Chivas Bottling

Millions of bottles of Scotch whisky are sold worldwide. Between the many small and large distilleries and the customers there's a longer logistics chain. The heart of this chain is the bottling.

The demand for big brands, such as Chivas Regal, is so high that many distilleries must produce for them (e.g. Strathisla, Braeval, Allt-á-Bhainne). A steady flow of tankers pour their liquid freight into the bottling plant, and filled bottles leave it again.

The Chivas Headquater in Glasgow
Chivas - The Chivas & Glenlivet Group - Headquarters Glasgow

Bottles of all usual sizes (0.7l, 0.75l, 1.0l) are filled simultaneously on several bottling lines. Every second the bottles are filled and loaded on pallets into the waiting trucks.

A view through the bottling hall
Chivas - Overview bottling lines

A logistical problem must be solved. How does the whisky get into the bottle steadily, fast and without any disturbances? The solution is three-dimensional.

On the ground floor empty bottles, unfolded cardboard boxes, bottle caps, labels, etc. are delivered. On the principal floor above there are multiple bottling lines extending over several meters.

The conveyer going through to the upper floor
Chivas - Connection between the floors

At one end of the plant, the tankers with grain whisky and the container trucks with malt whisky casks are unloaded. The different whiskies are temporarily stored in countless smaller vats.

Small vats for the chicas blending
Chivas - Small vats

Then it's time for blending. Fine blending and tasting take place in the laboratory. Afterwards the malt and grain whiskies are married together, diluted with water and stored in large vats. This marrying takes some time.

Big tanks standing on the ground
Chivas - Large whisky vats

Blended whisky is often drunk on the rocks. Unfiltered whisky gets cloudy when cooled down. Although this is a natural process, it's regarded as a quality defect. All whisky is therefore cooled down to a few degrees above zero and then filtered. In a large filter 20 to 30 paper layers clear the whisky of particles that would cloud the whisky when cooled down.

A filter used for chillfiltering
Chivas - Whisky filter

Then the whisky is ready to be bottled. But first the packaging must be prepared.

To save energy, heat exchangers recover heat wherever it's possible. With several hundred thousands of litres per year, this method pays off.

The Heat exchanger at the Chivas bottling
Chivas - Heat exchanger

1. Delivery of Materials

Each whisky bottle consists of the glass bottle, the cap and the labels. High-quality whisky bottles are additionally packed into paper boxes or tubes, which are in turn packed into large cardboard boxes for shipping.

A pallet with boxes on it in a big hall with a lot of pallets
Chivas - Delivery of Empty Bottles

Whisky bottles must meet high quality criteria. All bottles are already delivered cleaned to Chivas. All batches are shrink-wrapped so nothing becomes dirty again. But that's not enough. All bottles are upside down, so nothing can get into the bottles in case the wrap is damaged.

The storage of empty bottles at the Chivas bottling
Chivas - Bottle storage

Once unpacked, these bottles quickly disappear upwards via elevators.

Empty bottles on the conveyor to the bottling
Chivas - Empty bottles

The caps are also supplied from the floor below. Chivas uses a patent cap that prevents the bottle from being filled again. You would have to destroy it if you wanted to fill anything other than Chivas in. Precautions are necessary! More than once the status symbol of prosperity has been filled with cheap stuff in emerging and third world countries.

The supply of caps at the Chivas bottling
Chivas - Cap supply

The basement holds the empty cardboard boxes into which always 12 bottles are packed.

The cap storage at the Chivas bottling
Chivas - Cap supply

Due to limited storage space, these boxes are delivered flat and are glued together just in time. A gluing machine ensures that this happens fast.

The cardboard boxes used for the Chivas bottles
Chivas - Flat cardboard boxes
Where the boxes are glued and closed
Chivas - Box gluing machine

While the preparations for the bottling take place, the whisky is pumped into large vats so the bottling line is never empty and can be run day and night.

The scenery is eerie. Have you seen 'The Hunt for Red October'? The whisky vats with a capacity of more than 125,000 litres resemble the missile silos in the movie.

The vats that contain the ready blended whisky
Chivas - Whisky vats before bottling
The beginning of the line
Chivas - Supply of empty bottles at the beginning of the line

In a car factory the heart of the process is the wedding between car body and chassis. In the bottling line it's the carousel in which the bottles are filled with whisky - truly an impressive spectacle. And above all there's the sound of clinking glass and the smell of Scotch whisky.

The filling of the bottles at the Chivas bottling
Filling

The machine revolves at breath-taking speed, and the whisky flows into the bottles in a never-ending stream. Whisky forever! The picture below illustrates the filling process well. The empty bottles are supplied from the left and pushed into the carousel with the filling tubes.

The bottling machine at Chivas bottling
Filling

After one rotation (see picture before) the now-filled bottles leave the machine to the right.

In the next step the bottles are closed on a similar carousel. The rotation of the carousel is skilfully used to screw up the bottles.

The closing of the bottles at the Chivas bottling
Closing of the bottles.

The last step is to wrap-fit the caps, and we're done. The precious content is now safe.

The caps are placed on the bottles at the Chivas bottling
Fitting of the caps

What began so quickly now becomes time-consuming and laborious. Over endless conveyors the bottles are led past a multitude of machines.

The conveyors transporting the finished bottles
Conveyors

The next step is quality control, which is done by humans and by computers. Quality is not left to chance.

bottles in front of a bright white screen at Chivas bottling
Optical quality control
The maschine checking the bottles at Chivas bottling
Computer quality control

After the labels have been put on the bottles, everything is checked again.

The controlling of the labels at the Chivas bottling
Controlling the labels

Now the bottles have only to be packed into the famous silver boxes and the transport boxes.

2. Packaging

Automatically the silver gift boxes are set up and the bottles are pushed in. As if by magic, every second a bottle disappears in a box.

The packing of the bottles into the cardboard boxes
Packing in boxes

Controlled by light barriers, each transport box rolls to the large stacking machine.

The transport of the finished boxes
Transport I
The transport of boxes with chivas bottles
Transport II

Always 10 boxes are put on one level in the stacking machine.  All dimensions and wall thicknesses are exactly calculated so that all 10 fit on a EUR-pallet.

The stacking of the Chivas boxes
Stacking machine I

One pallet holds six levels of boxes. Everything is automated, which is a great relief for the employees, since every pallet weighs several hundred kilogrammes.

The stacking of the Chivas boxes
Stacking machine II

At the end of the packing line the pallet leaves the hall, where a truck is already waiting.

The pallet are transportet with the ready bottled
Pallet transport

Even this truck has transport rolls in its container. Using its pneumatic suspension, it can adjust the inclination of its container and move the pallets almost without effort. After everything is tied down, the truck starts its journey to the connoisseurs all over the world.

A truck transporting the chivas bottles
Truck

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