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Vatting a new release – Loch Gorm 2022

April 28, 2022

What does the term ‘vatting’ mean?

We use the term ‘vatting’ to describe the process of combining whisky from different casks to form the final product. These selected casks can be a combination of different cask types, for example our Machir Bay is a vatting of bourbon and oloroso sherry casks.  They can also be of varying ages, for example in our Loch Gorm releases all the casks are oloroso sherry butts but they vary in age.  Different casks impart flavours into the whisky in different ways, and so distilleries combine whisky from various casks together to find a balance of flavours to form their single malt releases.

Vatting casks in the Kilchoman warehouse
How is vatting different from blending?

Vatting differs from the term ‘blending’ because the various casks selected for vatting are all from the same distillery whereas ‘blending’ is more commonly used to describe the combination of casks from more than one distillery.

So how does the master distiller select casks for a vatting?

Anthony Wills, Kilchoman Founder & MD explains the process of vatting casks for Loch Gorm, one of our annual limited-edition releases.

Every year when we select the casks for the Loch Gorm release the first thing we do is select the age profile that we want and research the casks that we have available in the warehouse.  We have limited stock available, particularly from the earlier years when we were producing less spirit annually, we must be selective in the casks we choose to ensure we manage our stock profile.  We need to make sure we reserve casks for older vattings or bottlings so it’s about getting that balance right between using older casks while also preserving stock for later releases.  At the moment we don’t have huge stocks in the warehouse so we can’t just go in and select whatever we want, we have to be quite creative.  Luckily we are very creative!

Thinking ahead to the number of bottles we want to release, we will work out how many casks are needed.  One barrel equates to roughly 250 bottles.  If there are 20 casks required we will go into the warehouses and sample around 50 – 60 casks.  These will slowly be narrowed down to 20-25 casks, each with particular flavours that will combine to achieve the best depth and balance of flavour.  We then do a ‘test vatting’.  If we’re happy with how that has worked we will go ahead with combining the casks. If the test vatting isn’t quite where we want it to be then we will look at substituting or adding different casks.  If we want more intense flavours we might choose fresh rather than refill casks, if we are looking for more depth then we might select some older casks. This is where the skill and experience of the master distiller comes in.

Once the final recipe of casks have been selected, they are decanted into the vatting tanks and the whisky is rummaged (mixed using jets of air) at the full strength (53-59% abv).  We then take a reading to calculate how much water we need to add in order to reduce the ABV to within 1-2% abv of the bottling strength; typically 46%.  The water, drawn from a spring at the base of the Cnoc Dubh hill is then added and the process is repeated for a second time to hit the exact ABV required ahead of botting.

360° Video Tour inside the warehouse

Click here to join Anthony inside one of our dunnage warehouses where he will give you his founder’s take on cask maturation and discover how he created our unique Kilchoman range of whiskies.  With the moving 360° cameras you can have a look around and see what casks may be lurking in the dark corners of the warehouse!


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