In April, Brown and her team released Strathearn’s first single malt whisky under Douglas Laing ownership, after the company bought the Highland site in 2019. She discusses life at one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland

STRATHEARN IS CLAIMED TO BE ONE OF THE FEW DISTILLERIES TO USE MARIS OTTER MALT. WHY IS THAT? 

Many other distilleries are chasing numbers, trying to get as much whisky out the door as possible. We’re a bit different here; we get to choose flavour over yield. The distillery has always used Maris Otter in the 10 years it has been running. We love the spirit it creates – it’s really creamy.

WHY DO YOU HAVE LONG FERMENTATION TIMES?

In the big distilleries, fermentation time is usually three to four days. They’ll want to empty the washbacks as soon as possible to get to the next batch, but we’re more relaxed here. Six days is our average fermentation, about 144 hours. We don’t work weekends or Friday nights – it’s a small team and we want to keep everyone happy. So, sometimes the fermentation time is as low as 96 hours or sometimes as high as 150, just because we’re not here every day. After about four days, lactic acid bacteria will naturally come in on the air. It gives the wash a sourness which translates to a really fruity spirit.

HOW COME THERE’S NO SPIRITS SAFE IN THE DISTILLERY?

Most distilleries have got a spirits safe – we’re very lucky. HMRC has approved us and trusts us – they still come in every year, and we do the paperwork.

HOW MUCH SPIRIT DO YOU PRODUCE A SHIFT?

About 200 litres. One barrel a shift. It’s a lot of manual work but it’s worth it.

YOU WERE A BREWER BEFORE – HOW DOES THIS COMPARE?

Brewing was a hard slog. This has been tough, especially when I first started. I had to get the place running how I wanted it. Long days. It was hard but being a brewer is always hard and always long days. I’m quite happy here.