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Issue 59 - Grist to themill

Whisky Magazine Issue 59
October 2006


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Grist to themill

Ian Wisniewski gets to grips with an often overlooked yet vitally important stage of the production process – milling

With commercial maltsters preparing the vast majority of the industry's malt requirement, milling is usually the first process undertaken at a distillery.

Although this may seem an entirely practical stage, any deviation from the usual regime can have significant consequences.

“The mill is a very important piece of kit,” says Highland Park's Russell Anderson. “I go to the mill every day, guaranteed, and check grist samples, I like to physically see how the husk and grits are looking. If we don't have the correct grind extraction we will suffer, i.e the mash will stick in the mashtun, which can also have a knock-on effect on our fermentations.” The first specification to consider is the moisture content of the malt when it's delivered to the distillery. A moisture level exceeding the usual spec can alter, or even prevent milling.

“Too high a moisture content could mean the malt sticking to the rollers, which would cause all sorts of problems,” says Alan Winchester of Chivas Bros.

Mills are typically the work of Robert Boby or Porteus, examples of which can been seen at numerous distilleries, though there are a few other manufacturers.

“Glenfarclas has a Buhler mill, manufactured in Uzwil, Switzerland, which we describe as the Bentley of mills, installed in 1974,” says Ian McWilliam of Glenfarclas.

The malt first passes through a dresser, effectively a revolving drum fitted with wire mesh, which catches any extraneous items such as pieces of straw and smal...

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