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#20163 - 29/07/07 05:14 AM Bladnoch on WhiskyCast
Matchsticks Offline
Full Member


Registered: 30/10/06
Posts: 27
Loc: PA, USA
I'm sure many of you on the forum listen to the excellent podcast - WhiskyCast. In fact, I've heard John & Geoff interviewed on there by Mark Gillespie in the past. Anyway, in the July 22nd episode, Mark interviews Iain Henderson who formerly worked at Bladnoch and Iain gives some nice insights into the distillery towards the end of the interview, and John - you're mentioned as well. Thought you all might like to take a listen. You can download from http://www.whiskycast.com or from iTunes - Episode #101.

Enjoy!
Eric from PA

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#20166 - 29/07/07 04:32 PM Re: Bladnoch on WhiskyCast [Re: Matchsticks]
Alexander Offline
Full Member


Registered: 24/03/02
Posts: 2494
Loc: Scottish Borders
Hi Eric

I listened to the whiskycast with Iain H.

He suggested that the still house had not been enlarged/increased in capacity, during my time in charge of Laphroaig.

I can categorically say that it most definitely was increased, with the addition of one wash still, and one large spirit still (equivalent to two small spirit stills.

Which meant that in total the stillhouse increased from two wash to three wash stills and from three spirit to four spirit stills, (equivalent to five spirit stills).

Also the brewing and fermenting section of the distillery was increased by 100% during my time at Laphroaig.

This meant that the entire production capability was increased by 100% during my stewardship of Laphroaig Distillery. We of course the operated the distillery at the then new increased levels of production!!!

The spirit wasn't too bad either judging by the last 33 years sales figures. I was involved also with Laphroaig in my capacity as QA/GM distilleries for several years in the late 70's/early 80's. I don't recall the spirit particularly "suffering" due to out of balance operation of the stills!!

I of course was the last manager to work for and with the legendary Bessie Williamson, before she finally sold out to Long John Intenational Ltd..

Just though I ought to "put the record straight"

Eric, perhaps you could draw Mark Gillespie's attention to these important an salient facts.

Cheers
Sir John

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#20173 - 30/07/07 02:42 PM Re: Bladnoch on WhiskyCast [Re: Alexander]
BigWhisky Offline
Full Member


Registered: 02/08/03
Posts: 1432
Loc: Cincinnati, OH
Hi Sir John,
I have emailed Mark with your telephone details in case he wants to get a "live"response. Maybe we should get Mark over to Scotland during the next Whisky School so he can get an in depth interview.

Cheers,

Jeoff
_________________________
Slainte,
Jeoff
www.wildscotsman.com
www.facebook.com/WildScotsmanWhisky

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#20176 - 30/07/07 05:04 PM Re: Bladnoch on WhiskyCast [Re: BigWhisky]
Matchsticks Offline
Full Member


Registered: 30/10/06
Posts: 27
Loc: PA, USA
I contacted Mark earlier today as well. Sorry to stir up a minor controversy here. The intent was to relate to all on the forum some nice insights into earlier days of Bladnoch but unfortunately, that got mixed in with some errors on the Laphroaig piece. Oh well, hopefully for Mark all press is good press - it's really an enjoyable listen each week.

Thanks,
Eric.

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#20180 - 30/07/07 10:52 PM Re: Bladnoch on WhiskyCast [Re: Matchsticks]
BigWhisky Offline
Full Member


Registered: 02/08/03
Posts: 1432
Loc: Cincinnati, OH
Eric,
I would not worry. Mark has done some great work and it is in no way compromised in my opinion. If mark was a traditional reporter he might have some liability for fact checking, however, when one has the source on tape that is a whole new game.

Cheers

Jeoff
_________________________
Slainte,
Jeoff
www.wildscotsman.com
www.facebook.com/WildScotsmanWhisky

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#20183 - 31/07/07 12:53 AM Re: Bladnoch on WhiskyCast [Re: BigWhisky]
John from PA Offline
Full Member


Registered: 26/07/04
Posts: 283
Loc: Downingtown PA (USA)
Sir John, you stated "I don't recall the spirit particularly "suffering" due to out of balance operation of the stills!!" I have to say that I personally did a lot of suffering as the "old" Laphroaig was one of my favorites, especially on a cold winter night when I had the fireplace roaring.

I did do one thing that I could probably be criticized for...I never liked a "fresh" bottle. When I opened a "fresh" bottle I would leave the cork out for a few days. To me (and my inept tastes) I felt the whisky improved after a few days of breathing. To this day I still do this with many of the peaty Islay malts. I have also had some blind tastings with friends with bottle pairs, one of which has been open for a week, and almost always the whisky that has been open is generally felt to be the better of a pair.

John from PA
(Whisky School 2)

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#20184 - 31/07/07 01:14 AM Re: Bladnoch on WhiskyCast [Re: John from PA]
Ardbeggordon Offline
Full Member


Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 2012
Loc: ?
Aah the old "Has Laphroaig changed / been dumbed down ?" question ! Usually next to the "Has my Bowmore got FWP ?" one . I've stated a few times that i think Laphroaig has changed since i first drank it in 1984 . In them days you could clear a room in 20 secs just by opening a bottle of the stuff!
I kept getting told it was my taste that had changed but....
My final evidence is me wife (of 13 years and 1 day)your honour.....
When we were out socialising , after a few pints i would have a dram or two to finish the night , usually the laph as the only other stuff available i wouldn't touch with a barge pole anyway Mel would smell it at 10 paces and make some comment about the smell !
Now m'lord move forward to the summer of 2006 and that well known drinking establishment in Port Ellen , The White Hart Hotel . I decided to give the Laph 10 another go as rumour was that it had been returned to former glories , on returning from the bar no comment from the good Lady , "what's that ?" she asks sticking her nose in the glass.......no reaction....... on being told of it been from Laph she said "No way !" .... WAY!
Case closed ya honour......



Edited by Ardbeggordon (31/07/07 01:15 AM)
_________________________
Slainte
Gordon

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#20189 - 31/07/07 11:17 AM Re: Bladnoch on WhiskyCast [Re: Ardbeggordon]
Alexander Offline
Full Member


Registered: 24/03/02
Posts: 2494
Loc: Scottish Borders
Gordon, a good point you made there.

Pre-1972 when I was in charge of Laphroaig and before the one large spirit still was installed, the character of Laphroaig was much heavier than subsequently was the case following the introduction of post 1972 spirit into the general bottling scheme of things. Indeed it had changed dramatically between 1969 and 1972 following the advent of steam heating in place of direct coal firing.

However the point I was making was NOT whether or no the spirit had changed....it WAS about the fact that the distillery HAD been doubled in capacity LONG before Mr H went there cica 1989 ?
When he was there, the distillery was again upgraded, and that is a fact beyond dispute...it became a push button booze plant...inevitable really, but then it lost it's "Magic" in the process and was just another "me too" operation, and we don't hear very much about that do we ??

As for the stills being out of balance, well all I can do is repeat what I said earlier, we had no problems with the quality of the spirit per se, through to the mid 80's when I moved on, but then others came along in the later 80's and presumably in the pursuit of excellence/BlandNess (more like) fiddled around to suit the stills computer programme settings, IMO, hence the spirit was bound to change.

So you are absolutely correct, today's Laphroaig is characterless to the enthusiasts like us, and bears no resemblance whatsoever to what was produced and bottled in former times, particularly in Bessie's day.

That is not to say however that the marketing guys have not done one hell of a job over many years and £z's later!

On a different tack completely I'll never understand why I H was (and still is by the sound of things in his interview with Mark Gillespie) so bitter at being pushed out to retirement - as HE puts it -. That was the policy of his employers, that you went at age 65. I presume he received a good pension arrangement, and this has surely helped to allowed him to do several other things over the last five years.

Bitterness like that expressed so often by said gentleman could eventually engulf and destry him.

I hope Not.

Sir John

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#20190 - 31/07/07 11:57 AM Re: Bladnoch on WhiskyCast [Re: Alexander]
Ardbeggordon Offline
Full Member


Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 2012
Loc: ?
John ,
Another reason / excuse i've heard banded about for the Changing / dumbing down of Laphroaig is the casks used , in the good old days they would use what ever was at hand 1st refill / 2nd refill etc etc which would allow the spirit to dominate , whereas at some point they started using fresh Bourbon completely for the Single malt release (as do most of the major Distilleries now) and the cask tends to dominate a touch more . Would this contribute to it ?
The Quartercask release took it touch back to what the 10yo used to be but still not anywhere near it !
Funny enough tho last year i had a SMWS released 18yo which was really pungent , more so than the 10yo , it nearly bought a tear to my eye !
_________________________
Slainte
Gordon

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#20191 - 31/07/07 02:39 PM Re: Bladnoch on WhiskyCast [Re: Ardbeggordon]
Alexander Offline
Full Member


Registered: 24/03/02
Posts: 2494
Loc: Scottish Borders
Gordon, the bourbon 1st fills obviously contributes to the final character of the whisky. In the good old days as you rightly say, distillers would use whatever half decent (and not so half decent) casks they had to hand.

However we must not forget that nearly 99.9% of all malts produced were distilled for going into blends and so any (and there were many) inconsistencies would easily be diluted by the introduction of grain, during the blending and marrying processes.

So, in these days it was considerably easier to go into the warehouse and select the pick of the crop so to speak, and bottle what little malt was bottled from some truly outrageously good casks I've got to say.

That began to change for good in the early 70's when it became obvious to some far sighted distillers that a serious (although small in volume terms) market was slowly opening up for them in the malt sector. As a result it was now not acceptable to just take pot luck with cask selection at least for that percentage of production earmarked for malt bottlings in the future.

We, I believe pioneered a very successful wood policy in the old Long John Company, and this was built around the use of ex bourbon barrels of varying quality depending upon the final destination of the whisky to be filled and destined for where etc. etc.

Hope this answers your question

Sir John

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