A stillman in the Scotch whisky industry is responsible for the successful delivery of production operations and the maintaining of stills that are used to produce Scotch whisky. The role involves a combination of technical skill, attention to detail, and an understanding of the unique qualities that make Scotch whisky so highly regarded around the world.
The role involves establishing a progressive and fully maintained production environment and a memorable, hospitable guest experience. As a stillman, you are expected to be knowledgeable in all aspects of whisky production, imparting this knowledge to both guests and staff when needed.
Main duties and responsibilities
The primary duties of a stillman include:
- Operating the stills during the distillation process, which involves heating a mixture of malted barley, water, and yeast in the stills to create a vapor that is then condensed back into a liquid. You must ensure that the stills are running smoothly and make any necessary adjustments to the temperature or pressure to maintain the quality of the final product. You must also maintain the stills by cleaning and repairing them as needed.
- Monitoring the fermentation process to ensure that the mixture of malted barley, water, and yeast has properly fermented and testing the alcohol levels to determine when it is ready for distillation.
- Taking regular samples of the whisky during the distillation process to ensure that it meets the required standards for quality and taste. Making necessary adjustments as required to the distillation process to achieve the desired result.
- Servicing, repairing, adjusting, and testing machines, devices, moving parts, and equipment that are used in the Whisky distillation process. Monitoring process indicators, instruments, gauges, and meters to detect and report any possible problems.
- Record and compile operating data, instrument readings, documentation, and results of laboratory analyses. Maintaining detailed records of each batch of whisky produced, including the ingredients used, the temperature and pressure during the distillation process, and any adjustments made along the way. These records are used to ensure consistency in the final product and to identify any issues that may arise.
- Analysing data collected and evaluating results to establish the best solution for any issues identified. Using best practice problem solving techniques. Preparing and presenting reports.
- Maintaining all records associated with Scotch Whisky production that are required by HMRC and the Spirits Drinks Verification Scheme compliance and ensuring all equipment involved with spirit preparation and cask filling is maintained and calibrated according to HMRC regulations.
- Adhering to strict health and safety guidelines to ensure the safety of themselves and others in the distillery. This may include wearing protective clothing and equipment, ensuring that the stills are properly ventilated, and handling chemicals and equipment in a safe manner.
- Assisting the Head of Production with general administration associated with the production as required.
Skills and experience
To be a successful stillman you need to have a unique combination of skills and experience, including:
- A strong technical understanding of the distillation process and ability to operate and maintain the stills and associated equipment. This may include experience with boilers, condensers, and other machinery used in the production of whisky.
- Meticulous attention to detail in your work, paying close attention to the details of each batch of whisky produced. This includes monitoring the temperature, pressure, and alcohol content of the stills and adjusting as needed to achieve the desired result.
- Strong problem-solving skills to be able to quickly identify problems and develop solutions. This may require creative problem-solving skills and the ability to think on your feet.
- Ability to communicate effectively with other members of the production team, including distillery managers, other stillmen, and laboratory technicians. This requires good interpersonal and communication skills.
- A passion for whisky and an understanding of its unique qualities. This requires a deep appreciation of the history and culture of whisky production and a willingness to continue learning and developing your skills.
- A degree in distilling, brewing, or a related field, along with relevant experience in the industry. Some employers may also require specific certifications or training in health and safety, first aid, or other related areas.
The role of a stillman requires a unique combination of technical skill, attention to detail, problem-solving ability, and a passion for whisky production. With the right qualifications and experience, you could find this a challenging and rewarding career path.
To become a stillman, you typically need to have:
- A degree in distilling, brewing, or a related field.
- Knowledge of chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
- Technical skills in operating and maintaining machinery.
- High levels of attention to detail.
- Good communication and interpersonal skills.
- The ability to work independently and as part of a team.
- A passion for whisky and an understanding of its unique qualities.
A stillman plays a crucial role by ensuring the quality and consistency of the final product. It is a demanding job that requires a combination of technical skill, attention to detail, and a passion for the art of distilling.