The Wolf Burn Distillery

Continuing my account of my Scottish holiday with a distillery tour and the cooking of a meal.

Thus post, the latest in my series about my Scottish holiday (May 28 to June 5), covers a visit to the Wolf Burn distillery and my cooking of the subsequent evening meal.

THE WOLF BURN DISTILLERY

In it’s current incarnation, using a couple of warehouse buildings just outside Thurso this distillery is a mere eight years old, though many years ago there was another distillery of the same name. The name comes from a local river, the Wolf Burn (a burn in Scotland is a small river – probably the best known to the world at large under this designation is the Swilcan Burn which crosses St Andrew’s golf course).

The tour began with an explanation of how the malt is prepared before the distillation process can even start, before describing the latter. Incidentally if anyone ever tells you that a peaty element in a whisky comes from the water they are fibbing (as the guy at Talisker on the Isle of Skye did when I visited their establishment) – that flavour element is created by the malt being smoked by burning peat.

The other major contributor to the final flavour of a whisky is the type of cask in which it is matured – this distillery uses casks that have previously been used for Sherry, Madeira, Bourbon and others, and each has its own influence on the final flavour of the product.

The casks are stored up to three high and no higher – heat rises and one does not want the product to overheat while it is maturing.

The experience ended with a sampling of the products. This started with something called Aurora which had been matured in sherry casks and which I found overly sweet and not very much like a whisky. Second up was Northland, matured in American Oak quarter casks. This was preferable to the first. The third sample was an unscheduled bonus, and was decent but not great. The Langskip was is the strongest of their products, 58% alcohol, but for me it was outdone by the final product, the Morven, of which I purchased a bottle to go with the free glass we were each given as souvenirs.

I enjoyed this visit and hope that things go well for the distillery.

VARIATIONS ON A FAMILIAR THEME

That evening I cooked the main meal, doing my chicken and coriander concoction. There were a few tweaks by necessity: the house had no blender, so I created the ginger paste by grating ginger into a cup, adding a bit of water and using the plastic handle of a chopping knife as a mixer. I also had to assess quantities of ground cumin and ground coriander by eye as there were no measuring spoons. Also none of the pans were non-stick, which meant that the chicken needed careful attention while it was cooking. However, the only thing I had come up short on in the early stages of the cooking was the salt, quite a lot of which I had to add at the last checkpoint to generate sufficient flavour. In the event the meal was good and every scrap of it got eaten, though the flavour was not quite up to my usual standards. Given the circumstances however I am pleased with the result.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are some photos from the distillery…

Scotland: Isle of Skye 2 – At The Talisker Distillery

An account of a tour of the Talisker distiller on the Isle of Skye.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my series about my Scottish holiday. My previous post contains links to all its predecessors in the series.

ARRIVING AT THE DISTILLERY

Tours of the Talisker Distillery are rather popular, so we had an hour to fill in before our tour started. There was an exhibition to look at and a gift shop. These occupied us for about half the time, and then we took shelter in my parent’s camper van for the rest. Here are some pictures from this preliminary period…

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Whiskey display 2
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THE TOUR

Most of the distillery itself was off limits as far as photography was concerned due to the possible triggering of dangerous chemical reactions. To give you an idea of the scale of the operation the whisky is produced in tranches of 30,000 litres at a time. Talisker whiskies are classified as mid-range peaty – not as peaty as the likes of Ardbeg, Islay, Lagavulin or Laphroaig but plenty peaty enough to taste. 

The whisky here is double distilled (they used to triple distill until recently). By the time it reaches the end of the distillation process it has an alcohol content of between 64 and 74 percent, and is then diluted with distilled water to reduced this to the desired level which varies between 40% minimum and 57% for the variety which is called 57 Degrees, linking its alcohol content to the latitude of this part of the world. 

The fermentation room contains eight giant containers, each at a different stage of the process, while there are two sets of stills. The first set consists of two each with a capacity of 17,000 litres and the second of three each with a capacity of 11,000 litres.

At the point at which it goes into the casks to mature the liquid is clear – the colour comes from the casks.

After we had seen the final stages of production there was the warehouse and a sampling session (a pub single each). In these closing stages photography was allowed again (I, unlike one of the others of our party had actually been listening when we were told this – I was annoyed when this individual piped up when I started photographing in the warehouse implying that I should not have been doing so, but the guide confirmed what I had already known by listening a few moments earlier – I was in the clear).

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The barrel loses 2% of its content to evaporation per year – after 38 years which this barrel has been there for the amount left would be 0.98 to the power of 38 where 1 stands for a full barrel.

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Whisky Samples
A few drops (emphasis on few) of water brings out the flavour

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DEPARTURE

We decided that the prices in the gift shop were just too high, especially as only one of our three gift vouchers could be used per purchase. The 57 Degrees was priced at £68, while the less strong local stuff was in the region of £40 per bottle. There were also some super-expensive (“Oligarch Prices” as I termed them at the time) bottles. The biggest price tag I saw was £2,400.