Islay - as good as ever!
So last week was Islay time and it did not fail to dissapoint as ever. A few days on Islay seem like a week and it was great to spend time in and around the distillery. We were there with our Swiss distributor and I think Islay showed them a special couple of days.
We had many highlights but I think the early morning tour at the distillery with Eddie was very special. We spent some time in the maltbarns learning about the art of floor maltings and the reasons we still do it at Bowmore. It is an art to ensure the barley germinates evenly over a 5 - 7 day period and at which point that process is stopped and the malted barley is transferred to kiln.
Eddie explains the germination process in the maltbarn and below, Ginger Willie and Eddie turn the barley, the process needed to be done every 4 hours to ensure even germination
In the kiln, Eddie explains that the Bowmore spirit is balanced due to the fact that we peat our malted barley for 15 hours giving the phenol level of between 20 -25ppm in the malted barley. The kilning process goes on for a total for 60 hours and we use hot air for the remaining 45 hours. It is this level of peating that differentiates Bowmore from all of the other Islay malts.
In the kiln....clearly empty!
We then moved on to the mashing process via the grinder where we grind down the malted barley into grist. We then combine the 8 tonnes of grist with hot water in the mashtun to turn the starches in the grist into sugar and we collect the 40,000 Litres of sugarly smoky liquid called Wort.
At Bowmore we have 6 Oregon Pine washbacks for fermentation. These are around 10m high and each holds the 40,000L of wort created in the mashtun.
Above each of the washbacks are the names of the previous owners of Bowmore since it was founded in 1779.
With the wort in the washbacks, all that is now needed is yeast which is added and the process of fermentation begins, turning the sugars in the Wort in to alcohol. This is a 48 hour process and a wash (cloudy yeasty beer) is created at 8% ABV.
Bowmore has four stills, 2 wash stills and 2 spirit stills through which the 40,000L of wash is distilled twice to create our new make spirit.
40,000L of wash split between Wash Still 1 & 2
Our new make spirit is created by collecting the heart of the second distillation from the spirit stills between 74 and 61% ABV (5,000L) averaging out at 68.5% ABV and it is this that we then fill into our casks and leave them to rest you know where....
The No.1 Vaults is the oldest maturation warehouse in Scotland and we were treated to a fantastic opportunity to sample some of the whisky maturing in this amazing place. Saltiness in the air, the damp atmosphere adds to the ambience of one of the most magical places to mature Whisky.
It was a great couple of hours and really shows how at Bowmore it is the little difference that allows us to produce some of the finest whiskies in the marketplace!