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TITLE
George Grant on Changing Patterns in Distilling
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_GEORGEGRANT_11
PLACENAME
Ballindalloch
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
George S. Grant
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
1646
KEYWORDS
distillers
distilleries
Grants of Glenfarclas
whisky stills
audio

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George S Grant (1923-2002) was chairman of Glenfarclas Distillery in Speyside for fifty-two years. His ancestor, John Grant, had purchased the distillery back in 1865 and it has remained in the Grant family ever since. George's son, John LS Grant, is the current chairman. In this audio extract, originally recorded for 'Moray Firth People' in 1983, George talks to Sam Marshall about changing patterns in distilling techniques.

Interviewer: In Glenfarclas presumably you use the same size of still and the same sort of materials year in, year out. Are they ever varied though?

Well, the materials aren't insofar as we're only using water, yeast and malted barley. These are the three ingredients. At one time we used to malt our own barley but we gave that up, oh, it must be about ten years ago now, mainly from the point of view of economics, added to which we were using a lot more barley than we could - a lot more malt than we could - make ourselves. We were still making the same quantity which was percentage wise becoming less, so it appeared the best thing to do was to close our maltings altogether. And we could buy malt manufactured by the malters cheaper than we could make it. It's a case of size, where you've a large plant with very few staff controlling it and they can control the method of making it much more accurately than we could on an open floor.

Interviewer: On that point you've just made, when you took the decision not to use your own malt how did you know that wasn't going to affect the flavour of the whisky?

We took the decision to close our maltings, but what we were doing we were - By the time we closed our maltings, I don't suppose we were making more than a quarter of the malt we were using. Pre-war days we were making 100% of the malt we were using. We were still making the same quantity at this time but we were distilling a lot more whisky. And the malt we were buying was bought to specification, which it still is, and presumably we were still getting the same quality of malt we were getting pre-war days and when we stopped making our own. I may add here, of course, that there's a vast difference in the barleys. You see, we were buying barley pre-war days from Australia, from Denmark; a lot of barley came over here from Denmark pre-war days. There was a big trade into Buckie. Nowadays of course, most of the barley is grown in this country because the varieties have been improved so much. The handling of the barleys by the farmer has improved; they're all combining. It is all dried. Pre-war days it was cut with a binder and stacked. And you would find that the barley at the top of the stack was damp, the barley in the middle was very dry, and the barley at the bottom was eaten with the rats. And by the time this had all been thrashed out you got barley coming to the distillery with a moisture content that was anything oh, from about ten up to fifteen, sixteen percent. And it didn't germinate evenly.

Interviewer: So it's even more controlled nowadays than you could have imagined thirty years ago, say?

Oh, the control starts with the farmer, let's face it, from the time he plants his seed until we eventually turn the malt into whisky.

Interviewer: What about the size and shape of the still that I mentioned?

Well, the - you'll find that each distillery has its own size and shape of stills. We have the same size and shape that we've had since 1895, I think, but other distilleries have altered the size and shape of their stills on the way. Still others keep the same size and shape and even put the same dents into the new ones that they had in the old ones

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George Grant on Changing Patterns in Distilling

1980s

distillers; distilleries; Grants of Glenfarclas; whisky stills; audio

Moray Firth Radio

MFR: George Grant, Glenfarclas Distillery

George S Grant (1923-2002) was chairman of Glenfarclas Distillery in Speyside for fifty-two years. His ancestor, John Grant, had purchased the distillery back in 1865 and it has remained in the Grant family ever since. George's son, John LS Grant, is the current chairman. In this audio extract, originally recorded for 'Moray Firth People' in 1983, George talks to Sam Marshall about changing patterns in distilling techniques.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: In Glenfarclas presumably you use the same size of still and the same sort of materials year in, year out. Are they ever varied though?<br /> <br /> Well, the materials aren't insofar as we're only using water, yeast and malted barley. These are the three ingredients. At one time we used to malt our own barley but we gave that up, oh, it must be about ten years ago now, mainly from the point of view of economics, added to which we were using a lot more barley than we could - a lot more malt than we could - make ourselves. We were still making the same quantity which was percentage wise becoming less, so it appeared the best thing to do was to close our maltings altogether. And we could buy malt manufactured by the malters cheaper than we could make it. It's a case of size, where you've a large plant with very few staff controlling it and they can control the method of making it much more accurately than we could on an open floor. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: On that point you've just made, when you took the decision not to use your own malt how did you know that wasn't going to affect the flavour of the whisky?<br /> <br /> We took the decision to close our maltings, but what we were doing we were - By the time we closed our maltings, I don't suppose we were making more than a quarter of the malt we were using. Pre-war days we were making 100% of the malt we were using. We were still making the same quantity at this time but we were distilling a lot more whisky. And the malt we were buying was bought to specification, which it still is, and presumably we were still getting the same quality of malt we were getting pre-war days and when we stopped making our own. I may add here, of course, that there's a vast difference in the barleys. You see, we were buying barley pre-war days from Australia, from Denmark; a lot of barley came over here from Denmark pre-war days. There was a big trade into Buckie. Nowadays of course, most of the barley is grown in this country because the varieties have been improved so much. The handling of the barleys by the farmer has improved; they're all combining. It is all dried. Pre-war days it was cut with a binder and stacked. And you would find that the barley at the top of the stack was damp, the barley in the middle was very dry, and the barley at the bottom was eaten with the rats. And by the time this had all been thrashed out you got barley coming to the distillery with a moisture content that was anything oh, from about ten up to fifteen, sixteen percent. And it didn't germinate evenly.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: So it's even more controlled nowadays than you could have imagined thirty years ago, say?<br /> <br /> Oh, the control starts with the farmer, let's face it, from the time he plants his seed until we eventually turn the malt into whisky.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: What about the size and shape of the still that I mentioned?<br /> <br /> Well, the - you'll find that each distillery has its own size and shape of stills. We have the same size and shape that we've had since 1895, I think, but other distilleries have altered the size and shape of their stills on the way. Still others keep the same size and shape and even put the same dents into the new ones that they had in the old ones