Few crafts are more traditional than making whisky. That said, Agitator Whiskymakare AB, located in Arboga, Sweden, decided to challenge standard whisky production methods by taking a more avant-garde approach. Even before its first spirits emerged from their stills in February of 2018, the fledgling company looked at the entire process with fresh eyes to determine what could be done better. Today, Agitator produces 250,000 bottles per year for the Scandinavian market which it hopes to expand, thereby reaching other markets in Europe and beyond.
Not just different, but better
What appears to be a world’s first by a commercial whisky maker, Agitator is distilling under vacuum. It is also using ‘green’ energy to power it’s business, which produces high-quality whiskies from a range of raw materials, including oats, wheat, barley and rye. And all of this is made possible with efficient and highly respected mash house equipment from GEA.
Distilling under vacuum reduces the heat required to achieve distillation given the boiling point is achieved at around 30 degrees Celsius below normal atmospheric pressure boiling point. In addition to energy savings, this method mitigates the production of heat-induced off flavors, resulting in a smoother, cleaner spirit. The Agitator plant uses renewable energy from a local authority which is generated via a wood pellet boiler which creates super-heated water for the surrounding community. Agitator uses the little it requires, returning residual energy back to the network.
Oskar Bruno, Agitator’s Distillery Manager, says the goal was to build a distillery that could produce a high-quality product, in an efficient way. “The distillery is built upon the belief that tradition is conservative, and new technologies can unlock the full potential of whisky,” Bruno explains. “Our choice of equipment, location, raw materials and ways of running the process reflect this.” These methods are matched by a devotee’s obsession with their craft, where one continually asks themselves: ’How can I create the most exciting whisky?’
GEA technology at the heart of innovation
Taking pride of place in the new mash house are the GEA MILLSTAR® and GEA LAUTERSTAR®, increasing yield from the raw materials and shortening turn-around times in Agitator’s brewing cycles. The initial flavor of a whisky is determined during brewing, and if you compromise on quality, it will show in the final product,” says Bruno. “We liked the wet-conditioned milling system that the GEA MILLSTAR® offers, combined with the flexibility of the GEA LAUTERSTAR®; we knew that this was the equipment for us.”
The GEA MILLSTAR® system wets the grain as it is milled, conditioning the husk to make it elastic preventing breakage. This allows the endosperm of the grain to be gently squeezed from the husk, crushed and mashed, aiding sugar extraction, minimizing oxygen pick-up and preserving flavors. The GEA LAUTERSTAR® maximizes the extraction yield and wort strength while minimizing operating costs and keeping the total cost of ownership low. Both were developed under the GEA Huppmann umbrella which encompasses nearly 150 years of brewery know-how and engineering expertise.
The power to be creative
From the outset, Agitator has used its creativity to make exciting whiskies from a range of raw materials – in diverse volumes, ingredient mash bills and mashing cycles. “This has proven to be a key differentiator for us,” explains Bruno. “We’ve created whiskies from oats, wheat, barley and rye and achieved really good results.” GEA’s support with finetuning the instrumentation has further increased Agitator’s yields, provided additional flexibility and process control. “Our relationship with GEA is excellent, and it shows in the flavor of our whisky,” says Bruno.
A willingness to experiment, a healthy skepticism towards convention and focus on creating the most exciting whiskies are the core values driving Agitator’s business. “We’re open to many ideas, but we will never compromise on quality,” declares Bruno.