How to celebrate Burns Night with – load cells!

Published On: January 19 2017

On 25th January, Scotland will be alive with the sound of bagpipes, poetry and the gentle whiff of haggis, as the nation celebrating Burns Night.

In the traditional Burns Night Supper celebration, a bagpiper pipes in a steaming haggis, which is ‘addressed’ by a speaker, before the guests sit down to a supper of cock-a-leekie soup, haggis neeps and tatties, a suitably Scottish pud, – and lots of whisky. After the meal, there are speeches, songs, poetry and often dancing, and lots more whisky.


So, what crucial role do load cells play in this celebration? The simple answer is, if you haven’t already guessed, is whisky. (Some Scots might say that EVERY answer should be whisky!)bagpipes for Burns night

Liquid gold from water, malt and yeast

Originally all Scotch whisky was made using malted barley, but during the 18th century, distilleries began to also use wheat and rye. Today, Scotch whisky must be produced at a distillery in Scotland using water and malted barley, with permissable adding of other whole grains. It must be at least 40% proof and less than 94.8%(!) Single malts are produced in one distillery using only malt.


Measuring malted barley for single malts

At the Glen Moray distillery, they use a weighing system based on load cells that measures each batch of malted barley used and ensures accurate records for HM Customs and Excise. As distillery manager Graham Coull explained in an article, he needs to extract as much sugar as possible from the malted barley, as the price of this essential ingredient is so high.

“We need an accurate and reliable weighing system to ensure that we can monitor efficiency. Malted barley can vary in character from batch to batch so it is essential that we have accurate information about exactly how much of each batch we are using.“

The system also produces digital data which can be recorded on a PC, so information is both timely and accurate.

At Richmond Industries, we provide load cells and wireless displays and transmitters for accurate readings and reliable data transfer. So if you need to accurately measure ingredients for whisky or indeed any type of spirit including specialist gins, do call us.


Savour the unique flavour

For single malt and other signature whisky production, distilleries need to maintain the unique flavours and characteristics of their whisky. Whisky is often produced to an exact recipe involving precise portions of malt, water and yeast. Here again load cells play their part. Accurate weighing of all ingredients ensures consistency and accuracy, while wireless technology allows safe readings and data gathering in a hazardous working environment. A distillery can be a potentially hazardous environment containing flammable gases and vapours, such as evaporating ethanol, or combustible grain dust particles. So if your staff can monitor and assess any or all parts of the ongoing distillation process remotely, so much the better.


Maximise vat usage

Distilleries also want to maximise the use of their vats, and load cells placed beneath it can ensure that distillers can monitor whatever type of activity the vat is being used for, from filling casks to blending and bottling. Some distilleries also use load cells in their cask movement systems, so they know precisely how much is in each cask, and provide HRMC with accurate reporting.


Stopper testing jigs

One of our favourite applications of load cell technology in the whisky industry is for testing whisky stoppers. Whisky bottle stoppers are made from two component parts, a bar top that sits proud of the bottle and a natural cork stopper.

We’re all so accustomed to twisting and pulling this kind of stopper from a whole range of bottles, from sherry and port to posh olive oils, we probably don’t even think of the various forces a stopper must withstand. Given that any bottle stopper must form an airtight seal between contents and the air outside the bottle, the stopper must fit snugly but still be removable. So,

  • the stopper top and cork must be firmly joined, so they don’t part company when you go to open the bottle
  • the cork and top must withstand the twist we apply to start the stopper moving out of the bottle
  • the cork section must be easy to remove from the bottle with a continual pulling combined with a twisting action (and potentially a bit of wiggling too)

The various cork testing systems available use data from the load cells to record and assess the torque and force data, and ensure the stopper can withstand many happy uncorkings over a period of time. Cork shear and tensile separation data can also be recorded if required.


Rare whiskeys for Burns Night

After all, if you’ve just paid £20,000 for the world’s most expensive whisky, a 50-year-old bottle from the second release in The Glenlivet Winchester collection, you’ll at least want your stopper to do its job properly! If that’s a little pricey, you can enjoy a rare, 70-year-old Glenlivet whisky at the Bon Accord bar in Glasgow where a dram will set you back a mere £900.


Bagpipes in space!

Yes really! There must be load cells a-plenty on the International Space Station, but not in the bagpipes this astronaut is playing.


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