We say goodbye this week to George Gutierrez from Texas, who has been helping our production team before starting college in America. He has some previous experience of distilling through ventures at ‘Balcones’ and new ‘Tate and Co’ bourbon enterprise due to his family connection with the well known American distiller Chip Tate. Chip had spent time working with Bruichladdich back in 2008.
So how did George find it on Islay? ‘”It’s island life, so it’s pretty slow!” says George. “But the people are amazing. Everyone’s so nice. Everyone here was awesome. I didn’t feel, like, diminished at all, being so young. Everybody listens and they understand.”
He thinks the things he has learnt will come in particularly useful once Tate and Co go into production. “Stills that I have used before were all direct fire whereas the stills here use steam. I feel like that’s going to help out a lot with what I’m going to be doing in the future. In the stillhouse it’s been exciting, because while it’s the same method over and over again, every one of the stillmen has his own way of working.”
Also, in the warehouses, he explains how he’s enjoyed learning new skills, ‘Take timing the casks on the stow… there’s three different timing spots for it to land bung up at the end of the row, so the other guy doesn’t have to try to adjust it. Seeing that’s been pretty interesting.
“The way Jay taught me to stop a leak with pieces of bamboo too. I’d never done that before, so that’s been great to learn. Watching these guys raise the barrel up on forks, flip it over, and try to pop the bung out just at the right time, so you can fill it into the other barrel right below. That was pretty awesome to see.”
Looking forward to the ‘Blue Corn Bourbon’ they plan to make in Texas, he sees a similar ethos of “Being proud of ageing spirit on site, vatting on site and bottling on site. We want to do things the same way.”
He’ll be taking away with him some great memories of Islay, “As soon as I get out of the distillery I just go and explore and check out everything that’s on the island. I still haven’t hit everything, but it’s just breathtaking, every second is amazing. And just walking around in the woods, ’cause it’s so damp and wet and the moss everywhere. It’s just nothing like I’m used to at all. In Texas it’s so dry everywhere. That’s been really fun. The island life and the sunsets. When you see the sun coming over the mountains, that’s amazing. It’s bread and butter, just perfect.”
Stay in touch George… It’s been a blast.