Our choice of equipment and our way of using it is based as much on a pursuit of product quality, as on a desire to change and develop. None of the things we do are worth anything unless the final result is a good whisky. But we will not find the route forward by looking at how things used to be done. Instead, we want to employ modern technology and modern knowledge, coupled with curiosity and a willingness to change, to develop the whisky of the future.
Let's begin with a description of some of the production features where Agitator differs the most from other distilleries: Our very distinctive process of vacuum distillation, our double sets of stills, and our focus on energy efficiency. These, together with our extended fermentation times, and our modern take on wood and maturation, are the most important factors that make our whisky so special.
We distill all our spirit in a vacuum. Very few of the world's malt whisky distilleries do this. The low pressure in the stills lowers the boiling point, making for a gentler treatment of the raw materials and more natural flavours. Obviously, energy consumption is also affected.
A crucial factor in deciding the flavours extracted in the distillation is the design of the stills. Tall, narrow stills produce a completely different spirit than short and compact stills. To increase the possible range of our production we chose both. We built our distillery with two pairs of stills.
FOCUS ON SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION
Our ambition is to minimize our environmental imprint. We distill with energy from the district heating network, use only renewable energy sources, we distill in a vacuum that uses less energy, and collect excess heat. And our residuals become animal fodder and biogas.
The following is a description of the entire production process, in chronological order, from milling to bottling.
The first step in the production process is to mill the malt to access the starch, which will subsequently be converted into sugars, which will be transformed into alcohol. We have a wet mill. This means that the malt is soaked prior to milling, and then crushed together with warm brewing water.
The soaked, crushed malt, having been mixed with brewing water in the mill, is pumped over to our mash tun where the sparging continues. The grist is spread out and stirred, later to be strained, in order to separate the solids from the sugary wort.
Fermentation is so much more than just converting sugar into alcohol. This is when we start to give the whisky flavour and character. So, it follows that we are meticulous in our choice of yeast culture as well as fermentation time. We ferment for a long time. Normally, we ferment for seven days.
The next step is to boil the now alcoholic mash in our copper stills. This is done in two stages. The first brings it up to 30 % alcohol, and the second creates the correct strength and flavour. We have four stills, two for each stage. The final spirit is crystal clear, with an alcohol content above 70 %.
Maturation in barrels or casks is the final stage in production. This requires a lot of patience, but it is an important part of the process. This is not only because the whisky picks up a lot of its final character and flavour from the barrel, but also because regulations demand that the spirit has been matured in a barrel if it is to be called whisky.
When the whisky has finished maturing, the casks are emptied and the spirit is blended and bottled. To maintain control over this process, and to avoid unnecessary transport, we bottle most of our production at the distillery.