Full of Eastern Promise
This very ordinary picture of a shipping container full of Warminster Malt, is not so ordinary as far as Warminster Maltings is concerned. Because this particular container is the very first consignment of malt we have loaded for shipping to Japan!
This 20 tonnes order is destined to a single customer, a distillery, whose prompt and professional negotiations were a positive delight to respond to. More than that, they have paid us in sterling, and they lodged the money in our account ahead of our loading the container. That is particularly impressive when you consider the container will take up to 10 weeks to reach its destination!
Our customer has advised us that this 20 tonnes of malt will only serve 6 weeks of production, so we are hoping, if they are happy with our products (we sent them three different malts), that this could become a new regular customer.
This new business is all part of a trend that we are seeing, an emerging and expanding demand for distilling malts from new distilleries. Particularly here in England where we are witnessing a whole swathe of ‘new builds’, not least on our doorstep in Wiltshire. They are all quite adamant that they have to have local barley, and ‘floor made’ malt. In fact, I believe our presence is a factor in the choice of location for some of these enterprises. Who knows, 10 years from now, the countryside surrounding Warminster could even become known as “Whisky Valley”?
Most Warminster people are very much aware of a tall and expansive plastic canopy that enshrouds one corner of our Maltings, but it is not easy to see from the road exactly what is going on underneath. After more than 6 months of this project, they might even ask if anything is going on at all!
Well, work is progressing, albeit slowly. Like so many other industry sectors, we are hampered by the lack of available raw materials, and a lack of skilled labour in the construction industry, most of whom are struggling with the huge backlog of work caused by 2 years of ‘lockdowns’.
However, by way of an update, I can advise you the Pound Street elevation has had most of its roof refurbished, that was completed first. The more complex work involves the dismantling, and now the reconstruction, of the two kilns. We are on the brick and stonework at the moment, much of the second-floor elevations requiring a complete rebuild.
We are advised the work will almost certainly stretch well into the winter, but hopefully before Christmas we will be uncovering the almost final if not completed works. But, for the time being, although it may not look like it, it is work in progress. We are grateful to our contractors, Chalke Valley Roofing, who ensure there are craftsmen on site every working day. I might describe it as gentle but steady progress!
Lisa Conduit has joined Avril Royster and Wendy Scott as a third member of our administration force. This is initially to allow Avril and Wendy to drop down to a four-day week (each taking alternate long weekends), but also as a first step towards addressing the matter of succession another day. Lisa lives in the town, and is able to walk to work, something that many other people might now be thinking about.
Out in the Maltings, Jake Scutt and Brandon Bownes, are partly replacing a member of staff who left us in the Spring, but also providing an extra pair of hands as our workload continues to build. Again, both Jake and Brandon live in the town, which is so helpful when addressing the 24/7 focus we have to maintain on the malting process.
Complimentary to these new appointments, I have introduced an additional formal training programme for all our staff, which sets out to explain in greater detail the whole process of malting, from barley production on the farm, a much more detailed insight into the separate procedures in the malthouse and including an explanation of all the grades of malt we produce, and for whom they are intended.
My first two ‘students’ have been Nathan Ball and Nic Corper, both are established ‘hands on’ maltsters, but both keen to gain a better and wider understanding of the tasks they perform each day. My weekly tutorials have one more session to go, after which I will turn the procedure around, and invite Nathan and Nick to review and discuss each topic with me, to ensure they have gained something of a better grasp of the intricacies of malting practice. It is all about encouraging a shared ownership of everything we do at the Maltings, and a shared commitment to perfection. If this programme has proved successful, Jake, Brandon, and Lisa will be invited to follow suit.
Meanwhile, harvest is fast approaching. The barleys all look good in the field, but can we safely gather them in? I will let you know next time.