Our "credo" with regards to making whisky
On paper, nothing looks simpler than making whisky : you produce a kind of beer, then you distil it, then leave it maturing in a cask for several years.
Making a good whisky has to do in reality with a very delicate kind of "alchemy" : there exist an infinity of recipes and combinations allowing to produce it, without mentionning the variable origin and quality of the raw ingredients, nor the specification of the equipment used to make it. Determining a good combination of all these parameters is a long way from being an easy task, this is the reason why all whiskies are not equal.
During the eight years of research and preparation which have made possible the design and building of Glann ar Mor, we had to do a certain number of choices, the synthesis of which corresponds to what one may call our "credo" with regards to making whisky.
This "credo" brought us to build of Glann ar Mor as a "no compromise" distillery, this as much in its design itself, as in the process of making whisky which we have defined for it.
For a start, this craftmen's distillery is in keeping with the best of Celtic tradition.
Whisky : a long and old Celtic tradition
Distillation of whisky originated and developped in northern areas, where vine does not grow but where barley is cultivated, being the raw ingredient used for the traditional drinks of these areas : Celtic people make beer and whisky, but neither wine nor brandy which are produced in the southern regions.
The first clearly established reference concerning the making of whisky dates back to 1494 in Scotland with a certain John Cor. But one knows that the tradition of the barley aqua vitae is significantly anterior to this date. It seems very likely that the Irish monks were those who brought to Scotsmen the secrets of whisky making.
These same monks are also at the origin of many saints venerated in Brittany, having left their native land to go evangelizing the land of Breton people, at the V Th, VI Th and VII Th centuries. One can easily imagine that they had also probably brought with them their knowledge about the making of aqua vitae from barley, the Uisge Beatha, which is to be found in Brittany in particular during the second half of the XIX th century.
Amongst the numerous Breton saints from Irish origin, Saint Maudez offers for us a special interest : son of the king Erelus, he landed at the VI Th century in "Port Beni", situated a stone's throw from Glann ar Mor distillery in the mouth of the Jaudy river, and left his name to "Lanmodez" and to the "Ile Maudez", where he lived and which is situated hardly further in the mouth of the "Trieux" river.
Caption of the stained glass of St Maudez :
"Maudez Irish prince lands in Brittany at the VI Th century. He retreated in the isle of St Maudez where he accomplished several miracles" (Chapel Kermaria, Plouha).
Glann ar Mor : a no compromise distillery
A genuine Celtic distillery, Glann ar Mor is also a craftsmen's distillery, whose vocation is to produce whisky from malted barley in limited volume, and without the slightest concession to quality and authenticity. This objective and eight years of research, have led to materialize this "credo" by a certain number of very concrete choices. In this respect, Glann ar Mor is a whisky distillery being truly unique : it will probably be the only one making the synthesis of all these specifications under one roof.
Two different pot stills, as well by their shape as by their capacity : one being optimized for the first distillation, the other one for the second distillation.
Shape of the upper part of the pot still quite wide at the basis, in the tradition of Celtic distilleries : essential to allow a free flow of the ascending vapours with their aromatic congeners. The objective is to produce an oily and rich spirit ensuring much complexity.
Heating of pot stills with a live flame : this is most important with the first distillation, and will deliver a better balanced and more unctuous spirit than is the case with steam coils.
Pot stills of small size : optimisation of the ratio copper surface/volume, favourable to the elimination of undesirable components by catalysis with the copper during distillation.
Condensers of the worm type : very progressive transformation of the alcohol's vapours into liquid on a length of about fourty meters, as opposed to the short tube condensers.
Wooden washbacks (Oregon pine) rather than stainless steel : during the fermentation they favour the preservation of the non yeasted components with their relevant aromatic congeners.
Raw ingredients and process
A rigorous selection of the best malted barleys.
A very pure and soft water, drawn from a subsoil of thick granite beds
During the boring, water found in thick granite beds spreads on the surface.
A fermentation of prolonged duration, during the crucial step when the sugars from the malted barley are transformed into alcohol. The formation of aromatic congeners, which lie at the heart itself of the character of the future whisky and which is happening at the same time, can thus get enriched with further components which will add to the complexity.
A distillation done without hurry : for an optimized "sorting" of the various aromatic components and a middle cut retaining only the best.
Usage of casks of high quality (Sauternes casks and Bourbon barrels, both first fill) and of limited capacity : theis size smaller than 250 l is essential for ensuring a maturation of the highest quality.
And last, and for memory, exceptionnal climatic conditions : very favourable to the quality and speed of maturation.
Oh !... we almost forgot the most important in a distillery : the cat !
Hermione, born in April 2003, is the mascot of Glann ar Mor, at the same time as having the heavy responsibility of protecting the all important raw ingredient which malted barely is : being a mouse in Glann ar Mor will not be an easy life, you can trust her !