A visit to Forsyths – the great whisky still makers

March 30, 2012 § 16 Comments

Forsyth copper still - in the making. Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Last week I had the opportunity to be a part of the most unique tour in Speyside, Scotland.  A tour that is quite uncommon and not available to the public – and one that I will remember for the rest of my life  (in a way that only a true whisky-geek could).

I walked the grounds of the Forsyths facility – the Forsyth facility.  You know the guys … the ones responsible for creating and maintaining all of the equipment that goes in to making that beautiful dram in your hand.  The stills.  The beautiful copper stills.  To the likes of Balvenie and Bruichladdich, from Kavalan to one day soon, Balcones.  These are the original still masters and they continue today to make the stills by hand – 3 generations later.

A most sincere THANK YOU to Richard Forsyth for being such a generous host and to Chip Tate (Balcones) for the awesome & unforgettable invitation.

So, put on your hard hat and your ear plugs, this Whisky Woman is going to let you peep inside this magnificent palace of constant construction!

A massive Irish still in the making - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Hello beautiful! Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Forsyth stills - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

That's a mighty large fermentation tank, you got there!
Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Safety first! Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Base of a massive still destined for Ireland - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Copper talk @ Forsyth - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

Yours truly modeling her hard hat - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

The neck of a still being worked on by hand - so cool! - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

The day ended with a few shared glasses of whisky and a solid game of pool.  Naturally, I was on the winning team – kicking butt with my rock-star partner, Richard.

A great game of pool - I won (but only with a ton of help from my partner, Richard Forsyth) 😉 - Photo (c) The Whisky Woman, 2012

And just to come full circle, Richard’s father (also Richard Forsyth) was awarded the Icons of Whisky Lifetime Achievement Award in London later that week.  Congratulations Richard on receiving such a high honor and much deserved recognition.


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§ 16 Responses to A visit to Forsyths – the great whisky still makers

  • G-LO says:

    Yo WW!

    Thanks for the insider’s tour. I am sooooo jealous!

    Though I suck at pool, I do enjoy playing a game with some friends and fine whisky. Don’t get to do that too often.

    Love the photos!


    • Hey G-LO!
      It was such an amazing visit. I felt like a kid in a candy store (though I don’t think when I was a kid I would have ever thought I’d replicate those feelings in a still-making factory!).

      I suck at pool too – I was lucky I had Richard on my side sinking all of the balls. I played the role of “ball shuffler” … if you needed someone to just scoot the balls around the table, I was your girl! 😉

      Thanks for coming by and commenting!

      • G-LO says:

        LOL! That’s about all I’m good for too when it comes to playing pool. Same goes for Scrabble (or Words with friends) and any other game where the playing field needs to be opened up a bit. Guess our pool playing ability (or lack there of) is like adding water to cask strength whisky. Then again, I rarely add water, so perhaps this is a bad analogy.

        Now Bocce… that’s a game that I may actually have some skill at playing (a least in my mind I do). Pairs really well with beer and whisky too. Especially on a warm spring day.

  • Josh Feldman says:

    Amazing post with a beautiful photographs. What a rare and wonderful treat to see how the actual tools are made. You did a wonderful thing documenting it so well for us. Your trip sounds so amazing. My trip this spring? Orlando for the kids! Can we trade? Thanks for letting me live a bit of your vicariously with your excellent journalism.

    • Thank you, Josh!
      What a lovely thing to say! I hope you stay tuned – also during this last trip was a private tour of the Balvenie distillery, the World Whisky Conference, the Icons of Whisky Awards, 2 full days of WhiskyLive UK and a few days in Cognac, France. Needless to say, I have a LOT of wonderful material to work with and I’m forever grateful to those who have opened their doors to me. So happy that you have enjoyed the above photos.

      The whisky community is the most generous, sincere, and lovely group of people world wide. I just feel blessed to be a part of it!

      Orlando will be fun too!

  • Fran Thomas says:

    Fabulous photos and I too am very envious of your trip to Forsyths. My dear husband has been so it has to be my turn next! There is something so magical about copper (as indeed there is when you see the fire and steam of a cooperage) – no wonder we talk of whisky making as being like alchemy.

    • FRAN!
      How wonderful of you to comment here! I can’t believe your husband went without you! But I guess that’s okay since I’m assuming you didn’t take him to Bruichladdich when you went to study there :).

      I wish I had had the time to visit a cooperage too – it’s a remarkable experience to really see with your own eyes how all of the pieces come together to create that beautiful liquid swirling around in your glass. Just incredible.

      Thanks for your comment – always happy to hear from you and I would love for you to come back and comment when I finish my post about the whisky & women section of the World Whiskies Conference!


      • Fran Thomas says:

        You’re quite right WW – Ken didn’t come along to Bruichladdich whisky school. However, he did watch me via the webcams they have so I couldn’t even escape when I was on a Hebridean island!

        I’ll be keeping an eye out for the post on whisky and women. I’ve just sorted out the date for our next ladies whisky tasting and it’s going to be with the lovely Zoran Peric of Suntory – hopefully with at least one whisky cocktail as well as all those fab Japanese whiskies.


        • Oh dear! hahaha. That’s ok, who would really be plotting an escape when given the opportunity to study under Jim McEwan?!

          Your whisky & women events sounds perfect! I love how approachable the Suntory whiskies are and I’m most intrigued by the cocktail creation! If it comes about, do let me know what it is!

          Cheers Fran,

  • Raz says:

    Amazing! I love the technical end of whiskies as much as the drams themselves so I thank you for the peak inside. So jealous of that experience.

    • Raz!
      So nice to see you out of Google+ land and here on wordpress! Thanks for jumping the fence!

      So happy you enjoyed the photos – there was no way I could have kept these all to myself!!

      Have a great weekend,

      • Raz says:

        I play other places… G+ is just the most convenient. 😉
        So, when is the next installment? Inquiring minds et al.

        • Haha, I like your style! Tomorrow morning’s post will be about WhiskyLive NYC (which is happening next week – yay!). After that – it will be back to the regularly scheduled program. I think perhaps a photo overview of my one-on-one visit with Balvenie’s head distiller, David Stewart, perhaps then followed up with my review on some less-known / less-available single malts he’s bottled… 😉 Hope you can stay tuned!

  • […] an incredible tour of Forsyths, the Scottish still makers (see my post on that visit HERE), next on the itinerary was a visit to […]

  • Tal says:

    Hi…thanx for taking me on the tour(sort of),,am a Forsyth myself but in New Zealand , and guess what?..am building a still right now…not as beautiful but made of copper and should look good when its finished…its all hand crafted and will hold about 80 litres,,,its ok, its legal here…cheers Tal.

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