Whisky Magazine Issue 120
This article is 19 months old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.
Copyright Whisky Magazine © 1999-2015. All rights reserved. To use or reproduce part or all of this article please contact us for details of how you can do so legally.
A look at different types of mash tun and how each accomplishes the job of mashing
Mashing may seem an entirely pragmatic process: adding hot water to malted barley in order to convert starches within the barley into sugars, which dissolve to create a sugary liquid known as wort, that drains from the mash tun (usually a large stainless steel vessel). But mashing is also a vital stage in attaining spirit with a consistent character and quality, and different mash tuns also have their own parameters. The more historic type is known as a traditional mash tun, with the alternative being a lauter, which was more widely used from the 1980s-90s.
Whichever type of mash tun is used the process begins in the same way: hot water and grist (ie. malted barley which has been milled) are combined in a separate tank called a mashing machine above the mash tun. The resulting ‘mash' is conducted through a spout into the mash tun. From this stage the type of mash tun determines how the process continues.
A traditional mash tun means a large vessel fitted with a central column that operates a ‘rake' mechanism, comprising curved steel arms possessing comb-like teeth. The arms rotate around the mash tun, the action resembling a swimmer doing front crawl, which stirs the mash and consequently aids drainage.
“Once the mash tun is three-quarters full we turn on the rake and give the rake three revolutions, which takes a few minutes. It's a very gentle stirring action, then we leave the mash sitting for half an hour before we start draining off the wort,” says Gavin McL...