Malted barley, fresh local spring water and yeast are used to make our whisky. We also rely heavily on one essential ingredient - time. Our award-winning malt is testament to our craftsmanship and the artisan approach we use, passed down through generations.
The best malted barley, pure Highland spring water and yeast are the only three ingredients in Glencadam Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Before barley can be used to make Glencadam it must be malted. This is a process used to turn the starch in the barley into sugars. The barley is soaked in water then left for a couple of days to germinate. Just as the first signs of sprouting appear, the barley is heated until dry to halt the grain from germinating any further.
Traditionally, the fires used to dry the barley were fuelled by peat. Peat is a source of fuel dug out of the land and then dried before it can be burned. If left for centuries it would eventually turn to coal. Peat imparts a smokiness onto the barely, which is found in the flavour and aroma of the final spirit.
Glencadam does not use any peated barley and as a result our whisky has a creamy and pure yet complex taste and character. Malted barley is then ground down in our original Victorian mill, until it becomes coarse flour called “grist”.
We mix “grist” with hot water in large containers called “mash tuns”. This forms a porridge-like mixture, which we churn. A sweet liquid is then drained off from the grist and water mixture which we call “wort”. We add a second batch of water, and again the wort is drained off. This second, weaker run of wort is added to the first water in the next batch of grist. This whole mashing process takes us around 8 hours.
Could there be basic info, and then extra “anorak” info that can be clicked up? The essential supply of pure spring water we use for distilling Glencadam's travels from springs at The Moorans, some 8.7 miles away, flowing through the hamlet of Unthank to reach the distillery. It is perhaps the longest water supply for distilling purposes of any Scottish distillery.
We transfer the wort into large, deep containers called “wash backs”, where it is cooled to around 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius) before yeast can be added. The temperature must be lowered so that the yeast, a microscopic living organism, survives to turn the sugar in the liquid in to alcohol. This process is called fermentation. Carbon dioxide is also produced, which creates a large quantity of foam that bubbles up to the top of the wash back. Blades called switchers spin round the top of the wash back to cut through the foam and keep it from over-flowing. The yeast also produces heat, causing the temperature of the liquid to rise from approximately 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius). The alcoholic liquid produced is now referred to as “wash”, and it is very similar in taste to beer, without the added hops. Our fermentation process takes around 48 hours.
The wash is removed from the wash backs and is transported to a large copper vessel called a pot still, where it is heated. The liquid is heated until the alcohol, which evaporates at a lower temperature to water, forms a vapour which travels up a swan-like chimney called a “lye pipe”. It’s then collected and condensed back into a liquid.
Traditionally, the pot stills in Glencadam were heated with coal fires, which were smoky and dirty, and had to be refuelled by hand. We now use steam to control the temperature of our stills. Glencadam has operated just two pot stills since we began in 1825. The shape of the stills at Glencadam plays a big role in shaping the final character of our spirit. An unusual feature in the industry is that our lyne pipes run upwards at an angle of 15 degrees, rather than downwards. This helps to produce a particularly delicate and mellow spirit.
The wash goes through two cycles of distillation, first in the wash still and secondly in the slightly smaller spirit still. All our metalwork is made from cooper, which helps to increase to purity of our spirit. After the first distillation, the alcohol content is around 23% ABV and is referred to as “low wines”. After a second distillation in the spirit still, the alcohol content is between 65 – 75% ABV and is called “new make”.
The Finest Cut
Once distillation is complete, the clear new make spirit comes off the spirit still and is collected in the “low wines feints receiver”.
This is within the “spirit safe” and is used to select which part of the spirit to put into casks for maturation. The spirit is now under the subject to tax under Her Majesty’s Customs and Exercise and is kept under lock and key. Only the best “cut” of the spirit is used, with the first and the last cut returned to the still and to the next batch for distillation.
The middle cut is collected in the spirit receiver to be put into casks. The first and last parts of the spirit, called the fore shots and feints, are not pure enough to meet the high standard of quality required to make Glencadam Single Malt Whisky. The use of a spirit safe by distilleries dates back to the introduction of the Excise Act of 1823.
Glencadam Distillery is capable of producing around 1.4 million litres of spirit per year, and we have a storage capacity of approximately 24,000 casks. This is a relatively small output for a distillery. Very few changes have been made since 1825, as we focus on craftsmanship and quality rather than quantity.
The Long Wait
New make spirit is filled into oak casks, and, by law, must be left for a minimum of three years if it is to be called Scotch Whisky. Each of our casks has been made traditionally - held together by the metal hoops and skilful craftsmanship. The insides of new casks are charred with fire to release the flavour compounds in the wood. The carbon on the inside of the cask filters purifies the spirit.
Oak is the only type of wood used for its porous, flexible and breathable qualities. As the spirit sits in casks, it takes in the flavour from the different layers of the wood. The oak cask used for maturation is permeable, so as the spirit sleeps and times ticks by it will inevitably evaporate. This amounts to about 2% of the alcohol in the cask per year. We refer to this fragrant vapour as the “the angels share”. The surrounding environment, temperature and humidity, affects maturation and plays a role in determining the overall character of the malt.
The age statement on the labels of all our whiskies must represent the youngest whisky that is in the bottle. Some of the casks that have been mixed together to make a batch may be older than the age on the label but they cannot be younger.
Older whiskies have matured for longer in oak casks, which allows for a different range of flavours to develop. Older whiskies are more expensive to produce, as evaporation means they are constantly diminishing, and in turn are usually more expensive to buy. Most often, personal taste plays a huge role in determining preference for a specific age and style of whisky. Rare and old expressions, such as Glencadam Single Cask, are often highly prized as collectors’ items.
Chill filtration is an optional, cosmetic finishing process that many distilleries use to remove fatty acids and oily compounds that can cause the whisky to look cloudy when it is cool. We think flavour is so much more important that appearance, so have chosen not to chill filter any Glencadam Single Malt Whisky.
Many whiskies have also been cosmetically enhanced with added caramel colouring. We don’t think we need to add colour to change our whisky – it’s prefect in its natural state, and bursting with flavour.
The only added ingredient in Glencadam is pure, local Highland spring water. We spent a long time finding the optimum strength to best present its flavour and character. All Glencadam Single Malt Whisky is bottled at 46% vol. By bottling at 46% vol, we eliminate the risk of the whisky looking cloudy when cool.