The distillation of The Botanist is a
14th March 2014
by The Botanist Editor
"An oversized, upside-down dustbin made of copper" is how Tom Morton describes it in his excellent book "Spirit of Adventure". Developed after the Second World War, the Lomond was an experimental cross between a column and a pot still designed to meet the growing demand for single malts.
It was designed as a cunning "one-stop-shop" still by chemical engineer Alistair Cunningham and draftsman Arthur Warren in 1955...
... neither of whom can have been great aesthetes - as a way to create a variety of whisky styles. Key to the design was the ugly, thick, column-like neck. This could have three extra removable sections inserted for flexibility, imitating the effect of different still "neck" lengths.
One section housed three rectifying plates, or baffles, that increased or decreased the reflux action. These plates, like Roman blinds, could be opened in varying degrees from a horizontal to the vertical position. Correspondingly, the removable neck sections could lengthen or shorten the height of the neck, thus varying the angle of the lyne arm - upward for a slightly lighter whisky, downward for a heavier one.
The first Lomond, an 11,600 litre capacity spirit still built by Ramsden, was installed by 1959 at Inverleven, Glasgow. This was a functional single malt distillery shoe-horned in to a utilitarian red brick building, tucked away in a corner of the huge Dumbarton grain distillery complex, at the confluence of the Clyde and Leven rivers.
Recovered by Duncan MacGillivray from Inverleven, the still was transported down the Clyde by barge, around the Mull of Kintyre and finally to Islay, where it berthed at Port Ellen before making its last journey to Bruichladdich.
Inspiration. How does it come about? At which moment did our master distiller Jim McEwan realise that this extraordinarily ugly, ungainly copper tub had potential to distil such a sublime, delicate gin?
Perhaps it was his realisation that it was designed to run slowly, at low pressure; designed to be modified; designed with the distiller’s creativity woven into the very fabric of its structure.