Please note the following information is now not valid and this course is no longer available
The purpose of the whisky school is to give enthusiasts an opportunity to involve themselves practically in all aspects of the whisky making process. Bladnoch is a traditional old farm distillery. It has not been upgraded to take account of the computerised distilling methods practised in most large distilleries. The various processes are explained in depth and participants are given the opportunity to take an active part in each days production. Guests usually arrive on Thursday afternoon or evening and at about 19.00 pm we have an informal get together in the Bladnoch Inn, a local pub/restaurant and B&B directly opposite the distillery.
Day One :
Friday will focus on the mashing and fermentation processes. We start with the briefest of introductions at 8.30. It’s necessary to get the boiler on and the washbacks cleaned and steamed and the grist mashed in with first waters.
Coffee Break at about 10.15 (whilst the mash stabilises) and during this time we can have slightly more relaxed introductions.
Draining off of first waters from the mashtun via the heat exchanger to the washback and the addition of yeast is not quite so hectic as mashing in. This is followed by the sparging in of second waters and once again the sugary wort is drained to the washback. The importance of milling correctly is explained and demonstrated.
Over the next two days this wash will ferment and during this time participants will be encouraged to continue to monitor and record the decreasing specific gravity of the wash on copies of the appropriate distillery forms. Two days later thanks to the efforts of the yeast, the wash has been converted to a rough beer which can vary in strength from 5 to 7%
Lunch is provided at the distillery.
Having completed the mashing process, all that remains to be done today is to expel the 5 tonnes of damp draff (fortunately mechanically) to the draff tank and in to the farmers trailer. The lifting of the sectional mashtun floor and cleaning away the draff from underneath unfortunately requires about half an hours manual effort. The inside of the Mashtun in a very hot working environment. If you are smart you’ll decide to avoid this.
An appropriate time for a Coffee Break
Throughout the day there will be breaks to discuss the various processes and the effect on the final product. These classrooms are intended to be relaxed but beneficial. Time permitting, parts of the water course of the distillery will be examined Dinner is not provided on Friday night. Participants have the choice of eating where and with whom they choose. Usually we all end up eating in the Bladnoch Inn.
Friday is quite a busy day but participants can choose to involve themselves at whatever mental or physical level they prefer. Discussion and tuition can on many occasions throughout the day be on a one to one basis. From experience of earlier schools we have found that each persons interests varies between production, maturation, tasting, economic and financial aspects, entrepreneurial interests and marketing marketing. How Raymond came to acquire the distillery and to get it operational; how he can sleep soundly despite his overdraft. No subject for discussion is off limits.
Day Two :
09.00am start. Saturday will focus on the distilling process. The wash will have been mashed-in earlier in the week. It will have fermented in the Washback and is now ready to be pumped over into the Wash Charger and then into the Wash Still. When the boiler is up to full steam, this steam is released into the steam pans in the still to heat the wash. The vapours of alcohol rise up the neck, through the condensers and into the safe.
10.15 Coffee Break.
All participants will help distil the new-make spirit. You will learn the key activities in the Still house, charging a wash still, get the ‘steam on’ (commencement of boiling up), and breaking the wash still (or ‘bringing the still in’) into the spirit safe. You will learn about the speed of flow, the various parts of the run and their influence on the spirit.
Lunch provided at the distillery.
The afternoon will be taken up by completion of distilling, expelling the potale from the wash still and the spent lees from the spirit still. Examination of the development progress of recently made spirit in our warehouse.
Evening Tasting & Dinner will be provided at the distillery..
Discussions whilst capable of intelligent conversation will focus on what happens to whisky after the short process of milling, mashing, fermentation and distillation ends and the period of between 3 and 30 years in the maturation warehouse begins. New-make and different ages of cask samples will be jointly presented by John McDougall and other guest speakers. The talks will include the development of wood finishes in both single malts and blended whisky, and the role of the blended whisky in the industry.
Day Three :
09.00 am Start. Sunday will focus on selection and preparation of casks, weighing, stencilling with the all important www.whiskyschool.co.uk , signing your name on the cask you are about to fill. (This is to encourage you in later years to come back and visit it and perhaps bring your children who will insist that you buy things in our shop)
The spirit you have made will have been pumped up to the cask filling store. You will reduce the spirit by calculating and adding the appropriate amount of water. After which the casks are filled, their gross weight recorded and conveyed to the warehouse.
At Bladnoch – warehouses are the old traditional type. That sounds good, but unfortunately it involves much manual labour.
Lunch at the Distillery – The Whisky School is officially over and guests depart to suit their own travel requirements