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 The Pot Still

Shrine of the Majestic, Mysterious Scotch Single Malt

In my research pertaining to the Scotch Single Malt Whisky, there has been a void in the body of my findings concerning this simple, yet very complex and mysterious, production process. That "missing link" has to do with the manufacture and construction of the Pot Still, around which all the other elements of production radiate. As it turned out, the pursuit and final results of my efforts in this area were among the most interesting and photographically rewarding of any of my pursuits in this area.

I had arranged to interview David "The Nose" Robertson, Manager of The Macallan Distillery. While I was interviewing David, a coppersmith came to ask a question pertaining to the pot still repair work that he was doing in the Still House. I was introduced to this man who left and returned to his work. An hour or so later, I went over to the Still House to photograph this "maintenance aspect" of distillery activities. I found the coppersmith inside the pot still with a large hammer. He granted me permission to make this rare photograph and invited me to come to the headquarters of his business and meet the owner. I readily accepted, of course.

Late the next afternoon, I was at A. Forsyth & Son Ltd. in the village of Rothes, which is about fifteen miles south of Elgin. The Forsyth copperworks have been in existence since the late 1800s with branches in Dufftown and Dunfermline. Their workforce numbers around 300 employees. Products of this firm, in addition to the fabrication of pot stills, include column distillation units, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, condensers, holding tanks, power and process pipework and other similar instruments for clients all over the world.

Richard Forsyth, Managing Director of the company, was a very interesting, informative and generous man. My timing was perfect as the plant was closed and the employees gone. I spent about two hours with Mr. Forsyth in his very nice office. We shared a couple or so drams as he answered all of my questions and provided me with a new insight into the wonderful world of the Scotch single malt. I accepted his invitation to return the next day as he granted me "free run" of the place to photograph the process of constructing the pot still and spirit condensers. It was quite an education and challenge to capture the activities that were carried out at this complex place. The sample of photographs included here illustrate this quite well. I gained a new respect for the pot still and certainly for the exceptionally fine and highly talented individuals who produce them. Richard Forsyth is a fine representative for the industry and his generosity with me is greatly appreciated.

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Dr. McCoy stands beside the "neck" of the pot still.

A welder in the left foreground works on the bottom portion of a pot still. Workers in the background finish the main portion of the still.

Welding together the two parts of the pot still.

A view from the yards of the A. Forsyth Copperworks in Rothes, Scotland.

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