Every time I am on a distillery tour and enter the mash room, I cannee stop humming the famous old tune;  The zombies were having fun. The party had just begun. The guests included Wolf Man, Dracula and his son. The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds, Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds, coffin-bangers were about to arrive with their vocal group, “The Crypt-Kicker Five” They played the mash. They played the monster mash. Songwriters: Robert Pickett / Leonard Capizzi. Sung; Bobby Pickett “Monster Mash”.

A mash tun is a vessel used in the mashing process converting starches in crushed grains, into sugars for fermentation. Most mash tuns are insulated to maintain a constant temperature and most have a false bottom and spigot so that the sparging process can be done in the same vessel. It typically will be round, topped with a copper or stainless steel dome, although there also are versions that do not have a cover like Bruichladdich Distillery. The base of the tun contains small openings, like a sieve, which can be used to extract the sugary water (now called wort) while ensuring the grain stays behind. During the mashing process, water of increasing temperatures are added to the grist in 3 or 4 phases. The water is given time to absorb the sugars for a while, then drained and added to the initial batch collected in the worts receiver. The remainder is then removed and usually sold off as cattle feed.

The traditional mash tun had a rotating arm in the middle, equipped with rakes that stir up the grain in the bottom of the tun to help extract the sugars and make it easier to drain the waters. Semi-lauter Mash tun. From the 1970s onward, traditional vessels started getting replaced with mash tuns with long iron knives, themselves equipped with small blades (or fins). In a semi-lauter version, the knives are rotated around in the mash tun by a spindle in the middle. The blades are able to disturb the malt much more than the traditional rakes and thus increase the speed of the mash process. The Full lauter mash tun is very similar to the semi, but the knives don’t just rotate, but can also move up and down in order to further stir the mix.

Me? I like mash with a steak pie and gravy, no seen any distilleries offering this yet, we can only hope eh? Paul McLean 2019