Monday, February 24, 2014

A Pure Traditionalist - Ian MacMillian of Burn Stewart


Ian MacMillian - Head of Distilleries and Master Blender of Burn Stewart
It is always good to meet a Head Distiller and it would seem the more you write about whisky the more the opportunity arises to do just that.

On the 17th Feb, 2014 The Head of Distilleries and Master Blender at Burns Stewart, Ian MacMillian, ran a small tasting and introduction to the company's brand line up at The Wild Rover, Sydney. Burn Stewart is a collection of 3 distillery locations under one corporate umbrella. These distilleries are: Bunnahabhain, Isle of Islay; Deanston, Stirling ; Tobermory & Ledaig, Isle of Mull. Burn Stewart sell a good deal of their products to other whisky blenders as well as maintaining 2 blended labels themselves: Scottish Leader and Black Bottle.

Ian walking us through the drams
It would seem a Master Distiller is a rare but sort after position, as Ian MacMillian is yet another fundamental individual in the Scotch Whisky world bridging the 40+ years in the industry, appearing to have no intension of leaving his children anytime soon. Entering into the life of whisky in 1973 at Glengoyne distillery, Ian proudly considers himself "a pure traditionalist" in regards to his values in making whisky which in his words "I hold them so dearly". Ian also went on to comment that the ingredients and the people are as important as each other in the production process.

True to a Head Distiller's form Ian spoke about his passion for whisky, years coming up in the industry and the stories of the daily drams that came with with it, as well as his intention to continue to pass on his knowledge to otters to ensure whisky is made by people rather than machines. Ian is clearly passionate about just about anything to do with whisky. It was especially clear when he spoke about the process of chill filtering and what is removes from whisky. One could almost sense his blood starting to heat by a couple of degrees as the thought of the process entered his mind. Ian made it clear his intention was to keep the whiskies he makes above 46% and ensure no chill fingering is to take place in order to retain as much taste, texture, and colours as possible from barrel to bottle.

The whisky line up
During Ian's talk he walked us through 4 whiskies that were key representations of each brand: Deanston 12yo, Bunnahabhain 12yo, Tobermory 15yo, Ledaig 10yo. Though I do have notes for each whisky taken at the time I would prefer to simply deliver the names in order for yourselves to explore at a later time. It would be of note to mention that all whiskies were thoroughly enjoyable from the unpeated Bunnahabhain through to the the Ledaig which Ian classes quite clearly as a true representation of an old style whisky. You may remeber in a recent previous post, A Dram To share, I had been delivered by a friend a sample of a young Ledaig additionally recasked by The Whisky Shop. It is safe to say the Whisky Shop sample is a travesty and is not delivering a true representation of what a Ledaig should taste like.

Thanks to Ian for his time, and to both Good Citizens & island2island for the invitation.

The Baron