless steel like. As an engineer I wanted to ask why the new parts were a round turned part and not milled in an square shape like the old ones. The fluid dynamics around a round part would be rather different to a square section. Wouldn't it adjust the blending function? I didn't ask. I'm sure it has something to do with available machines on Islay or just plain cost driven. I was pretty sure the tour guide would not know. Plus the answer is not important.

Since the mash tun is open the efficiency of the process is less. Also the temperatures used during mashing differ from the ones I noted at Ardbeg. Seems logical. A different set of conditions ask for a different set of process parameters. Mashing is done using two "waters". Ones the mashing is done the wort is move to a free clean wash back. A 3th and 4th water are added and kept as the 1st and 2nd water of the next mash. Next we moved to the next room.

Wash-back 2
The wash-back room where all the fermenting takes place.

Friend at the wash-backs

There are six wash backs at Bruichladdich. All Douglas Fir wood. All pretty tall. I made a photo down to get the height, but in a photo you just loose the sense of depth. Our tour guide lifted some of the ends to see which tank was a what stage. The ones we looked in were producing lots of CO2 and thus alcohols. The fluids were happily bubbling away so to speak.

looking down the side of a wash-back
The lads at Bruichladdich don't work during the weekend so the tour guide explained that the time spend in a wash-back, for some of the production, is increased by 48 hours depending on when it's put in the wash-back. That doesn't sound rather consistent but there you have it. (If i misunderstood any of this I'm sure someone will correct me)

We could smell the content. Our tour guide did not put her face in the hole like most of us did. To much CO2 she explained. So I scooped the smell with my arms. Got some frowns from the other people in the tour, but they started copying my approach and learned why I did so. The theory I got from my tour at Ardbeg the day before. Handy stuff.

I cannot remember if I had the same reaction to the beer like smell that I got at Ardbeg. I'm sure it had. I'm sure it had fruity malty cereal banana beer-like notes. I just can't remember as I am writing this weeks later (November 10th). Now I need to redo the tour and make notes! Darn!!

We were asked if anyone would have a taste. Are you kidding!? Bottle the stuff and sell it!! It's amazing tasting brew!! After the tour-guide put it down I snuck over and helped myself to another drink. Savouring the taste and smell as much as I could. Closing my eyes to lock out unneeded sensory input. Shame I can't remember! Me dork!

Looking at the still room we could see a familiar face. It was the Swedish tour guide Mia and her group. We waved.

On to the still room. There is a purpose build platform you can stand in to watch the room. Its safe during operation hours to stand there instead of walking between the operation. Clever stuff. Bruichladdich has 5 working stills. Two wash stills, two spirit stills and a Gin still called ugly Betty.

The Gin made at Bruichladdich is called "the botanist". All herbs that go into the Gin are on the wall on a big placard. We are told that when Jim McEwan made this Gin he was told that the maximum of herbs would should needs to be 5 maximum. So he put in 22. I have never took the time to understand Gin making but I will.

The process of whisky making was explained. How multiple distillations are sorted by different temperatures, cuts etc. I choose not to go into that to deeply since it's all very well documented on this Bruichladdich webpage https://www.bruichladdich.com/article/how-bruichladdich-islay-single-malt-scotch-whisky-made

reflection of me in the wash-still
We were free to take any photos we wanted of anything, so I did. I took some panoramas and detail photos. It gives a nice overview of the whole setup.

Selfie at the spirit safe. 
Round about this time a group of people walked in. I spotted Ailsa, the kind lady who had given me the laddiemp4 bottle as consolation for not being able to be at the live tasting of laddiemp4 that past Thursday. She was touring with guests and her family.

Making a cut
After pretending to make a cut and making selfies at the stills I thought i recognised Allan Logan, former mashman and now distillery manager, so I addressed him as such. I was close. It turned out the be mashman Graham Hayes. I knew that! Just tad dyslectic with names and faces.

Meeting a maker
He said he and Ailsa had recognised me as being iLaddie. Was I indeed? Yes I was/am! Great to meet one of the makers. Selfie time! We had a short but excellent talk. We shook hands and were both on our ways. We were off to the the laddie shop to start the 12:00 o'clock warehouse tasting!

That's for the next blog!

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