Whisky News

Distillers under the snow


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Snowy conditions are often referred to as ‘whisky weather’ in Scotland. A glass of your favorite Scotch in a hot glass, with a mug of hot chocolate or just on its own is sure to keep you warm during those long December nights. But harsh weather may affect production and maturation of whisky in Scotland as experienced last winter season by Knockdhu Distillery in Knock near Huntley, Aberdeenshire. The producer of award-winning anCnoc single malt suffered from parts of roofs on 2 out of its 5 on-site warehouses falling in under the sheer weight of snow, forcing the distiller to move some of the precious stock to another location.

What about this year? We asked Gordon Bruce, Knockdhu Distillery Manager.

‘Not the best possible whisky making weather’ – he jokes. ‘It’s -2F here today and we have about 2 ½ ft of snow. It is a litte difficult getting raw materials in and ready product out but we’re managing. One of the boys slept in the still room on Monday night to make it to work on Tuesday, that’s dedication for you!’

And what about the warehouses? ‘When I have my collapsed warehouses rebuilt they will be very strong and we won’t have to worry. My remaining warehouses have slightly different roof types to ones damaged last year and they don’t seem to be affected by the weight of snow.’

Gordon seems to be able to see positives in this situation: ‘Lots of snow means we won’t have any problems with water supply next year. It’s good news.’

At Balblair Distillery in Edderton near Tain the morale is equally high. Distillery Manager John MacDonald, when asked about the effects of recent heavy snowfall on his operations, comments with confidence: ‘We’ve survived. Made of strong stuff up here. We are in full production, we have enough malt, yeast and oil to keep us going.’ Earlier John wrote on his Twitter: ‘Snow clearing 2day, all hands on deck. Keeping going with production… Phones very quiet, not a bad thing.’

Balblair in Snow

When asked about collapsing warehouse roofs John gets more serious: We never had this problem here so touch wood!

Further north, in Wick, Caithness, Malcolm Waring – Pulteney Distillery Manager – has more reasons to worry but shows remarkable composure: ‘It’s pretty tight here but we’ve kept going. Roads are just passable and north of Brora it’s quite bad. But we managed to get malt delivered from Inverness and luckily we have a good stock of dried yeast. The biggest problem is getting heavy spirit tankers out. Also, production water is freezing in some places. But we are managing, everybody is working hard to make it happen.’


Malcolm calmly dismisses suggestions that snow may be putting too much pressure on his roofs. ‘Not here. Not a problem’ – he says.

About Whisky Critic

My name is Martin and I live in Scotland. I love fine things in life, such as gourmet food, travelling around the world and, last but not least, whisky (naturally, I’m partial to a tipple of whiskey or bourbon as well). I have tasted hundreds of whiskies during the recent years and I finally decided to share my experience.

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