We have to undertake some essential maintenance at the distillery this summer which will require us to stop distilling for a period of around six weeks. This will mean that the stills will stop running on or around 27th May. All being well we anticipate firing them up again on or around the week commencing 13th July.
The maintenance program will cover a number of issues:
1) The wash stills. Over a long period of time, the copper from which the stills are made literally wears away – and there comes a point at which it has to be replaced. The necks of the stills are particularly vulnerable to this – and we carefully monitor them year on year to make sure that they are maintained to the correct standard – which requires a copper thickness of no less than than 2mm. The necks on our wash stills are now down to 2.5mm and thus we have decided that we will pre-empt any potential issues by acting now. This will require that the roof of the Still House be opened up and the necks and condensers removed and replaced by Forsyths, our specialist coppersmiths. Great care will be taken to exactly replicate the existing necks. The still bases will remain in position and the new necks welded on in situ.
2) At the same time, the two condensers for the wash stills will also be replicated and replaced, as will the swan necks and lye pipes which connect the stills to the condensers.
3) We are also going to have a new wash safe. This is the very attractive brass case through which the low wines pass on their way to the feints receiver. This is actually made of steel and covered with brass. In this case it is the steel that has worn away. We have commissioned a new wash safe that will look exactly the same as the old one, but the inner case will now be made of stainless steel which should last for hundreds of years…
4) While all this is going on we are also going to do some remedial work on the Mash House which has developed an issue with porous brickwork. The extremely humid conditions that prevail when we are mashing have the potential to cause problems in the long term so again we are acting now to pre-empt this.
5) If possible, and the schedule of the specialist wooden vat builders from Joseph Brown of Dufftown allows, we will replace our washback #1. If we able to do this it will be the third replacement that we have undertaken since 2001. Exactly how long a wooden washback (ours are made of Douglas Fir, or Oregon Pine as it is known) lasts depends on a number of factors, but we believe that it is around sixty years. Once again this is not an essential short term replacement, but a sound long-term investment in the future of traditional methods at this great distillery.
6) Another issue is the all-important supply of our cooling water. This is drawn from the burn that runs past, supplemented by the dam at An Torran that sits in the hills a mile or so above us. The dam was built at the same time as the distillery, in 1881, and is subject to silting. We are proposing to dig out some of this silt to see if we can extend the operational period that we enjoy without rain. Last summer was exceptionally dry and we had to stop distilling twice because of lack of cooling water. Ideally we would like to prevent that from happening again – even if the harsh reality is that we may not have another summer like that for another twenty years…!!
Everything we do in this maintenance programme is carefully assessed and monitored to ensure that no changes will be made to the traditional artisanal production methods and equipment.
We will of course still be open throughout the maintenance period, although tours will somewhat curtailed as we will not be able to access the production areas. We will still be able to undertake warehouse tours and conduct warehouse tastings. Visitors will still be able to view the Harvey Hall bottling line and there will be additional featues in the Laddieshop including video showing the production process. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Mary and her team on 01496 850190. Slainte!