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Interviews

Unlocking Distillery Secrets with Carpathian Single Malt's Master Distiller

From experimental techniques to sustainability, let’s delve into the craft of Carpathian Single Malt and how Allan Anderson is taking the company from strength to strength with new techniques and experimentation.

Step into the realm of spirits craftsmanship with The London Spirits Competition, an arena that spotlights and celebrates spirits brands cherished by consumers. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Allan Anderson, the Master Distiller of Carpathian Single Malt, unraveling the secrets and innovations that shape the identity of Romania's pioneering single malt whisky.

Allan, as a master distiller, how do you define a great distiller, and what rituals or practices do you have to get into your creative groove before crafting a new expression?

I believe every day is a learning day. In whisky production, there are many variables that can change, both positively and negatively. Ultimately, it is the experience that determines how you deal with it; for example, from the start of the process towards bottling, can and does have an impact on the final quality, it all has to come together in a balanced way, otherwise the quality suffers. A great Distiller sees the overall picture, the strengths and weaknesses of the entire process, and uses that experience, with the final aim of producing a whisky that people enjoy. This is quite a responsibility.

What experimental techniques or innovations are you currently exploring in the distillation process to enhance the uniqueness of Carpathian Single Malt?

I can’t disclose too much information, but we are experimenting with different barrels for finishing, sourced from all over the world including our distillery which gives us a real advantage over other producers of whisky. We have access to freshly dumped wine barrels that can be filled the same day with whisky once received at the distillery. In 2024 we hope to use a newly developed yeast strain cultivated from wild yeasts found on our winery’s grapes but that’s for next year!

Image: Pouring Carpathian Single Malt Whisky at the Distillery

Can you walk us through the key elements of your distillation process, from selecting yeast to the choice of casks, and how each contributes to the final essence of the whisky?

Carpathian Single Malt is distilled in the same way as in Scotland, using the same techniques, ensuring a quality product. Where we differ, is that we use Romanian malted barley which produces an excellent distillate. We grind in ratios of 70/20/10 (grist/husk/flour) which is fairly standard, and our mash size is 1.5t. Our fermentation time is typically 72 hours using a yeast strain specifically for malt whisky production. Once fermented, we transfer to the 'wash still' for a slower than usual distillation – this takes 8 hours as we use very low steam pressure to heat a large coil in our 'wash still', ensuring gentle heat transfer that doesn’t burn the ‘wash’, in turn producing a very fruity low wine. The next part of the process moves onto the 'spirit still' with the boiling ball for extra reflux, thus collecting a final distillate strength under 70% abv. We fill select bourbon barrels only at 63.5% and let the whisky mature for between 3-5 years then we transfer to a wide range of finishing casks for between 8-18 months before bottling our core Carpathian at 46% ABV non-chill filtered.

Sustainability is top of mind for most spirit companies today. How does Carpathian Single Malt address issues like production waste, and what steps are you taking to become more sustainable in your practices?

We are always looking at ways to reduce energy consumption, with some very interesting projects in the pipeline to reduce our carbon footprint. Sourcing and using local ingredients, having our winery, and looking to create our malting plant can all be cited as pushing to be as sustainable as possible.

How do you anticipate submitting your products to a spirits competition contributing to the broader journey of your brand?

Everyone loves to be recognized for doing something to the best of their ability, especially by industry peers or indeed the wider general public. It is also a means of authenticating the brand and spreading the word about the quality of Carpathian Single Malt Whisky. Another important aspect of participating in ‘spirits’ competitions, is to continue to challenge, learn, and improve your product(s) through the feedback received from judging panels and those who have placed their votes. Above all, we have created the first ever Romanian single malt whisky and placed Romania on the global map of single malt producers, so any awards we receive place us shoulder-to-shoulder with all the other producers.

Image: Some of the portfolio of Carpathian Single Malt Whisky

Reflecting on your career, what achievements are you most proud of, and what advice do you have for someone aspiring to enter the spirits industry?

Looking back over 30+ years and making millions of liters of whisk(e)y, I have my fingerprints on lots of brands and distillery projects, some publicly known but others not, each had its challenges. Working with many whisky industry legends has also added to a fantastic career and many great experiences. I have collected valuable experience gained at Loch Lomond Distillery for over 18 years then onto two large projects in Ireland and now put that experience into making Romania’s 1st single malt whisky, which has paid dividends with Carpathian Single Malt Whisky taking several international awards in 2023. I would recommend any young and aspiring entrants to the industry, why? There is true diversity in the number of roles available, from building up to becoming a Master Distiller like me, all the way through to marketing communications, sustainability, and much more. I always believe in gaining experience, even when you are studying, it will hold you in good stead as you approach companies within this arena in the future.

Looking to the future, are there any new elements or styles you hope to incorporate into Carpathian Single Malt? What spirits or trends are you excited about right now?

Our peated cask strength single malt has taken a masters award so we hope to continue to grow this style of whisky with special releases coming shortly. Each release will be a single cask but matured in a variety of cask types which will be unique.

Image: Dr Nawaf Salameh (Founding Chairman, Alexandrion Group) & Mr Allan Anderson (Whisky Director & Master Distiller - Carpathian Single Malt Whisky)

Carpathian Single Malt has been received well in several markets. What do you have up your sleeve for the future, and where do you see the next big thing in the whisky industry?

We want to develop our malting plant in Romania using 100% malted barley grown locally, this will then be followed by kiln drying our peated malted barley using peat sourced from Romanian peat bogs. Japanese whisky will continue to grow in popularity and on this basis, our founding chairman, Dr. Nawaf Salameh has identified and included Japan within the Alexandrion Group's overall global expansion plans by building a single malt plant there. These are incredibly exciting times for the whole company and certainly for the future of Carpathian Single Malt Whisky.

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As we raise a glass to the excellence of Carpathian Single Malt, Allan Anderson's insights into the distillation process and commitment to sustainability showcase the brand's dedication to quality and innovation. A journey through the untamed beauty of the Carpathians, every drop of this whisky tells a story, making it a true ambassador for Romania abroad.

In conversation with Malvika Patel, Editor and VP, Beverage Trade Network

International and Domestic Submission deadline is February 22. If you are looking to grow your brand in 2024, looking for product feedback, or looking to get in front of real trade buyers. It's time to enter your brands in the London Competitions. Here's how to enter, costs and benefits.

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