This morning I met with Ian Millar (whose title at Glenfiddich is Global Brand Ambassador & Master Distiller, I believe) for the first time. We've been communicating via email and his suggestions have been invaluable. He toured me around a warehouse I hadn't yet been to, and gave me an extensive history of the whiskey barrel. I also learned more about the strict rules of the Scotch Whiskey Association (who, just a few months ago stopped a Nova Scotia company from using a name that sounded too Scottish).
Apparently if a distillery wished to switch to square shaped barrels, to aid in storage and stacking, they would have to prove that there is a traditional precedent, otherwise their product cannot be called Scotch Whiskey. The SWA acts almost like a union, protecting the industry, but seems to operate on a heritage mandate. Presumably this means a big part of any Research and Development team would have to be historical research - as the onus is on the company proposing an innovation to prove it is based on historic precedent.
We talked about planning to re-cask the spirit after fifty years, and also revisited the idea of burial. I proposed this a few weeks back but it was rejected as the whiskey would not be able to breathe underground. Ian's suggestion today is that we bury among stones, which will allow breathing but prevent evaporation, allow a cool temperature and reduce storage costs (the added benefit of 'excavation' in a hundred years time is almost incidental). To move forward with this I will need to have a letter of comfort from the Customs Excise, who are located in Elgin. Their main concern during inspections is to ensure that the spirit cannot be taken from the site (they require barred windows, doors mustn't have exterior bolts, etc.), thus depriving them of future duty. Presumably a buried barrel is as safe as any, especially in a secure warehouse.
I asked where I might find these 'fist-sized stones' that he proposes and he suggests the bed of the Fiddich river, and points me in the direction. Below are a few photos from along the way, my first tourist shots here, really. I'll post more to Flickr shortly.