Paul was chatting to Malcolm Rennie of Annandale Distillery. http://www.annandaledistillery.com/
Hello Malcolm, nice to meet you. Can you tell me how you became involved in the whisky industry?
A; Hi Paul. My father was a cooper to trade and took us from Stirling to Islay in 1974 when I was 11 yrs old, to Bunnahabhain Distillery in fact. I worked at Bunnahabhain for a short while after leaving school before going to the Merchant Navy for 2 ½ yrs. When I returned we had moved to Bruichladdich, my dad as head warehouse man where he stayed for 25yrs. After a hiatus I started at Bruichladdich as a Mashman in 1987 until the Distillery closed in 1995. I then managed to get into the newly taken over by Glenmorangie, Ardbeg in 1997. In 2003 I was seconded to Glen Moray in Elgin as Assistant Manager. In 2005 I became Distillery Manager of Kilchoman Distillery. Starting a Distillery from scratch was quite a challenge but was well worth the effort considering how well the spirit has been received. In 2010 I decided on a new challenge here at Annandale.
Paul; And how did you come to be at one of Scotland’s newest distilleries?
A; While at Kilchoman I used to run an Academy type course where people could come and learn a more hands on and in depth experience. My very first ‘pupil’ so to speak was David Thomson who some months later bought the Annandale Distillery site. The rest, as they say is history.
Paul; Can you describe a typical day at the moment?
A; A typical day at the moment is really project managing and tying things up with our building contractor regarding the restoration and new build. Also co-ordinating all the other aspects of starting up a Distillery like HMRC approvals, plant installation, negotiating process material and cask supply contracts etc.
Paul; If you can, tell me of the distillery plans…
A; Obviously we firstly want to produce fantastic spirit. We also think it’s very important to bring whisky distillation back to this part of Scotland, along with all the economic benefits that should bring to the region. So we want to make Annandale Distillery a ‘must go to’ destination in southern Scotland. Our Visitor Centre will include a Coffee Shop and retail area. We will also offer various different tour experiences including special Managers tours by myself.
Paul; Now to the whisky, what type of whisky will you produce? Peat, non peat, both???
A; Annandale will produce both peated and non peated spirit. The Distillery has been designed from the outset to be able to do this easily and efficiently with separate malt storage bins and 2 separate Low Wines and Feints Receivers. The Distillery plant has been designed to give us a nice clean fruity character but also with a balance of body and complexity. We are using 2 smaller Spirit stills rather than 1 large still to increase copper contact.
Paul; what will be the annual production?
A; Initial annual production will be around 260, 000 LPA with one shift working which will be 6 mashes per week. This will double when we go to 2 shifts in the future.
Paul; With so much news and marketing for whisky these days, PR and marketing is very important, how did you decide on bottle shape, logo and labels?
A; Our ‘A’ logo was inspired by the shape of a billowing sail of one of the tea clippers which were built in Annan. We are going to build a relationship with two very well known Scots for our 2 styles of spirit. Robert Bruce for our peated and Robert Burns for our unpeated. Our bottles and labels etc are all in their final design stage.
Paul; can you give me any techno details on equipment and plant?
A; Porteus Mill ex Caperdonich along with destoner and assorted conveyors. All other equipment new, 4 x 15 T Malt storage bins. 2.5 T semi lauter Mash Tun. 6 x 12000 ltrs Douglas Fir Washbacks.
12000 ltr Wash Still, 2 x 4000 ltr Spirit Stills. 2 x 8000 ltr LWFR’s (one for peated and one for unpeated) 1 x 2000 ltr ISR and 1 x 12000 ltr SRWV. Boiler is 4000 kg/hr Cochran ‘Wee Chieftain’
Paul; what is your favourite part of the day?
A: The end, because I’m a day closer to starting to make spirit.
Paul; and – the least favourite?
A; The start, because I know I’m not any closer to starting to make spirit
Paul; do you intend taking any risks? new ideas? any innovations?
A; Not particularly. I would let a really carefully made high quality spirit speak for itself.
Paul; what would you say the best age would be to bottle whisky? minimum and maximum?
A; That’s all very subjective. Young whisky does’nt mean an inferior whisky nowadays. A well made spirit in a quality cask can mature surprisingly quickly. An average spirit in an old cask could well be of inferior quality to the younger spirit even though it had spent more time in the cask. 3 yr old bottlings are necessary for new distilleries for all sorts of reasons but obviously lack maturity, so I would say something like 6 yrs old minimum to let the wood give more complexity and maturity. Maximum would have to depend on spirit character and cask type so I’m going to leave that one. Although too long and the lower strength alcohol starts to extract more water soluble components giving the characteristic ‘woody’ effect.
Paul; what are your views re adding water, coke, ice etc?
A; To experience whisky at it’s best I would recommend only water. But you can add whatever you like if it makes you drink whisky, whatever floats your boat.
Paul; does winning a whisky award/medal really make any difference to sales?
A; I’m not sure really, but it’s nice recognition for the effort you’ve put into your product.
Paul; how will you select casks?
A; Very carefully. We don’t want an overtly bourbon character to our spirit so we will use a bigger proportion of good refills over fresh bourbons along with some sherry.
Paul; do you have any thoughts on finishing? (sherry, port etc)
A; Yes, we will definitely do some finishing in sherry especially for our younger expressions as it gives a nice ‘roundness’. I’m sure we will dabble with the odd port or wine casks also.
Paul; we have many club members asking “do you offer cask sales”? can you tell me if this is something you will offer?
A; All of our 2014 production will be kept by ourselves, but casks will be available to purchase from early 2015. Pricing TBC. Please contact email@example.com to add your name to our list.
Many thanks Malcolm for your time, I look forward to sampling new make and the first whisky from the distillery.