Not many people get to look inside a whisky bottling plant unless you work there or are based in the nearby offices but I was lucky enough to visit The Edrington Group’s headquarters based outside Glasgow which just happens to include the UK’s fastest whisky bottling plant.
Costing around £3million when installed 12 years ago, this feat of technological brilliance is capable of bottling 600 bottles of whisky every minute.
Just let that sink in for a second.
Photos are not allowed within the a whisky bottling plant floor itself (don’t worry, I managed a few from the balcony, below) but as you walk around, rigidly sticking to the defined walkways and consciously feating a rogue fork lift truck taking you down at any given second, you cannot help but be in awe of the place.
The speed of the bottles is one thing, remarkable, deceptive to the eye, exactly how it looks on TV (how corny) but the efficiency and drive for operational perfection is something even more fascinating.
The Edrington Group are keen investors. In staff, in employee engagement, in equipment, in brand building, in Scotland’s future through millions in charitable donations each year and in no way are they shy of spending a few bob where it matters.
With that in mind, their staff have an interesting sense of loyalty at every level that embodies a drive for efficiency and reducing operational costs where possible.
For example, they were curious about how much shrink wrap was actually needed around palettes for shipping. Turns out that through trial and error they were able to reduct the amount used by 40%.
The innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that embodies the business is quite pleasing to hear.
Another efficiency example is so obvious yet ingenious.
They noticed that massive heaters were on all day every day in the on site warehouse where all the finished product is kept. Not a bad thing in itself but with most of the shutters open most of the day, a lot of this heat was costly and being lost straight out of the building.
So what did they do?
Got rid of the massive warehouse heaters all together and installed bespoke heaters to each fork lift truck so the drivers are able to keep warm yet the warehouse delivers increased energy efficiency. Superb.
Back to the line.
Each bottle, remember 600 per minute, is photographed at various stages and matched to what ‘perfect’ looks like and instantly rejects the ones that are even the slightest bit imperfect to be decanted and the bottle recycled from scratch to go again. Incredible.
The only way I could truly describe the whisky bottling plant experience is relating it to the first time you visit Yo! Sushi.
I’ve never met a single person who has not spent the first few minutes of their first visit just staring at the plates going round and round and round. That’s exactly what happens the first time you visit a bottling plant.
Credit must also be given to the senior whisky bottling plant workers who are charged with hand filling and finishing super premium whisky expressions, one even has to sit in a locked cage as she’s handling around a million pounds worth of The Macallan stock at any given time.
Thanks to The Edrington Group for the invite, it was a truly special experience.