Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The people of Knockdhu - Part 1

Knockdhu circa 1959
Very recently I was at a whisky supper with friends where many great discussions took place. One of which dealt with "who" makes the whiskies we drink. As many know, whisky has been made for hundreds of years and the process, albeit much more modernized these days, is still the same. We talked about the fact that a few of the "next generation" whisky makers are coming to the table equipped with degrees or doctorates in chemistry, etc.. However there is a heart and soul at distilleries and it isn't just ONE person who makes the whiskies. It is still created by 1 part alchemy, 1 part magic and 1 part luck, well at least in some of our opinions anyway. Whisky is not an exact science, it truly is a wonderment of checks/balances, and surprises at times. 

Recently Chip Tate from Balcones created a whisky called Brimstone Resurrection and I quote Chip in a blog from "in the case of this one barrel, we messed up. We burnt the corn to the bottom of the still while distilling it. Badly burnt it ... very badly ... hammer and chisels badly... I couldn't just throw it out so I put it aside. The result is a wonderfully powerful and subtle Brimstone whisky. Sun grown corn, then roasted, burned, twice boiled and then "raised up" in a heavily charred barrel to be released as Brimstone Resurrection!"

People make whiskies, even if using modern machines with bells and whistles.  People... So when I contacted a few distilleries to see if I could do an exposé on what makes them "tick", Alasdair Reid from Knockdhu gladly started sending me biographies, photos and lovely stories of the people that work there. For those of you who don't know it's where one of my favorite scotches comes from: AnCnoc.  

This week I will be presenting you with one of the six shift operators who works there: Mr. Alex Elrick.

Alex is the most recent addition to the Knockdhu team and is also the youngest by far, having turned twenty five in August. (Just a pup!)

His interests outside the distillery are his car, the gym and on weekends off going out with his mates in his hometown of Huntly looking for that special young lady (He’s single at the moment!)

Alex started at Knockdhu in July 2011, coming from a mechanical background (time served motor mechanic) which can come in handy at the distillery when things go wrong. After a few couple of weeks of training from the other guys he was soon flying solo. 

At Knockdhu each operator works single man shifts so that means they are responsible for all aspects of the production of the whisky from: Taking delivery of the malt at one end through the process of grinding, mashing, distilling and all the way to filling casks at the other. AND to some people's surprise this is all still done manually, no computers!  

Right, confession time, when I said no computers that’s not strictly true as they did invest in a new fangled computer thingy to help the lads out a wee bit:
This is the distillery computer :)
Each shift operator also keeps the place clean and polished. Its quite a busy shift with all this going on.

So to sum Alex up: He is young, free and single and the rest of the Knockdhu employees are quite jealous!!!

Thanks to Alex, Alasdair and Knockdhu for allowing me the opportunity to showcase the hands/hearts and souls of this lovely distillery.   


I plan on visiting when I head over to Scotland in 2014. I very much look forward to a tour and meeting all of them. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for more of this series. I look forward to presenting them all, one by one to you...


1 comment:

  1. Hey Alex,
    I'm having one of your 16yo drams. Nice to put a face to a good whisky. Looking forward to the other folks at Knockdhu. Thanks Johanne, nice idea.