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Whisky Making - Art or Science?

In the end, the artists had it – by a narrow margin, much to the delight of their advocate, Dr Roger Jones. Scientists had a vital role, he argued, but in the end, some of the central concepts, such as taste and flavour, were indefinable.

Not at all, maintained, Dr Tim Dolan, in a stout defence of the skills of the chemist and the engineer. More and more sophisticated insturments were being developed, to analyse in scientific terms what had previously relied on rule of thumb – or feel of elbow.

You could now, he remarked, measure the ruthenium content of some substance in the process to three parts in a billion – if, he cheerfully reflected, you had the notion to do so.

Furthermore, he pointed out, every stage in the making of whisky could be analysed and technology applied accordingly to improve production.

Aha, said Roger Jones, but what happened when one company wanted to to alter the shape of their stills? There was no way to predict how still shape could influence the flavour of the resulting spirit.

And the point was, he continued, that there were things in the art of whisky making to which you could put numbers.

Not at all, said some of the audience. Oh yes indeed, said others. And with the encouragement of the expert panel of Glen Ord site operations managers Willie MacDougall and Daniel Cant, the audience's views brightened further the enjoyment of the evening for everyone.

still at glen ord distillery, muir of ordGlen Ord manager Eric Walker chaired the proceedings with a warm welcome and some good humour and apt quotes.

The venue was something special, with the shadows of the lights on the stone walls and the traditional implements round about, and images of peat-cutting and malting and distilling, and the products of the craft of cooper and coppersmith.

A big thank-you to our hosts, Glen Ord Distillery and DIAGEO, and to the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

The speakers, the chairman, and the expert witnesses all agree it was a very successful evening

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