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TITLE
Whisky - part 2
EXTERNAL ID
PC_SEANCHAS_ILE_CI001_2
PLACENAME
Islay
DISTRICT
Islay
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ARGYLL: Killarrow and Kilmeny
DATE OF RECORDING
2007
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Neil Ferguson
SOURCE
The Columba Centre, Islay
ASSET ID
2715
KEYWORDS
distilleries
oral history
island life
audio

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The Caol Ila distillery was founded near Port Askaig on the Island of Islay in 1846 by Hector Henderson. Here, long-serving employee Neil Ferguson (NF) is interviewed about his time there by Emily Edwards (EE). The interview, which is in two parts, is in conducted in Gaelic.

The following is a transcription:

EE: When did you start just doing the tour guides?

NF: Just since - Well, I've been doing that job for twenty years or more, because I never had a problem communicating with anyone! (laughs) And the man who was down here at the time he knew me. He was an another Islayman. Most of them are Islay folk down here.

EE: That's good.

NF: It is Oh, that's the way it has always been. And when I was inside there you'd hear as much Gaelic as you would anywhere. Names for what was going on. Malt you know. And like that there were Gaelic words for everything that went on too. The stills. In the still house. And - I heard [?] whisky also and other things. Burnt beer, have you heard that?

EE: No.

NF: Burnt ale, pot ale. There you go that is how it is. It is left after it is taken off and there were other word for everything you did. You had Gaelic words for it. And anyway when we worked we'd be speaking Gaelic.

EE: Did you always speak in Gaelic?

NF: Yes, we'd speak amongst ourselves in Gaelic. I don't if there is anyone now that speaks Gaelic. I am sure they know Gaelic very well.

EE: They do.

NF: But like most of the younger people they won't speak it although they are, they understand a good bit of it and it is the same way down here.

EE: It is. It is. What sort of words do you have for different things?

NF: Well, for the stills - when you put it inside - there you have it that's wash. I spoke about the malting room. 'Bràch' is 'malt', 'bràch'. You start with the barley and you malt it, through the malting process. And then you put into the kiln.

EE: Aye.

NF: That's the place where you dry it in the kiln.

EE: I see.

NF: Then that's ready for the next stage. And then you put it into the 'dabhach', or mash tun. The 'dabhach' that's what they call it. And you mix that with hot water. You put it through the mill before that and mill it down. It's not difficult to get - But you'd send it to the mill first and then you put it into the mash tun with hot water. And the hot water you put on it that draws off the sugars and starches that were made at germination, germination stage, the malting stage. As I was saying then you draw off the sugars and the starches and the things in it when you put it in the mash tun. Then you put it in the 'tunnaichean', tuns, T.U.N. That's vats. Big wooden vats.

EE: Aye, I know, aye.

NF: They're made out of wood. And - but before you put it in there. You have to cool it down because you are going to mix yeast into it. Yeast to start fermentation. And you put yeast into it - to start it going. You put this kind of yeast into every - that's the way - eighteen thousand gallons at a time. We mix in yeast and that starts fermenting up, you know. And that stays in there for three or maybe three and half days and that's ready. They call it 'caochan', wash, 'caochan'.

EE: 'Caochan'. Aye.

NF: And when it is ready - fermentation, fermentation stage - it is like beer that's a wee bit strong. It's seven percent then. It is really fine and many of them like it but they grew too fond of it. Now they put that stuff into it, the caochan, wash as they called it. And then you put that into the still, the 'caochan', and you boil it up. And when it starts heating up a vapour comes off it, steam. It goes up into the stills, into the condenser. And it condenses and what do they call the stage. In English they call it low wines but I can't remember. I can't remember now the Gaelic name they had for it. But there's the first stage of the distillation and that stage takes it up to twenty-eight percent alcohol.

EE: Uh-huh

NF: Then you send it up to the other stills, spirit stills. And when it begins boiling there, when it starts coming off it is up at, as high as maybe seventy-three percent alcohol. You run it as spirit three times [hours?].

EE: Aye.

NF. Three times [hours?] and it gets as times goes by, it goes down at the end of the three times [hours?] you are down to sixty percent alcohol. That is above whisky and you run it off. They call it faints. That's the only name I have for it. But it is getting weak then, further down until at last it is just as weak as maybe one percent alcohol. After that it doesn't cost money. And well, it's Scots that they have in there. Anyway, they always get the best of it when it comes to spending money. If you come to... down to one percent. He'll put off the still, he'll fill it up and be at it day and night for one week... when you are yourself [?] But every day, you know, every bit, 24 hours, five thousand gallons. Twenty-three thousand five hundred litres.

EE: Five thousand?

NF: That's a lot of whisky (laughs).

EE: That's great, I can't believe that! (laughs)

NF: More than I could drink! But it is wonderful and they come from all of the world to see how we make whisky.

EE: They do.

NF: And a fool like me going round telling them what it is that is going on

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Whisky - part 2

ARGYLL: Killarrow and Kilmeny

2000s

distilleries; oral history; island life; audio

The Columba Centre, Islay

Seanchas Ìle

The Caol Ila distillery was founded near Port Askaig on the Island of Islay in 1846 by Hector Henderson. Here, long-serving employee Neil Ferguson (NF) is interviewed about his time there by Emily Edwards (EE). The interview, which is in two parts, is in conducted in Gaelic.<br /> <br /> The following is a transcription:<br /> <br /> EE: When did you start just doing the tour guides? <br /> <br /> NF: Just since - Well, I've been doing that job for twenty years or more, because I never had a problem communicating with anyone! (laughs) And the man who was down here at the time he knew me. He was an another Islayman. Most of them are Islay folk down here. <br /> <br /> EE: That's good.<br /> <br /> NF: It is Oh, that's the way it has always been. And when I was inside there you'd hear as much Gaelic as you would anywhere. Names for what was going on. Malt you know. And like that there were Gaelic words for everything that went on too. The stills. In the still house. And - I heard [?] whisky also and other things. Burnt beer, have you heard that?<br /> <br /> EE: No.<br /> <br /> NF: Burnt ale, pot ale. There you go that is how it is. It is left after it is taken off and there were other word for everything you did. You had Gaelic words for it. And anyway when we worked we'd be speaking Gaelic. <br /> <br /> EE: Did you always speak in Gaelic?<br /> <br /> NF: Yes, we'd speak amongst ourselves in Gaelic. I don't if there is anyone now that speaks Gaelic. I am sure they know Gaelic very well.<br /> <br /> EE: They do.<br /> <br /> NF: But like most of the younger people they won't speak it although they are, they understand a good bit of it and it is the same way down here. <br /> <br /> EE: It is. It is. What sort of words do you have for different things?<br /> <br /> NF: Well, for the stills - when you put it inside - there you have it that's wash. I spoke about the malting room. 'Bràch' is 'malt', 'bràch'. You start with the barley and you malt it, through the malting process. And then you put into the kiln. <br /> <br /> EE: Aye.<br /> <br /> NF: That's the place where you dry it in the kiln. <br /> <br /> EE: I see.<br /> <br /> NF: Then that's ready for the next stage. And then you put it into the 'dabhach', or mash tun. The 'dabhach' that's what they call it. And you mix that with hot water. You put it through the mill before that and mill it down. It's not difficult to get - But you'd send it to the mill first and then you put it into the mash tun with hot water. And the hot water you put on it that draws off the sugars and starches that were made at germination, germination stage, the malting stage. As I was saying then you draw off the sugars and the starches and the things in it when you put it in the mash tun. Then you put it in the 'tunnaichean', tuns, T.U.N. That's vats. Big wooden vats. <br /> <br /> EE: Aye, I know, aye.<br /> <br /> NF: They're made out of wood. And - but before you put it in there. You have to cool it down because you are going to mix yeast into it. Yeast to start fermentation. And you put yeast into it - to start it going. You put this kind of yeast into every - that's the way - eighteen thousand gallons at a time. We mix in yeast and that starts fermenting up, you know. And that stays in there for three or maybe three and half days and that's ready. They call it 'caochan', wash, 'caochan'. <br /> <br /> EE: 'Caochan'. Aye.<br /> <br /> NF: And when it is ready - fermentation, fermentation stage - it is like beer that's a wee bit strong. It's seven percent then. It is really fine and many of them like it but they grew too fond of it. Now they put that stuff into it, the caochan, wash as they called it. And then you put that into the still, the 'caochan', and you boil it up. And when it starts heating up a vapour comes off it, steam. It goes up into the stills, into the condenser. And it condenses and what do they call the stage. In English they call it low wines but I can't remember. I can't remember now the Gaelic name they had for it. But there's the first stage of the distillation and that stage takes it up to twenty-eight percent alcohol. <br /> <br /> EE: Uh-huh<br /> <br /> NF: Then you send it up to the other stills, spirit stills. And when it begins boiling there, when it starts coming off it is up at, as high as maybe seventy-three percent alcohol. You run it as spirit three times [hours?].<br /> <br /> EE: Aye.<br /> <br /> NF. Three times [hours?] and it gets as times goes by, it goes down at the end of the three times [hours?] you are down to sixty percent alcohol. That is above whisky and you run it off. They call it faints. That's the only name I have for it. But it is getting weak then, further down until at last it is just as weak as maybe one percent alcohol. After that it doesn't cost money. And well, it's Scots that they have in there. Anyway, they always get the best of it when it comes to spending money. If you come to... down to one percent. He'll put off the still, he'll fill it up and be at it day and night for one week... when you are yourself [?] But every day, you know, every bit, 24 hours, five thousand gallons. Twenty-three thousand five hundred litres.<br /> <br /> EE: Five thousand?<br /> <br /> NF: That's a lot of whisky (laughs).<br /> <br /> EE: That's great, I can't believe that! (laughs)<br /> <br /> NF: More than I could drink! But it is wonderful and they come from all of the world to see how we make whisky. <br /> <br /> EE: They do.<br /> <br /> NF: And a fool like me going round telling them what it is that is going on