anCnoc interviews Mark Williamson, our Blender and Spirit Quality Manager
Posted on November 17, 2017
Discover more about our latest expression, Peatheart, as we sit down with our Blender and Spirit Quality Manager.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the industry, and how your journey has led to your current job?
It all started with my Grandad’s homebrew wine! I was fascinated how he took fruit and spices, put it all in a bucket, shook in some powder he called ‘yeast’, and after a few weeks it was ready to bottle, with the resulting liquid having been transformed in flavour, I tried a few sips of each batch he made and was amazed by the flavours he created from what looked like a bucket of bubbling mashed up fruit.
I went onto study biology and found an interest in microbiology which introduced me to yeast again and fermentation – the process of brewing and making alcohol. Brewing beer, especially in a brewery seemed like a good mix of applying the science of microbiology and a more industrial side involving pumps, pipework, vats and barrels. After that, I decided to Study Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University.
Admittedly not the most committed of academic students at the time, I enjoyed studying aspects of the malting, brewing and distilling industries, and it turned out to be as I expected; a really interesting combination of, amongst other topics, yeast biology and engineering.
After graduating, I worked for a large multinational brewer in the quality laboratory and at a couple of the brewing sites. As part of the job, I was a member of taste panels, and it is here I gained an insight into the flavour and for me, the most interesting part of the final product. It was this that lead me to want to take my experience and move to the whisky industry.
I started at Inver House Distillers in 2008 as Assistant Blender, today I am the Blender and Spirit Quality Manager, looking after the day to day aspects of spirit quality and with involvement in the selection of casks for all our products.
For those who may not know about Peaty whisky and its process can you tell us a little bit about it?
When we’re making peaty whisky we use malted barley, during the malting process we need to dry the germinated barley to make it ready for use. In peaty whisky we use peat as part of the fuel to dry the barley, the peat smoulders and gives off a thick smoke full of flavour, this flavour sticks to the malted barley and is transferred to the spirit during production at the distillery. The flavours that the peat impart are typically smoky, with differences coming from the geographical location of the peat that is used, the amount of peat as well as the individual distillery characteristics.
Tell us about anCnoc’s core characteristics? And how these translate to the new Peatheat?
anCnoc is a delicate whisky; we expect light fruity aromas, ranging from citrus to sweet candy-fruity notes. Peatheart reflects these characteristics of anCnoc and with a big hit of peat.
What does having a permanent Peaty expression mean to you and anCnoc?
Previously we have released only limited editions of each peated expression, having Peatheart as an ongoing expression means we can introduce consistency and hopefully appeal to a more of our of friends and fans.
Tell us more about Peatheart?
Peatheart is our first on-going peaty whisky.
The journey of crafting this whisky starts off by selecting casks that suit the flavour profile that we’re looking for; this includes choosing various ages of whisky and from different casks types. Each of these gives different combinations of maturity and subsequent flavours, these are used together to give us the final result that we are looking for.
So, now that we understand more about Peatheart, you must tell us a bit about the whisky itself?
Peatheart has been matured in American oak casks which have imparted a delicate golden, straw colour to the spirit.
On the nose there are the delicate, sweet-fruity hallmark characteristics of anCnoc as well as vanilla intermingled with smoky-vanilla, on taste the peaty character is foremost with its burnt, smoky, astringent flavours; coal tar and tobacco, this gives way to the fruity sweet anCnoc core character.
The finish leaves a nice bitterness reminiscent of burnt wood and dark chocolate.
Finally, when is your favourite time to enjoy a peaty dram?
The later it gets in the evening, the more I would tend to reach for a peated whisky. I usually start at full strength, then add a little water to bring the flavours out, I find the addition of water changes peaty whisky especially, although there is definitely a point where enough is enough, and the smoky flavours start to become diluted. As the flavours are so big and powerful, a peated whisky makes a good final drink.
To discover more about Peatheart, visit here.