Working at the Royal Lochnagar Distillery - interview

16 January 2017
jamie-cooper-18109.jpg Jamie Cooper
Jamie Cooper of Royal Lochnagar talks to History Scotland about his work at this Aberdeenshire distillery.

Jamie Cooper of Royal Lochnagar talks to History Scotland about his work at this Aberdeenshire distillery.

Could you tell us about your role at Royal Lochnagar and what the work involves?

I am 1 of 6 Senior Operators at Royal Lochnagar Distillery and I have worked here for 6 years.  The main part of my job is monitoring and controlling the production process through all the different stages, including Milling, Mashing, Fermentation, Distillation and Cask Filling.  Our production runs 24hrs a day, 5 days a week so this involves working different shifts, including day shift, back shift and night shift.

Alongside production there are various other tasks I am involved with including health and safety & HMRC compliance and other office based tasks, tractor driving (to spray distillery effluent in local farmers fields), Grass cutting and general site maintenance.

What do you think makes Royal Lochnagar different to other distilleries?

Royal Lochnagar is one of Scotland’s smaller distilleries and there are many things that make it quite unique in comparison to other distilleries. It is is a traditional distillery and one unique feature is our traditional open-topped mash tun. This is much slower and less efficient than modern lauter tuns, but being able to see the mash, and the fact that the warmth, and the lovely malty aromas radiate throughout the distillery is quite special.

Also we are one of few distilleries who fill all our own casks on site.  We produce around 9000 litres of alcohol each week which is split into 2 fillings, meaning we fill around 28 casks every week.  There is no automation or modern filling heads, so we do it the traditional way which is to ‘tare’ the casks (weigh them empty) then carefully fill each cask using our traditional filling heads.  Once the casks are full, they are weighed again which allows us to calculate exactly how many litres are in each cask.

What part of the job do you enjoy most?

The thing I enjoy the most about working at Royal Lochnagar is the fact that it is a traditional distillery and every step of our process is controlled manually by 6 Operators, so it is very hands-on and can be quite labour-intensive.  Many other sites will have gone through a lot of modernisation over the years, but at Royal Lochnagar the core production equipment and methods are virtually the same as they have been for generations.

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What might surprise people visiting the distillery for the first time?

The amazing range of sights, sounds and smells they will experience as they walk through the different areas of the distillery.  It really is a journey for the senses!  From the warm malty smells of the mash house, to the lovely aromas and gleaming copper stills in the still house, Then a warming dram of one of our single malt whiskies to finish off their visit.

Royal Lochnagar Distillery, Crathie, Ballater AB35 5TB; tel: 01339 742700; website.



(Distillery image copyright Stefan Schafer; Jamie Cooper copyright Royal Lochnagar Distillery)

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