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Issue 127 - Washbacks and Mashtuns

Whisky Magazine Issue 127
April 2015


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Washbacks and Mashtuns

The noble art of vessel making

On any distillery visit it is always the copper pot stills that capture the imagination. They are, after all, essentially the beating heart of the distillery, and its most dramatic and eye-catching feature. So it is, that among all the discussions about the ongoing exciting growth in Scotch whisky output, many people have focused on the pressures placed upon companies like Forsyth's of Rothes and Diageo's own Abercrombie coppersmithing operation in Alloa.

But it takes much more than stills to make a distillery function, with capacity expansion particularly necessitating an increased number of washbacks. While many of these are now made of stainless steel, there is no shortage of distillers who prefer the traditional wooden versions, which is where Joseph Brown Vats of Dufftown Ltd comes in.

The company is owned and run by husband and wife Ron and Carrilee Low, and has its origin in the Parkmore Cooperage, established in the early 1920s by the Brown family. The facility was initially based at Parkmore distillery, which fell silent in 1931, and later the cooperage moved to a site off Balvenie Street, close to the centre of the ‘malt whisky capital' of Dufftown, in the heart of Speyside.

It was to this location that a young Ron Low came to begin his career in 1984, having been born in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, moving to Dufftown at the age of eight, when his father got a job driving a lorry for William Grants & Sons Ltd.

Low recalls that “When I started with Browns, th...

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