Ep 40 - Bruichladdich's Production Manager Allan Logan
DISTILLERY HISTORY // A stranger knocks at the door of a mothballed distillery and history happens.
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NOTE: Octomore has been delayed in the US. I'm on the launch team, so follow Whiskey Lore on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates!
If you're a fan of Port Charlotte, Bruichladdich, and Octomore, have I got a conversation for you.
My guest is Bruichladdich's production manager Allan Logan, and Allan has seen the entire revival of the Bruichladdich distillery, from its mothballed days in 2001 to it great succcess today as a global phenomena. Any one who has seen the Water of Life film or the Scotch The Golden Dram documentary is familiar with Jim McEwan, the long time master distiller.
Well, there is so much of the story that couldn't be told in those two films, so we're going to dive into the history of the distillery, talk about the Victorian era equipment they use, and learn a bit about the culture surrounding whisky from the island of Islay.
And if you don't know it already, we will introduce you to the World's Peatiest Whisky called Octomore. Released each October with a new set of editions, I'll do a tasting with samples provided by the distillery, we'll help you better understand what phenols and PPM mean when discussing peaty whiskies, and find out why the whisky is so smoky.
I've had the great pleasure of visiting the distillery and doing two tours there, the warehouse tour, where I got to taste Octomore straight from the cask, and the standard tour, which gives you a great opportunity to pick whatever style you want from Bruichladdich's selection of peated and unpeated whiskies as well as their very popular Botinist Gin. And one of my favorite parts of the distillery tour was hearing the story of how Mark Rainer discovered the distillery, and the surprise reception he received when he inquired about looking around it.
So much to talk about:
- Allan's family history in Islay distilling
- Knowing Jim McEwan
- The whisky support network
- Which Islay distillery should you visit?
- Bruichladdich in the 1980s and 1990s
- Keeping up the Victorian equipment
- Being transparent and educational
- The fun story of how Bruichladdich came out of mothballs
- The invaluable help of Duncan McGillivray
- What to do with all of the mothballed spirits
- Rebarrelling whisky from lifeless casks
- Jim McEwan's creativity
- A pink whisky called Flirtation
- Using more than just sherry and bourbon casks
- The Introduction of Octomore "The Beast"
- The differences between Octomore .1, .2, .3, and .4
- Understanding PPM and Phenols
- The origins of Bruichladdich's peat
- Why Octomore's higher PPM doesn't always translate to more smoky
- Finding the smoke and the elegance
- Nosing and tasting the new release 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3
- Develping an interest in peated whisky
- Bere barley from Orkney
Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript is available on the tab above.
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Speaker 1 (00:00:14):
Welcome to whiskey lore, the interviews, I'm your host Drew Hannush the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lore's travel guide to experience in Kentucky bourbon. And if you're a fan of port Charlotte [inaudible] or Octa more than this conversation is for you because my guest is Bruichladdichs, production manager, Allan Logan, and Allan has actually seen the entire revival of Bruichladdich's distillery from the days when it was moth balled in 2001, all the way up until the great success that it has today as a global phenomena and anybody who has seen the water of life film or the scotch, the golden DRAM documentary is very familiar with Jim McEwen, who was their longtime master distiller. Well, there's a whole lot more to the story than just what was covered in those films. And so we're going to dive into some of the history of the distillery, talk about the Victorian era equipment that they use, and also learn a little bit about the culture surrounding whiskey from the isle of Eila.
And if you don't already know it, we're going to introduce you to the world's PDs whiskey, a whiskey called Octa more. It's released each October with a new set of additions. I'm going to do a little tasting of those during the episode, help you understand a little bit more about what phenols are in PPM. When people talk about PD whiskies and find out why the whiskey is so smoky. Now I've had the great pleasure of actually visiting the distillery. The two tours there, the warehouse tour got a chance to taste Okta more straight from the cask and a standard tour where got an opportunity to pick whatever style Bruichladdich that I wanted to taste from peated to unpeated and also got a chance to taste their very popular botanist gin. And one of my favorite parts of the tour is when the tour guide starts telling you the story about the chance meeting of mark Rainier, when he came to be interested in buying the distillery and he stopped by the distillery for a little visit, he had quite the surprise reception. So I'm going to go ahead and let Alan tell that story as well. Lots to talk about let's jump right in. It's time to welcome Alan Logan production manager of Bruichladdich distillery.
You've been with Brooke Lottie now for 20 years.
Yeah, that's correct. Yeah. I joined in January, 2001. So I'm just at the very beginning. Well, when Brooke lady was brought back to life under the hand of Jim McEwen, when he came and the coordinators of mark Renier and Simon cofilin when they came to highlight to, to buy propriety, I started with the team just then
Your family actually has been in the distilling industry for quite a while.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So well my introduction to the whiskey industry, my father worked in the front, the story. So he, he worked there for about 30 odd years, just over 30 years. And before that he worked our bank story and when I was growing up, we lived at the frog distillery. So I was very familiar with the whiskey making process of growing up. And I, I was always growing up. I could I was very clear that I wanted to get into the whiskey industry, but it was quite challenging. Somebody young with no experience, it was very difficult to get into the whiskey industry because at that time there wasn't many opportunities to get a star. And if you did, they were looking for somebody who had more experience, more more knowledge in terms of the process, but also in terms of maturity to be reliable and dependable for the whiskey making process.
So it was quite a challenge and, and that's, I was very fortunate when providing reopened in 2001, because Jim McHugh and I knew Jim when I was growing up, Jim coincidentally was my soccer coach. So he said he was the culture, the football team. And he obviously managed for more at that time. And then when Brookline reopened, he left promoted salary to comfortable hiring. So it was all good fortune. I already knew him. I was looking for a star and he was keen to pass in on his knowledge to the next generation. So before he retired, so like the good fortune of obviously getting started and working 15 years with Jim. So yeah. So yeah, my, my father worked to Laforge. My grandfather also worked for the Freud, my, all my uncles worked in these distilleries between our bag, like of alum, but more so yeah, so it's pretty much in the family blood. My brother works in Bowmore distillery, so yeah, there's a bit of friendly rivalry between family just in terms of all the distilleries and who works, where, and who makes the best whiskey, but yeah, so, so all in good nature.
So it's a, it's fun looking at your window there cause I see the
Yeah, yeah, you could, I've got a nice real time battle period. You can see the seat. That's literally how close we are.
So are the distilleries they're competitive with each other or is it kind of like a friendly rivalry,
Fairly friendly on the island? Yeah, I mean, to be honest and the industry as a whole, you know, right. Not just even an island, like in Scotland, everybody, everybody's very supportive of one another. And I think we have huge respect and admiration for each other, all the other distilleries do. Every, you know, there's not such a thing as a bad whiskey, everybody's making great whiskey and all unique in their own way. I think locally, he don't either. I think because we're a small island, the population of oil is only 3000 people. So we tend to know one another, if not related to you nor them, or you've been to school with them, or, you know, you they're connected through your family friend or such thing. So it's it's fairly supportive. We're all very supportive of each other down to the fact that, you know, like we all do make the same process.
So like if, if we have a piece of machinery break down and we can fall on another distillery and likewise they can call us and we can help each other out or, you know, even if it's bought a yeast or barrels or, you know, bunks the casks, you know, we tend to share help each other and take their need. So it's like one big family, but you know, we all do different things and, you know, we often find like you, you mentioned you came to Iowa before. And I think one of the common things when we meet people who come to Iowa to make that pilgrimage, to come to Iowa and travel and visit the distilleries, we always asked, you know, what distilleries we would recommend to go to and the triggers. We recommend them all. If you've got time, we don't, we say, try and get right in the mall because they're all great. They've all got great stories and they all great whiskeys.
Yeah. So you there's nine, his port Ellen, come on yet.
So for talent, I think they've just restarted the building work. So I think it was they, they started the construction just before COVID, but before October started and then it got put on hold and then they've just recommended the work just that this month. I think so. Yeah. It's already started and I think the grain works for the new FARC in distillery on the other side of portrayal and it's just started as well. So, wow. Yeah. There's two distilleries getting built on the south side of the woman.
So if somebody is wanting to plan a trip to Ireland now and they want to experience all of it, pretty soon, they're going to need a week
[Inaudible]. Yeah. And if we can a bet. Yeah. I think, yeah. Cause there's, there's no name, there'll be certain B 11, if these do to these stories. And I think there's potentially on that too, in the planning stages of two more distilleries that are going to be planned. So yeah. You might need the two week, but yeah.
Yeah. So what was the 'cause cause when you were growing up Brooklyn, he was probably either I know it was owned by white Makani for a while. So it was, it was basically making whiskeys for blends, I guess. Yeah. So was it kind of just like the odd man out distillery that everybody knew it was there, but nobody really paid attention to it?
Yeah, I think in that year, between the eighties and nineties, when I was growing up on, I think the disciplines were quite different to what they are today. What I know, like I think it was in the 1990s, probably mid 1990s, but more with the first distillery to have a visitor center to actually welcome visitors. So up until then, the distilleries were more like factories where like there were big, big buildings, nobody really seen insight. Nobody really understood what the, where obviously I did, I had a, more of appreciation because I grew up in one, I grew up with the Freud, but at that time there was no visitors. There was, you know, it was, it was just basically a factory, you know, they're making whiskey. And I think it slowly started to change. I think after Memorial started, some of the other distilleries started to see the value in opening visitor centers and, and actually, you know, welcoming people in and, and showing them the process and educating them on the brands.
And it suddenly started to see the change. And I think reply to you is no exception. I think in that either in the, in the early 1990s it was just like all the other distilleries were just producing spirit. And a lot of it was into two tankers and then shut off to the mainland for, for felony into captain. They were often the central warehouses and on the mainland and the bottles were filmed for blend just as you said. So a lot of the whiskey was traded for for peninsula blend and a small, small percentage of the production would go into single mill. And that was quite common. So yeah, so I think I do remember the story when it was operating. And as I say, I don't think we thought for any definitely from any of the other distilleries, but certainly from what it was then to what it is today is completely different in terms of still the same location, but totally different business model altogether know.
Yeah. I, I sometimes get the impression, especially through your branding that, you know, this is kind of the hip new distillery. But it actually has a history that goes way back to 19th century. Yeah.
Yeah. We're quite, we've got quite contrast because the one thing that we you know, so when, when I, when we opened propriety in 2001, what we have is a Victorian distillery that had all this Victorian equipment, some of it dating back to the point that the story was originally built and you know, some of them area in 19 hundreds and because the previous owners hadn't really invested in propriety the way that some of the other distilleries had expanded over the time, you know, that they increased the production capacities and they made the process more efficient and more, more modern equipment. Probiotic is one of these assemblies. It didn't have that rejuvenation. So we actually found it as a USP when we opened this or referring that we were quite unique because we still had the open top mashed on the old roller mill the Bobby mill and you know, the wisdom wash backs and, you know, the, and there was no automation in our process.
And like we know that a lot of our competitors in the industry today have, you know, advance their process to bring in automation. So we had the guys to guys that worked with registered before that hadn't retired through the shop don't it came back to, they had, they had had the skill of very, the distorting ran. So they came back and they were the guys that were teaching people like myself to pass on that knowledge. But one thing that we tried to protect them today, we still protect it is that we don't have automation in the process. We still work on the fact that we're still using traditional methods, we're still using the traditional equipment and it's all made by hand and made by the scale is the knowledge. It's not, we're not relying on any automation to make the whisky and even more so we, we do everything in our power to protect the original equipment.
So there's a bit of a story that goes with that. The mash tun, which was, you know, the original mash tun it's over a hundred, over a hundred, four years old, seven, eight years ago, we had to do a repair. And because of the cast of the, the, the mashed on the shell of the mash tone is the cast iron. So we had did you do a repair? And we were advised by all the specialists that, you know, we should condemn the mash tun and have it replaced with a new stainless steel. It could be built in Germany. It could be here in like six weeks. And, you know, you, you know, every super-fast you know, like for, for repair, but having to make a decision, it was myself. I had to make a decision. Was I going to condemn a piece of equipment, had worked for 130 years and capable of doing another 130.
If you make a repair or you condemn it and replace it. And then that set history game over. So a challenge wasn't, but to be honest, it wasn't a difficult decision because we just have to go back to what our values, and actually we want to keep this traditional, so we need to make the repairs. So we had to convince the specialist that we had to make the repair dead cost us. We actually had to stop distilling for four months because it was such a complex repair. And it cost us a lot more than probably what it cost to buy a new Maston. But at the end of the day, we've, we've, we've restored the mash done into a workable condition that will go on and continue to work. So I think we are very committed to try and retain in that tradition, you know, looking at, and we quite often get challenged with like there's opportunity to advance and bring in something, a new technology that would we'd make the process more efficient or make it easier for the workers.
But we then come back to saying there, but we've managed for 140 years without it. So we can go, we can go, we can continue to do this because we're making whiskey, we're not changing the process. There's the process is still the same. So, yeah. Yeah. So I think that part would be enjoy. But yeah, just to finish that comment, I think on the, on the distilling side, we really respect tradition and we try and do everything to maintain that. I think on our packaging and our marketing, I think that we look at it very, in a different lens where we want to be more modern and, you know, challenging convention in terms of, you know, just the way that we market our product and do that. We rule, we don't really, I think in an S goes back 20 years, it's not just con cotton thinking.
It was 20 years ago when we revived the historian at the time, mark Rainier and Simon cofilin and Jim McCune had all come from different walks of life. You know, gentlemen come from the whiskey industry, mark and Simon had come from the wine industry, but knew had they, they handled spirits and he had a good understanding of the spirits industry, but they felt that the industry was like, there was full of tartan and you know, like old myths and things that were, so we want it to be more real and more authentic and be more transparent about what we do and the process and more educational. So we wanted to do that, but also do it with a fresh lens. Like, you know, you know, who says it has, you know, we can, you know, use like a Cottee bottle or who says we can, you know, it has to be clear.
And it has to be told with a screw cap, we, you know, we can use different ways of dealing. So I think that that was fresh and it revived that, you know, as in terms of thinking, actually we can do this. Definitely because we're a new business. We're not, because at that time we really brought [inaudible]. We revive providing product back to life as a brand as well, because as a single bowl, it didn't really, it wasn't really known. A lot of people didn't really know existed, so it was a new beginning. So, yeah. I think it be different if you today, if you, if you were reopening a distillery and, and, you know, it was already had like, you know, everybody had a global presence, it would be a big and bold move to call it, change the packaging and the marketing, but back then, it was quite an easy decision to make well that's right.
When I look at your, your packaging, because it, it pretty much it's very forward and, and really gives you a lot of the detail that you're just now starting to see on other distilleries bottles, you know, I mean, non chill, filtered, that's not something that, you know, a lot of people have talked about or, or pushed out there and then some are promoting it. Now, others are kind of still hiding it. And you know, for us as whiskey consumers, it, it kind of gives us the ability to, to choose. And as you say, learn a little bit more about, you know, what may make this whiskey better or not, even if I don't understand what until filtered means, it gets me to ask questions.
Absolutely. Yeah. That's, that's exactly what we wanted because when we were, we were using these things as our talking points so that when we were building the brand and reply to your, or tomorrow is putting these statements on the bottle, allow people to, if they didn't understand what it means, ask the question and we would happily tell them what it means. Because again, we wanted to be more transparent because before that, I think one of Jim's frustrations and Mark's frustrations, they had experienced that people didn't talk about this in the industry before, like an eighties and nineties, all this was all, you know, kind of it wasn't reopened in transplant. People didn't talk about these points. Whereas now, you know, every brand talks about it. You know, they'd talk about it openly because it's not so much a big deal. You know, I think consistency once upon a time, I think when you're making a blend that you're selling as a brand, yet you want consistency.
But I think nowadays in single-malt people want variety. You know, they want different, you want to be able to taste the nuances and understand why they taste different so we can educate them on if it's down to the maturation, if it's down to the influence of the, the, the casks or the, the, the, the smokiness of the whisky, they're, they're multi barley that we make to whiskey birth, or if it's in your interest to do with the claimant and it's made in all these different things, we can educate them on that. And I think that's, to me where I think it's so interesting, all single-malt category is so interesting because there's so much information and you've got to remember it's on it's, but certainly in scotch whiskey, it's very basic, but only electric use malted, barley, yeast, water. And the only other ingredient you can use is Pete to drive the Barney. So we're very restricted to what we can do, but there's such an array of different flavors. I think a lot of it does get bought. I know a lot will come. The majority of it comes from the casks. So yeah. And we can use a wide variety of different casks for aging and all these things, but yeah, I mean, it's so fascinating, but yeah, certainly talking about all of these things, now, it's more common than it was 20 years ago. Yeah, for sure.
So when I was at the distillery and doing the tour, I got to hear the story of how the distillery was rediscovered. It, it actually had been mothballed for six years or so. And so you just had these casks sitting there sleeping with a couple of security guards, I guess, or the, the two employees that were still working there. So can you go into the, the story of how mark discovered the distillery and and went about purchasing it?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's, it's quite an interesting story. I think mark had worked in a he was a wine merchant in London and he worked in his family, his business, and you had a couple of shops in London and Simon was his business partner and they worked together. And at that point, Jim, they never met Jim, Jim Watson Bowmore. And through that time, these steps set up I can an independence, but it's business called money, David. And they were buying spirits with casks or Springbank and another distilleries and selling them. And I think mark was at some event, there was a raffle or tombola, I don't know if you know, the cotton bullet. So he, he threw out tombola, he won a bottle of whiskey and, and he went to collect it and there was a bottle of providing 15 year old and he had never really heard of it.
And he just thought, it's another scotch whiskey, never heard of that. So at one point, not long after that, he opened the bottle to take a drink and was blown away by the, you know, the, just the elegance of the whiskey. It was, you know, just a perfect dream. So he you know, wanted to discover more with this whiskey and, and started to do research into do only to discover this was in about 96, I think 95, 96, just shortly after it was closed to discover that the story had been closed by a white McCain. So I think this was a, up at the same time as having Simon, we're starting to, to build this, but it's business that they were buying and selling a whiskey and rum and in their own own branding. And they wanted to discover more and they were basically trying to understand why the disorder was closed.
And at that time that keyword the intranet, there wasn't all this data on the internet or anything. So it was all you had to speak to people. He didn't really know a lot of people buy through, you know, tiny stock to discover that the shots, it was multiple, it was owned by white MCI and then white, the guy had actually sold out to Jim beam brand. So I think mark then stocks to write to them, the owners of Jim beam brands to understand why they were not doing anything with this distillery in well, understand if they were going to do anything with the disarray. And then if they were going to, if they were, would you consider selling it? And it took quite a while. This was all done by lectures back and forward. And I think quite often, mark would heat anything for a long time.
And then you write to them again, and then somebody else would maybe respond and it was back and forth, but not really making much progress, but they know that the blue, I think maybe 19 98, 19 99, I think the blue, he, he received a lecture to say that they were interested in selling the decelerate. So he had to then start putting a business plan together to get investors. And that is the story of when mark and his brother during this time just before the only disciplinary mark was pursuing, trying to buy it and him and his brother took a holiday in sculpt. And then they decided to cycle right in the west coast, playing golf. And they were like cycling around the dial-ins and, and playing some golf. And because he came to Iowa to play golf, he decided that point, he was here, he wanted to cycle to propriety because he knew, and he wanted to be there in person to go to the district in person, not really knowing an owner assigned and what he wanted to see.
So he remembers well he tells the story of him cycling to the distillery and coming into the village and siting up to the main gate. And there were, the gates were closed. There were chains on the gate and there was a same, same close to visitors. And he was like, I'm standing at the gate looking through the, the railings looking in. And he seen one of the caretakers walking past the, the courtyards. And, you know, there was nobody else's baggage. He showed it to him. Oh, I can cause okay. To come in. And the caretaker says, no, you can have off. And he thought, how rude? And, you know, I think that can have memory stuck with them. And I want you to react from mark, bought the place the caretaker kept his job. So
It didn't didn't affect them too much.
So, yeah. So then, yeah, it's a L the business plan getting investors. And then I think in, in the year, 2000, the deal was done. And then that was the case. That was when it was restarted. And we we officially started to work in the project in January, 2001. So you
Were onboarded in January of 2001?
Yeah. Very, just to the very beginning. Yeah. Just fortunate is to say, I would, I wanted to start my career in the whiskey industry. I knew Jim. It was all good fortune. Just the time that this was all happening, where Jim was, eh, eh, taking the lead in, bringing the story back to life. He had to try and do recruit some of the guys that worked here. But what happened during the sex years of close, there was a bug three or four of the guys who worked here had actually reached retirement age. So they decided not to come back to employment and the ones that were still a bit overtired, aging, still willing to say they left, they'd gone off and got other jobs, but then decided to come back to the distillery. They had the know how, so it was all quite exciting and it's reforming a new team.
And yeah, I mean the first six months we didn't make whiskey. We were basically restoring the, the story and bringing it back to life because no maintenance, nothing had been done for six years. So things had seized the, some of the machinery needed group overhaul you know, place needed, cleaned and painted. There was birds nesting, everything. So, yeah, we did think, you know, at the beginning it was hard to imagine, will we ever make whiskey? Because it was like, you know, it wasn't in a really bad state, but it was just, it was hard to see the red light on it because the equipment is so old, there was a lot of bras. Everything was just like, yeah, it was hard to believe, like, you know, make whiskey. And even like, if you look at the contrast today, like go back my memory, come back to what that, what the disorderly looked like. It's, you know, just unbelievable that we turned around into what is,
Was there ever a discussion about that hold equipment saying, do we really want to go forward with this? Or was it always, no, we, we, we gotta make this work.
I think it was always, we've got to make it work. I think twofold, I think either they put everything they had into buying the distillery. But B I think we recognize that it was a USP at the beginning was that we've got a Victorian distillery because something is really special here that, you know, we're still making whiskey, you know, the, the, the traditional way, the traditional equipment which is quite unique today, and, you know, even 20 years ago, it was still quite unique. And it was something that we took pride in and it was, it was just something magical about the distillery had that. They asked me that I still had the original match done. The middle was 115 years old. You know, it was still very old and they're stills are such a great history. I think that it just had something about it that we had to restore it and use, you know, try to keep it. So I thought, I don't think the, whatever, like really a point where we felt that, yeah, we've got to, we need to, to, to, to, to change this equipment because it wouldn't do what we needed to do. The equipment here is work perfectly for the last 20 years. Yeah.
You had someone who had had a lot of experience there, the late Duncan McGilvery. And how valuable was that in having somebody with?
Yeah, I mean, invaluable. I mean today, I mean, we never, I don't think we would have ever got off the ground in 2001, if it hadn't been for Dunkin because Dunkin McGilvery had worked at the distillery before this closed closure in 1996, he had worked for about 20 ish, 20, just over 20 odd years in the distillery. And he was an engineer, so he knew every nut and bolt. He knew every sirens and everything about the process. So he came back on board when the dissolute revived knew everything, he managed to get it over here. He knew everything that needed to get, but just sort of back up on his feet. And he was the one that was telling him, look, mark consignment in Germany. This will work. This, this, this will work again. So they put their faith in him and we all joined in and we, we, we followed in terms of done what needed to be done together to start running again.
And, you know, in the early days, I mean, I learned so much Duncan, you know, just, is not just, you know, the way that he understood the equipment, but also the process and the way he was in life. Like he had a very much a can-do attitude. So it was never like, this is broken. It can't be faxed. We need to replace it. He always had the, actually the desk can be prepared. This, you, we, we will get this going again. And we will. And it was always a positive attitude to things. And I think that to me, and he led by example because he wasn't one of these people who talk and then not do anything he was always followed through. And I think that gave me huge inspiration in my career that, you know, learning along these ways of working with somebody that's so positive and, you know, willing to, to, to, to just be mended material.
And I mean, to be wrong, there's points where you've got to give up and say like, you know, this will never work again or some things at the end of his life, but, you know, it's, he came from a generation where, you know, it wasn't a throwaway society. It wasn't just like, you know, we'll go and buy a new one, you know, or we'll have two spares setting there. He was one that was always he always repaired and eh, and very creative in terms of the way that he would, you know, you could make things work, you know, so you submit for genius. So, yeah. So in again, you know, he played a vital part in the Renaissance of bringing Procardia back to life. And you know, I think in, just in terms of the ethos of what actually happens and provided today, you know, like in the early days, gentlemen, Dunkin were both the ducks.
So they were both born and bred in Ireland and they have a huge, you know respect for their community and what halo life is about. So I think that had a big influence on, on Procardia as a business, because it wasn't just a business. We were opening just to make whiskey, to make lots of whiskey to sell and internationally. And, and it was like, you know, providing, wasn't just going to be like a postcard. Do you know that we made the whiskey and then actually, you know, creating jobs for the community, giving opportunities for people on an island, you know, whether it's in the farming community to grow barley for the, for the distillery or whether it was like local contractors or Colliers, or to get work and, you know, to kind of build that community right in the distillery, which, you know, we still have today and it's growing overtime in it.
And it's so important to us because we are a community-based distillery. Like we would all island people, like we all live on an island, we all wanted to be sustainable. So you want to connect support, you know, and other places, you know, so like, you know, when [inaudible] was closed, the hotel in port Charlotte was closed because there were no trade, you know, now it's reopened. And actually there's more hotels that have more guests because we bring the people come to the island to visit the distillery. So there's generates huge support economy for them then for the island, which is great. So what did you,
Once you had all of these old casks sitting there and you're not producing for some time, were those casks usable? Did you end up putting those in bottles and that and selling those burgers? Yeah.
Yeah. So that was one of the things. So when we, eh, stocks in 2001, there was, there was a lot of casks when it had been closed, the whiskey was still maturing in the warehouses. And when the purchase was done, we purchased the stock that was setting in the warehouses and Duncan and myself and a team of people were working, getting the distillery up and running, and why we were doing this gentleman was working with another team, going through all the stocks, evaluating the quality of the stocks that we had headed and headed to night. There was, there was probably a bit, two or three different grades. What would happen was a lot of the casks that would in the warehouses were filled in the eighties and nineties, seventies, eighties, nineties, predominantly. And a lot of the casts were old casks that had been filled that maybe third fill car, second, third, sometimes fourth fill cap that had no life in it.
So Jim had to through based inspect every bottle to say, to check the quality, to see if the cancer was performing or, or no, so that he could then understand. So there was cast that were actively working well, and the whiskey was great and it was kinda ready to sell. There was casks that were okay and maybe given a bad time would develop. And there was casks that were just, you know, nothing was happening because it was all life left and they were so, so what we had to then do is start to buy new words to then start transferring the, the whiskey that wasn't maturing into the new route, and then start a program of reviving that whiskey and bringing it back to life. So that stops it, that stops the program of bringing reviving all that whiskey. And you started using Shetty casks and using wine casts, a lot of European guys.
And I think the reason that about a couple of reasons, availability of getting European gas was there was, there was a lot of variability, but also helps because European Oak is a lot more well it's, it's a bit more porous than the medic and the grain of that, which is a bit more open. So what you find is that you get quick, get influence from a European Oak than you will from American Oak. So the reason, part of the reason was we needed to speed up the maturation a little bit because some of this whiskey being already been agent for, you know, many of them sex, but some of it was like 10, 15 year old. So we wanted to connect to, to not fast-track, but, you know, bring it back and try and recover it quickly. So using European cask help, but then not what that done was actually opened up because mark consignments can actually come in from the Wayne industry, gave us a great insight into the, they had great contacts into some of the green chateaus from Bordeaux, from all over the world, really, but mainly France, but we got access to some amazing wine cans that were really enhancing the flavor of the whiskey and started to give a whole new profile of whiskey that, you know, it was, it was mind boggling in terms of, you know, the, the standard type of whiskey that you're used to trying, and then trying all these, you know, amazing whiskeys that have been finished and things.
So what quickly starts to become, you know, what was a reaction to the situation of the whiskey was dead and we needed to revive it suddenly opened this opportunity of creating a library of different flavors, because we were using such a a wide range of different casks to, to try and enhance it. And suddenly we, Jim was starting to get really excited in the early years because he worked in memoria, neat, worked his arc in a distiller and a blender, but he was always in that ear. He was always like given a recipe to work, to create, but Boquete is, he was knowing a playing field where he had all these different flavors and there was no recipe. He could create what he wanted. So all of a sudden he recalled very creative and, you know, and propriety quickly became a known for having lots of products because gentlemen, every time you into the warehouse, he would come up business something new.
And, and we thought, well, we'll just release tests and, you know, a new limited bottling. So I think quite quickly, we became renowned for, you know, doing lots of limited releases. You know, we are weird and good things in terms of, it was like, you know, some of the, the the bottlings, you know, like it was, you know, as a member of the very first 20 year old that we released is called flirtation. And it was, the whiskey was like almost pink, like like, you know, it was really pink and dark and, you know, it was just something that was said totally, totally in Germany, came up with this name, like for a patient, for, you know, released about the Valentine's day. And, you know, was trying to imagine it would attract, you know, for Valentine's day and it was pink and romantic, but it's just, all these things started to evolve very, very quickly off the back of trying to revive their stock, that hadn't been really maturing.
Yeah, no, it was good times. And we we've continued that that journey of terms have been very expirational in terms of the casts that we use, or we don't tend to just stick to liquor ratio of the bottles we fill them. These are for these core products. We were very eh, experimental in terms of the word that we use. And we've got a huge variety of different types of work in the warehouses maturing away. And for us, it's like I often explained to people when, when you come in, when you went to the warehouses, it's, we'd in control of what we are, we're, we're making, we're making all these different types of spreads. And we put in control of the woods that we buy. And if we were just just packing, like, you know, a couple of types of bottles, if we were just packing, like ex-bourbon casks and Sherry casks, and we would have them, and then that would be your tolerance to play with.
You would have your bourbon style whiskey and you'd have your Shetty stove whiskey. And that's what happened once upon a table like back many years ago, Jen told me that that was common in the industry. Like, you know, it was quite common. It was just bourbon and chatty cans. There wasn't a great selection and the quality was up and down. You know, sometimes there were good casts and sometimes they were bad, but now, you know, what we do is we had actually selecting cast from all over the world then, and looking at the quality of the spirit there's been any before. And actually what this is doing is creating an array of different flavors for us. And as I say, I often explain to people it's like your spice rack at home, or your, your, your, your cupboard, if the more spices and ingredients you have, the more creative you can be with what you're preparing.
Whereas if you only have a limited amount of options, you're limited to what you can do. So for us, it's, that's, that's our, you know, kind of philosophy in terms of food purchasing is, is keeping creative, you know, trying different things. We're we have the good fortune that we're making different things, different types of spirits. So we're making propriety, which is on peated port Charlotte, which is medium peated is before two BPM. And then the optimal, which is really super heavily peated. And then using these different bottle type, she get all sorts of different flavors, which is again, you know, gives us lots of options. You know, and you can see that there's, you know, you're using really smoky whiskeys, like Octa more, and then using a really sweet, like sit-down wine casks, or, you know, a portable wine casks that are really giving definitely dimensions to the flavor that you would get from. Yeah. And to be honest, I'm not putting down bourbon cask that amazing Shetty customer, amazing. We buy a lot of bourbon cans to me. We probably the most casts we buy a bourbon, you know, actually we will be by more than, more than half as definitely bourbon that we buy.
W you almost think it's going to get to a point where Sherry casks, you can get very hard to find because so many people are focused on them.
Yeah, I think so. Yeah. And it's funny because I've seen in the 20 years, I've been, there was an ITO where the Chetty cast, where they're really struggling to get rid of them. You know, there were basically like the, there was a period where like you could buy really cheap and there was a huge, a selection of them available. It's called opposite. We know it's very difficult to get Shetty gas. The price has got very expensive, cause there's such a huge demand for them. I think those who can buy them are very fortunate to get them. And, and, and we know that chatty production for awhile was on the decline because not many people are consuming sharing. So it's difficult to get frantic Sherry casks, like a lot of the Shetty casts that are being used today are almost seasoned. They are seasoned in terms of like, there's a process for kind of seasoning the word we're sharing, just to get them bare, ready for, for maturing whiskey rather than actually Shetty casts that have been maturing cherry for X number of years. Wow.
So you came out with Okta more. How now, what was the first release of Octa? More? What, when was that?
So the first release was about 2006 to seven, I think. Yeah. And first off two more we done was called the beast. Just because it was a bit of an animal in terms of the the smokiness is really, really deference to the style of whiskey that we were bringing. So it was kind of nicknamed the beast in terms of just a style and it was 80 parts per million. So that was the first ever automotive that we distilled at the distillery. And then from there, then we started to create the [inaudible] more one. And then we went on to Optima two, and then it was Altima two. Then we decided to do a second edition. So when we'd done Altima to actually this, we had been laid down or the water in some wine casks, red wine casks. And we decided that actually it'd be interesting to Pawel.
So you've got Baltimore, a two, which was the five-year fold in bourbon cask. And in Baltimore, 2.2 was Octa more five-year-old in this red wine cask. So you had a parallel to taste site, and then it really evolved from there that it makes sense to always have a parallel. So you always have 0.1 would be this standard more in bourbon cast. So that's your connect core your bench. And then you'd always have a variation of Baltimore in a different type of cask, which would be the 0.2. And then the 0.3 system can later when we start, we were growing local barley locally here and Baltimore farm, which the whiskey is named after, which is less than two miles from the distillery was they started growing barley for us. So we kept their body separate and we meet and talk to more. So it was quite a nice story.
The barley grown up two more farm became optimal whiskey. Nice. So we decided to create that point recess, CDs, so that every year that the farmer's growing barley, it was the evolution of the agro. And so 0.3 is always using the local barley coming from optimal farm. So it's, you know, can Uber provenance, in terms of, you know, as growing an Optima farmers, they still is up to more whiskey, you know, certainly, you know, it's just another dimension. So yeah, we continued that and then we'll actually there four or five years ago through innovation. We decided that it'd be quite cool. Some of the whiskey that we'd been trialing, like I was talking about earlier, like, you know, exploding the cast types. We started trialing Oak toward in Virgin Oak. So bottles had no, no previous content and the results were, were amazing. And we thought, well, it'd be great to, to, to bring this to the market. So you're catered the points for CD square it up to more 0.4, like in any of the CTCs, if there's a point for this generally with the Virginia.
Okay. And so and before I dive into this next question let's talk about PPM for people who, who may not understand that and phenols as a measurement for the amount of peat smoke and maybe a description of how it affects the whiskey, because some people I've heard say, you know, this one is lower PPM than the other, but it tastes a whole lot more smokey than, than another whiskey does. Okay.
Yeah. It's interesting. Cause it's such a big big topic. I mean, there's definite measurements of the PPM that's used in the industry that the standard that we try and maintain is that the measurement is done in the mold, not in the whiskey. So it's common when they make them all, you measure the PPMS. That's the specification that we with port Charlotte, we give a specifications the most or photo two more. We don't specify. We ask them to make his PTSD as smoky as they can. So it does availability with auto more one batch could be ETS and actual one could be a hundred, it could be a hundred and twenty two hundred twenty nine. It could be 220. So there's availability there, but that's what we like about Optima. It's got no parameters in terms of the fetal content. Now there's a couple of different methods. One of the old traditional methods is colorimetric methods of measuring it.
And that was one thing that was common to use. But through time has been a bit more advanced than the maltings that make them all for, they sent it to a lab and they use HPLC to measure the mold. So it's quite an advanced process. Amazing. So we get the phenol content and measure by laboratory. You began a certificate of analysis that tells you the phenol content of the mold before you distill it. Now during the distillation process, you're after three 3d, mainly through distillation, your Finos are breaking down. And actually if you measure, we measure the phenol content in the whiskey, you would find it below less than what you have in the original mole, because you've, you've lost Beatles through the process, but there's an unwritten rule. It's not anybody's Nope, there's no, there's no lower. And when he says it, I think it's just an an understanding industry.
And everybody that talks about phenols talks about in the mall, not in the spirit, because it would confuse things if you were saying, you know, cause if we could say like Okta more in the spirit might be, I don't know, 60 or 70 parts per million, but the mole is something else. So yeah, we talked about the malt and what we find that, and you mentioned that there is that in the, when people taste it, like they often describe, I thought it would be more smokier in this, or either if you taste different whiskeys are, may be the same PPMS, but they're totally different styles or characters in the smoke is more pronounced on one than there is on the other. But I'm led to believe on paper. They're both the same now. Absolutely. That happens because there's a lot of factors. So because they say through distillation, you lose Finos the, the origin of the piece also has a big impact.
So the style of Pete or that the character of Pete that is used to dry. So basically describing this, I'll probably use examples. So our peak that we use at the moment we have explored with using either people actually RP opening honestly comes from the Northeast of Scotland. So we're not using IOP, we're using pizzas coming from the Northeast because that's where our body's molted and there's a source that's quite close to it. And it's the old Caledonian forest. And there's a lot of broken down like decade of that. They Sage, I think the reserve the forest at all can of broken diamond and it was covered over, but they, through years and years, like hundreds of years of the peak that is there has got a lot of forest tree roots and all sorts of things in the peat and the peak that we use to, to dry our barley gives us more of a Whittier.
It's like a campfire. So when you taste, it tastes port Charlotte, you can resemble that with flavor. Like if you're burning wood in a bonfire or if you're sometimes a bit more barbecue that cause you get that kind of charcoal, barbecue flavor coming through, but it resembles the, I don't know if you're burning wood and it's, it's, it's a smoke that we're all familiar with because you're used to, most people are released to that smell. Yeah. If you use ILO Pete which is totally different origin and the peat here is, you know more could it's saturated in higher and salt and stuff from the sea. And you've got that penetration from the, the soul there, the sea, the salt water, you find that you get a totally different style of Pete, more IED and more medicinal flavor coming through.
So that not one thing, these, these are two things that will create different styles of smokey whiskey. But then the next part is in the distillation, the speed and the ship you're still in the week that you still will have a factor on the cup points and distillation will have a factor then how you smoke or you get now one of the Coleman debates or discussion, not debate sort of discussions that we have is that between port Charlotte and automotive, we have very lightly different cup points. And some things we get the, if you do, if you have a grasp of, and the glass of walk more on some, I've heard to more expressions setting beside per child and you smoke and you smell the port Charlotte, and that's more smokier than the optimism and the normal. And that happens on the palette. You know, it's a different style.
You get different flavors and the smoke is there. And sometimes it's really strong and sometimes portrait is really pronounced the portrait against Dr. Mort is really pronounced. Then people say, I thought Baltimore was not about PT compared to Charlotte and get that conversation. A, the truth of it is, is that's exactly what happens because we changed the cut points and we distill really, really slowly to try and get up to more and more elegant because we know the funerals are high. And when Jim, the very first time we distilled up to more, we would, we, we weren't sure what was going to happen because this was multi specification that was really, really high. And when it's running through the distillation, the smoke was really pronounced, but it was really, really smoky. There was no other flavor to it. And it was just one dimensional.
And Jim wrestled with a lot. And Jim's mind was thinking, I remember I was on the, as I presented this, the, the, the story and we were working there and he was standing by the stove, measuring it and, you know, trying to get the different costs and tasting and nosing. And he said, you want to talk to more, to be three dimensional. He wanted the peak to be there, but you wanted to the the sweetness to come through from the multi barley and the floral flavors from the fermentation, you wanted that flavor to be present, but also wanted the elegance of that profile the style because we've long next doors and we've got long, tall till next door. So by these telling slowly, we get the elegance and also means you get the purification because you're slower. You'd be still in the more corporate contact you get, the more elegant and the more flavor that's coming through from your base spirit is coming through.
So we actually sacrificing some of the phenols through the distillation to get some of that other flavor coming into the Oxo, more so that you get that more three dimensional flavor from Octa, more that you would get from another peated whiskey that is more of like really pronounced. And that to me was part of my learning. And it was very creative with gem to luck, right? Because, you know, generally it would be just get smoke as you can. And, you know, we really want something to pass the bar, but this was something that was totally different. And and I think that's some of the magical about Baltimore because on paper at Spanish strong, you know, in terms of high PPM, it's castrated, CDOT, 60 PPM is five years old on paper kind of thing. This is going to be on drink actually, when you taste it, it's, there's no other spirit like it.
And it's amazing because you get that surprise that wow moment of discovery of, wow, something can taste, you know, it's got the smoke, but it's also got the elegance. It's got the, you know, the sweetness coming it's, you know, it's it's a Betty, very pleasant discovery on your palette that you're not expecting. You're expecting something. I think, because generally if you've told the brain, all these factors and you understand what that means. Yeah. You're probably in your mind, you're thinking Fest is going to be unpleasant, but then you're like, wow, this is not pleasant. This is really, really good. So, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think it's great. And refold we've then obviously continued over the years, making Optima more than that way of trying to get that balance of the different dimensions coming through. So we often find that you might not on the noise. You might not find out tomorrow to smokey as you would put Charlie, what another smokey whiskey, that's the other Warfield phenol content, but it's to do with the distillation and it's to do with the style that we make it because we want to.
So just to verify what you just said when we were doing the warehouse tour and we were being offered the Okta more straight from the cask, we were everybody's eyes were big and we're hearing about it and I'd never had Octa more before at that point. And so I really had no idea what to expect, but I love smokey whiskeys. And so I was expecting this blast of smoke and it was amazing to me, part of me thought, I wonder if it was the combination of high proof and that smoke, that they actually kind of worked together to also pull down some of that overwhelming experience, like a distraction yet one distracts from the other. Okay.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I think that's the great thing about it. Yeah. It's, it's just some, it's very hard to describe the, like it's hard to, we've often been like, you know, people say to us like lots of, like, it's hard to describe something because there's nothing like it, and that is difficult because within whiskey you could say, right. Okay. Yeah. It's a smoky whiskey. So like Charlotte is a bit like one of the other peaches whiskeys. Lefroy like, but it's not, it's not like any of them. Yeah. well, and that's how it,
I was gonna say, I get your you know, the Caledonian forest when I smell this, rather than getting that kind of briny, smell that I get. Now, this is the 12.1. I am getting much more of the fruits and I also get this smell of autumn. It smells like burning leaves to me. You know, grasses, toasted almonds, all these kinds of little, little notes that I get in it.
Yeah, you do. You definitely. It's, it's more a smoker. You, everybody can resemble too. And I think that's something that we find quite worrying that, you know, it's like, it's something that's quite familiar in terms of that kind of style of smoking. Yeah, I mean, I, in my own journey, in terms of my personal journey in drinking whiskey, when I was old enough to drink, or probably actually I wasn't old enough to legally drink, but my first ever experience with whiskey was drinking the Freud whiskey that my father made. And I thought that it put me off whiskey for life, honestly, and it's not like today I can drink lot for it. But back then, my pilot wasn't used to, I was very young and inexperienced and I took a taste of whiskey. I tend to enjoy it because it was so smoky that just a taste that I could not connect with.
But when it started working in Brooklyn, the whiskeys that gentleman had been working on in the warehouses were all on peated whiskeys. So that started my journey on whiskey. So we're going to drink it on Peter whiskeys to develop the a connection with, you know, drinking that style of whiskey. And we were sampling and it wasn't so powerful. And I started to drink that, but I was always a bit skeptical about the peated whiskies cause we made, we were making automotive port Charlotte and we taste and you mix butter. And it was always, it was like, there was no weed influence and it was a back smoky. I was never really a big fan of her, but you know, always my mind was always going back to that experience with LaCroix. I was warming to the, you know, the unpeated style whiskies, but then it's put Charlotte started to become, you know more mature and we started to work with it and then off to war was released.
And also Charlotte, we started with a five-year-old patroller actually through time, I started to develop this interest and, and eh, ability to, to drink. And I think it was that familiarization of drinking, something that had a smoky flavor to it, but it was more something like I resembled a bonfire or a campfire or something that I wasn't put off by. And it was more approachable than something strong and that medicinal flavor that I didn't really enjoy, but to be honest, and there's no bad reflection on the fry today, I can drink before you can quite happily drink a glass, little fry, you can cause my palette is more mature and I can take that flavor. But when I was younger, I couldn't. So, but yeah, I think that journey into peated whiskey is, is quite interesting because if you've ever had a smoky whiskey and you didn't enjoy it, it's not to say you won't like them all. Yeah. I think, you know, it's finding the right one and you know, port Charlotte and even Oxo more there's a good, you know, approachable whiskey that you can drink that is not, you know, Kona. It's a different style that is very approach.
I like to say it's a mindset change because the first time I had a Aila whiskey, it was the first time when I said, I can really tell you what this tastes like. It was the first whiskey that I got a flavor note in my head and it was band-aid. Yeah. And so, and it was a cheap ILO whiskey a blend and it it did set me off on wanting to taste other peated whiskies. But what I learned is that it's just a frame of mind. If you go in and you drink a peated whiskey thinking it's going to be sweet it's then you're going to get an experience. That's not going to match what your mind is thinking. So I always tell people, just forget everything, you know about whiskey and approach this like a completely different drink. It's savory, it's smoky. And you know, it's, it's more like dinner than it is dessert. Yeah.
Yeah. That's funny. You should say that. Cause that's something that we often say our vapor optimal as well. You know, when, when you're introducing automotive, people is like, forget everything, you know, you know, this is something that you need to kind of clear your mind, not your, to think what it's going to be. And and they just go into this with an open mind, because just exactly what you've just described. If you go into it expecting something, I mean, slight contradiction, because if you, as we've said before, like I think that some of the enjoyment of discovering Optima is that you think it's going to be this. And it ends up being that. And you're like, wow, blown away. But we've also been trying to educate people so that they're, they're more open to trying it because I think a lot of people, some people have got the confidence to try it. Some people say, no, I'm not, I don't like peated whiskey. I'm not going to try it. I've tried something smokey. I don't like it. That sounds disgusting because it's really going to be really smoky. It's really strong in alcohol and it's really young. I'm not going to enjoy it. And they'll just say, oh, that's when you got to say, forget everything, you know, actually give this a go because
You might be surprised. It's, it's amazing. I, I feel like when I'm teaching people about scotch, the first thing I have to do is I have to say, they're not all smoky. They're not all smoky. Then once I get them off of the ledge and, and saying, I don't want to taste it because all scotch is smoky and I get them into a Highland or space side I will then say, okay, now let's go back and have smoky, but let's change your mindset. Yes.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, definitely it's a path. And again, I mean, I suppose it, I mean, you can't generalize because people will, we've seen, you know, people just tasting Optima. Don't like whiskey in general tasting tomorrow or tasting port Charlotte and wow. You know, I like this, my daughter likes whiskey and you're like, wow. So it does, you know, you know, people do get, you can go straight into it. But I think like my own journey, you know, I started off with the quite typical get into spirits and drinking, you know, the, the later on peated whiskies forced the Nanga and into the more smokier ones as your palette develops in you, you know what to expect. And you can you can appreciate the flavors and the nuances of the smoke that maybe when you're younger, you don't really appreciate it. Yeah.
Yeah. So in the, in the 12.2 it's, it's got brighter fruits to it. It seems like it's like orange honey, those kinds of things coming here,
The shanty influence there is certainly been interesting with Optima because it's called that going of dried fruit coming through. And you're a bit of sweetness dried sweetness coming through. So yeah, I think the Shetty influences is is plaintiff's partner.
Yeah. I get a little bit more of the tannins too, from the, from the wind in that one. Yes. It's amazing how different these two whiskeys are both being in the Octa more series, but that's part of the charm of the,
That. Absolutely. Yeah. That's what we want is that discussion point about, well tied this one, and this is a style, tried it in this type of casks and, and you know, that the experience of seeing the difference. And I think having like goalpost the 0.1 is always the, kind of the bench, the core that gives you that reference point to always, eh, to check back on.
Yeah. And then the 12.3, what is the this is, this is local barley and I actually, I got into this conversation with Ian McAllister over it at Glen Scotia. Cause I did a whole series on Campbelltown whiskey and the origins of scotch. And we were talking about bear grain. Yep. Is that the, kind of, is that the grain that you're using for, from ILO or is this a different,
Yeah, not for the ops more so we we do grow beer barley, but we actually get it grow in an Orkney, but it's more suited to growing. So we work with the agronomy Institute in Orkney and they work with the small farms that are growing beer, barley and the suppliers with the American beer barley of the year. So we are, we've been making beer Bali since 2006. I would make a smaller maintenance. 1% of her production is really very small, but it also creates amazing whiskey because the great thing about the beer body is a case, a different profile whiskey it's because of the grain is, is an old, old ancient grain. It's a hype, it's a low producer of starch. And so you lower than more modern, conventional barley that you would get today. So there's not high. It starts starchy a lot more husk from it.
So when you, to be honest, it's quite suited for like milling for making a flavor for making bread or for making, you know, the baskets. But it's actually, when you distill it, you get a lot of flour and a lot of husks from it, but not a lot of starch. So hence the reason why it doesn't commonly use today for distilling because it yields low. Yeah. But what, what<