Springbank Whisky School
After a full cooked scottish breakfast, which was deliciously prepared by Angela and Calum, we had to start our first working day at Springbank Distillery on Monday morning. Excited as school children, what we were indeed, we walked like the “Seven Dwarfs” down the street, called Longrow, to Springbank Distillery.
The distillery is just a short distance of 300 meter away from Feorlin Guest House. Six Whisky guys and no “Snow White”. But, what we did not know at this time: We even should have two “Snow Whites”!
Two young girls from Campbeltown Grammar School made their internship at Springbank Distillery. What could be better than attending the Whisky School to get an overview about working in a distillery. Having Anna and Cara in our class remained to be seen as a big help during the following days. First they would work harder than some of us and second, which was more important, they translated from some weird Scottish sayings into english.
- Gonnae no’ dae that!
- Noo jist haud on!
- Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye!
produced question marks in our face and made us shrug. Mostly Anna or Cara were able to translate it for us but sometimes, yes believe me or not, sometimes they said “Sorry, but we don’t understand him either”.
On our first day we were welcomed by Frank McHardy (our headmaster, left), Gavin McLachlan (Distillery Manager, right) and Robert Scally a.k.a. Pop (Assistant Manager, middle).
Frank provided us a health and safety briefing right at the beginning of our first working day. We walked over the whole distillery and he showed us every fire exit and all safety devices.
During Whisky School the students are fully involved in Whisky production at Springbank Distillery. A normal class consists of six students but there are only a few jobs, where it makes sence to work all together. Because of this, we were splitted into four teams – each of two students – and each team then was assigned to a special department. Doing like this and switching at least everyday the department, we where involved in every process step.
The departments where:
- Mashing, Fermentation and Distillation
- Cask filling
In addition to our daily hard work we had theory lessons with Frank McHardy.
From the Springbank Society Newsletter September 2013
As you may well know, Frank McHardy has recently retired as Director of Production at Springbank and Glengyle Distilleries after an incredible 50 years in the industry. Frank began his loving relationship with whisky in March 1963 where he was employed at Invergordon Distillery, sweeping the yard and doing odd manual jobs around the place. From there his career has taken him to Tamnavulin, Bruichladdich, Bushmills and, of course, Springbank and Glengyle.
My team buddy was Freddy and we went to the bottling hall on our first working day. This is actually the last step in whisky production. For this travelogue, using the order Freddy and I were working in the several departments, would not make sense. Due to this I will describe the working process in chronological sequence of making Whisky, not like we were working in the distillery.
The main raw material for making Single Malt Whisky is barley and the production process starts with malting. The varieties of used barley at Springbank distillery are Optic and Concerto and are from Scotland only. At this point I want to mention that only a few whisky distilleries do their own malting and no other than Springbank does this for all required malt. Other distilleries like Kilchoman, Balvenie or Bowmore only do a small percentage and buy the main.
At the beginning of our process the barley has around 12% moisture by weight.
From the storage bins the barley is transfered to the steep on the top malting floor.
A normal batch size at Springbank is either 10 or 12 tonnes. After the steeping process, the barley has a moisture content of 48%.
Steeping takes 38 hours and after this, the barley will be transfered to one of the malting floors. There it is spread to a depth which will promote even germination at a temperature of around 16-20 degrees Celsius.
To enlarge images and browse the gallery just click…
The barley will germinate on the floor for a period of around 4 – 6 days during which time the floor is carefully monitored. Dependeng on the temperature the barley has to be moved to ensure that no matters occur.
To produce alcohol you need soluble sugars. Barley contains starch and during the malting process it is converted to sugar. When the barley has started to shoot (shown in image Rootlets) the germination has to be stopped. This is done by drying it in the kiln. So, when the maltmaster is satisfied, the grain is transferred to the kiln. This is done by elevator and conveyor belt – but also with a lot of labour as shown in the following gallery.
To enlarge images and browse the gallery just click…
At Springbank three different spirits are produced. That requires three different kind of malt. The malting process for all three is the same, except the kilning.
The varieties are:
No peat influence. The barley is dried with only hot air for 36 hours
six hours of peat smoke followed by 30 hours of hot air
a lot of peat influence is required. The grain is dried 48 hours with peat smoke
After kilning the percentage of moisture remaining in the malt is 4%. From the kiln the malt is transfered by elevator to the malt storage bins, where it will rest for approximatelly two month prior use. There are 10 steel malt storage bins at Springbank, each whith a capacity of 18.50 tonnes.
In the picture below you can see the Malting Equation at Springbank.
The next subject will be Mashing, so stay tuned -:)