Thursday, March 22, 2012

Doing the Malt-ster Mash

In addition to the special grain, the mashing process for Scotch-style whisky entails some unusual extra procedures. Unlike our normal practice for mashing rye whiskey, the Scots don't like to keep the liquid and the solids (the spent meal that ultimately settles to the bottom of the mash tubs) together. They have found that separating the two well before distilling has another significant effect on the finished product. For us, this meant going through an additional series of extremely labor intensive steps.

The process begins by combining 80 gallons of water heated to a temperature of 168 degrees with 280 pounds of barley meal in a 120-gallon hogshead, "rowing in" the meal as the water is added. After this concoction is allowed to site for about 45 minutes, the temperature drops about 20 degrees, and the liquid is bucketed out of the hogshead by hand and strained though metal mesh into a second hogshead, with the solids deposited into a third barrel. More hot water (about 32 gallons at 195 degrees) is added to the hogshead containing the strained solids, which produces additional sugar. The liquid in that barrel then is strained as before, with the solids discarded. The liquid is combined with the liquid from the first straining episode, and when the mixture drops to about 90 degrees in temperature, yeast is added to begin the fermentation. As with all whiskey, fermentation -- when the sugars are converted into alcohol -- should take three or more days to complete.

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