Whisky Myths Debunked #2 – The Six Floor Maltings

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by Oliver Klimek on July 4, 2010

When you surf the the whisky web or talk to people from a distillery, one factoid constantly keeps popping up: “Distillery X is one of only six distilleries in Scotland that still have their own floor maltings”. Well, I’ve heard this about so many distilleries that I did a little research. Here are the ones I found:

  1. Balvenie
  2. Benriach
  3. Bowmore
  4. Highland Park
  5. Kilchoman
  6. Laphroaig
  7. Springbank

Now that’s seven, and I’m not even sure if this list is complete. I agree that this fact is not truly sensational. But that number six is so bloody persistent that it has deserved a proper debunking.

Check your numbers!

Edit: I have heard doubts that Benriach floor maltings really are in operation. Here is the text from their website:

“And, BenRiach boasts one further difference – standing apart from the other Spey Valley distilleries, the traditional floor maltings with their distinctive pagoda style chimneys can produce peated, malted barley, enabling the distillery to capture the defining taste of peat reek in a few of their special bottlings.”

For me this reads as if the floor maltings are used. But I just asked Benriach by e-mail about the status of their maltings and I will inform you about their response.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

gal g July 4, 2010 at 6:18 pm

3 of 7 are from Islay…
not bad… i wonder how actually doing your own malting helps to produce better malt.
all of those are wonderful distilleries, but there are others which dont malt themselves yet produce outstanding complex drams (Ardbeg, for example) , Lagavulin (anyone claims the 16 and the 16 De are not works of art?)

G.

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Oliver Klimek July 4, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Gal, I honestly don’t know. Floor malted barley will certainly be different. But is it really better? On Islay I got to taste peated malt in a few distilleries. By far the tastiest was that from Lagvaulin.

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Ingo (WhiskySponge) July 4, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I dont know if quality is really an issue with those few distilleries that decided to hang on to traditional floor malting. It seems to me that its more an image thing; Catchword: living museum.
All distilleries listed here want to sell their make as single malts – and turn away from selling casks to the blending companies. So you have to deliver a good show to your customers (who are, as we all know, more like fans idolizing their „stars“ than mere customers) to keep them committed.

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Oliver Klimek July 4, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Kilchoman announced to release floor-malt and drum-malt whisky as different bottlings. This should be the chance to see if there really is a big difference. I just hope they won’t cover the difference by maturing one in sherry and the other in bourbon casks.

And the museum aspect is certainly true as well.

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Mark July 6, 2010 at 11:05 am

The Islay trio buy the majority of their malt from the Port Ellen maltings. They floor malt only around 10% – 20% of their needs for tourist/PR purposes. This would indicate that there is no quality advantage. Springbank, however, does malt 100% themselves. I don’t know about the rest.

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Steffen Bräuner July 8, 2010 at 7:27 am

Highland Park makes their peated malt themselves then mix it with unpeated for the HP recipe

(It’s mainly unpeated, I forgot the ratio, I think its about 1:4)

/Macdeffe

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Steffen Bräuner August 16, 2010 at 6:31 am

Any news from BenRiach

I am still sure they don’t have floor maltings (well they do, but they don’t use them for malting)

Macdeffe

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Steffen Bräuner July 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Visited them during SoS. They have floor maltings, but don’t use them since they shut down the operation years ago. Same can be said about other distilleries like Ardbeg, even Coleburn

Steffen

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Oliver Klimek July 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Thanks, Steffen. Good to see this mystery answerd by first-hand experience. Knockdhu have a malting floor with the kiln ready to be fired up.They already did it for fun but who knows, maybe they will give it a try for real in the future.

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Oliver Klimek May 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Benriach officially announced today that they are going to re-activate their floor maltings!

http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2012/05/benriach-maltings-scotch-whisky-news/

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