DOING RESEARCH TO KEEP DISTILLING THE SAME. Innovation in the whiskey business is different from innovation in other industries. Since distillers only have a very rough idea of how the distilling process affects taste, they are reluctant to make changes. Porges says that: “Any introduction of new technologies or methods is done sparingly and with extraordinary caution.” Porges cites one distiller that is experimenting with massive automated shaving machines to scrape the lining of barrels to get at fresh wood and prolong the life of barrels.
However, at the Bruichladdich distillery, the majority of the equipment dates back to the facility’s construction in 1881. When the mash tun needed new parts, the distillery chose to shut down for four months while new parts were made from scratch instead of upgrading or modernizing the mash tun. At Laphroaig they hand cut squares of peat from the ground instead of using automated peat-collecting machines. Mortlach is expanding its distillery and, says Porges, “an enormous amount of attention is being paid towards making sure that every tiny nuance of the new stills matches the existing hardware.”