TLDR

Lomond Still

The Lomond still invented by chemical engineer Alistair Cunningham and Hiram Walker draftsman Arthur Warren in 1955 is a now seldom used variation on the conventional malt whisky pot still. Using adjustable plates in the neck the still can be used to increase reflux and create lighter styles of new make spirit.

The Long Read

The Lomond still

The shape of a whisky still has a profound impact on the spirit created, small squat stills such as those found at Edradour will result in a waxy, oily and estery new make. The reduced surface area results in more of the heavy oils, fats and congeners being carried over into the lyne arm and condenser. In contrast large stills, such as those at Glenmorangie distillery, create far more copper contact and allow for far greater reflux (when some of the spirit vapour meets a cooler surface inside the still, coalesces back to liquid, and falls back down the still for re-distillation). The result is a far lighter and fruitier new make spirit.

It’s a battle of the blends

The majority of whisky is blended, by most counts around 9 out of every 10 bottles sold worldwide is blended. And a blend can contain anywhere between 2 and 50 different malt styles, which means either a blender needs to own sufficient distilleries, or at least be able to access the output of sufficient distilleries in order to scale up production of a blend as it’s popularity grew. It also meant that when times grew tough the fate of a distillery was bound to the demand and availability of similar spirit on the market.This market composition is why so many distilleries were closed during the 1980’s, a surplus of a particular style could lead distillery finances to ruin, or as was often the case the ability to increase production at one site resulted in consolidation. And so went Brora, Rosebank, St Magdelene, Imperial etc.

The exact same forces today are the reason for Diagio’s Death Star distillery Roseisle and Chivas new 13 million litres per year Dalmunach distillery, each distillery is capable of producing a range of light and vegetal to heavy spirit. Back in 1938 things were a little different, Hiram Walker & Sons had acquired the Ballantine’s blend brand but were struggling to get sufficient grain for it’s expansion so they built the Dumbarton whisky complex in 1938. A sadly now lost, grain distillery with an additional pair of pot stills, housed in the same complex but known as Inverleven distillery. A few years later, on the day before his 16th birthday in 1942, Alistair Cunningham started work as a general apprentice, then having gained a degree in chemical engineering as part of a company training scheme, and working along with Hiram Walker’s draftsman Arthur Warren, Cunningham invented an entirely new still in 1955.

The Lomond still was a modified pot still with a Coffey still like column or ‘coffee can’ atop, unlike the Coffey still which produces higher proof alcohol the Lomond still instead allows for greater control of reflux. Within the column three, cool-able, removable and adjustable, ‘rectifier plates’ could be used to manipulate the rate of reflux within the still making it easier or harder for the distilled esters and oils to carry over the still. In essence a single still could be made to behave like a small squat still, or a large long necked one. The lyne arm angle could also be modified to further influence the character of the whisky.

Eventually fitted in Miltonduff, Glenburgie, Scapa and Loch Lomond distillery, The Lomond still although superb in principle was less effective than was hoped and ultimately failed to appeal to the blenders. In part this might be due to the additional downtime required for proper cleaning as the solids in the distillate would accumulate slowed the passage of the distillate unless kept clean, throw in the industries shift to liquid yeast which increased the particulate in the distillate and exacerbated the build up. The results speak somewhat for themselves, no as designed Lomond still remains in operation though a few, albeit modified, survive.

Finding Lomond make today

Glencraig, sometimes called Glen Craig, is 100% Lomond made Glenburgie (having both wash and spirit Lomond stills), named after production director Willie Craig made during the 23 years the distillery used Lomond stills between 1958-1981.

Mosstowie is 100% Lomond made Miltonduff, named for the area. It was produced for only 17 years between 1964-1981.

Scapa distillery now uses a plateless Lomond still as a wash still, and the Loch Lomond distillery now use a modified still with ‘Glockenboeden’ bubble-cap internals or trays. The Inverlenven Lomond 50% spirit is virtually impossible to find even at auction though the SMWS did release a few versions once upon a time. The Lomond still from Dumbarton happily did find new life at Bruichladdich. Somewhat modified and with the unkind nickname ‘Ugly Betty’ the still is now used to provide the Botanist gin.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Lomond Still?

A Lomond still is a variation on the conventional malt whisky pot still with adjustable plates in the neck used to increase reflux and create lighter styles of new make spirit.

Who invented the Lomond Still?

The Lomond still was invented by chemical engineer Alistair Cunningham and Hiram Walker draftsman Arthur Warren in 1955.

What does a Lomond Still do?

A Lomond still leverages a number of adjustable plates in a column style rectifier to increase reflux during distillation, when in use more spirit will condense on the cold plates fall back into the still and be redistilled. The result is a lighter, sweeter and oilier spirit that would be achieved by a longer neck, or still with an alternate lyne arm.

Why would a distillery want a Lomond still?

The bulk of whisky produced today still goes into blends, being able to adjust the style of spirit produced would enable a distillery to create more varied blends, increase production to meet demand of a harder to get style and potentially to offer alternative styles.

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