Innovative spirit that transforms a valuable tradition

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Business Insight 2015 Scott Allen 

The Times: Business Insight July 2015.

Allen Associates plays a key role in whisky distilling and is perfectly placed to service the industry from Stirling.

For almost 25 years Allen Associates have been at the forefront of. Process Engineering Design serving the food and drinks sector, providing both consulting, design and project implementation services.

Based in the Alpha Centre at Stirling University Innovation Park, the chemical engineering firm plays a key role in whisky distilling and has worked with more than 80 distillers during the company’s lifetime.

So when The Glenmorangie Company decided to increase spirit production at Glenmorangie Distillery by 50 per cent, the company looked to Allen Associates to ‘help it out. Allen Associates took control of the entire process, managing the project from process design through to implementation and commissioning. This was achieved while meeting production targets and maintaining the aesthetics of the distillery.

The project required a complete re-design of the distillery including: new grist handling equipment, mash tun, wash-backs, stills, boiler, cooling tower, CIP plant and an energy-efficient cost saving condenser heat recovery system.

It’s a process Allen Associates has come to know well, said Managing Director Scott Allen. “We work right across the whole whisky production process, from the beginning with the malt intake at the distillery to the blending and bottling of the finished product.

“About 25 years ago my father worked with the distilling industry and there was a drive for improving the cleaning systems. An ex-colleague and myself joined him and formed a limited company. There seemed to be a change in the whisky industry at the time as many distillers no longer had an engineering resource and there was a greater requirement to out-source engineering design and projects.”

As the whisky industry has enjoyed a boom over the the past decade, Allen Associates has also grown. “The nature of the growing whisky industry over the past 10 Years has kept us busy,” added Scott. “We do a lot of work with process safety compliance. We’re like architects but for the process as opposed to buildings. An architect will check a building complies with regulations and we do the same with the processing side. We get a lot of work on compliance which is a growth area for us”

“We've grown from three to 10 employees since 2001 and it’s all high.value jobs. We have eight chemical engineers who have all come through Scottish universities.”

Since the company was formed there was only ever one possible location for the headquarters; Stirling. “When we started to look around for office space we were really impressed with the Innovation
Park. It’s a nice location with fantastic surroundings and the people were interested in what we did. We only had one unit when we first joined and we now have two combined,” said Scott.

“Distilleries are located throughout Scotland but the accessible location of Stirling makes a lot of sense,” said Scott, as many whisky bottling halls are in Glasgow or Edinburgh. “We also work very closely with Kerry Ingredients & Flavours who are also just along the road in Menstrie. “Stirling is a good location as it’s very easy to get to Edinburgh and Glasgow and the transport links are great. There is a lot of whisky processing and operations in the central belt. Most of the distilling is done up north but a lot of the handling is in the central belt and were perfectly the middle.