We’ve already put a lot of work into preparing all of our malted barley on-site, by hand – as it’s not only central to our traditionally-minded approach, but it is also fundamental to the profile and character of the single malt whisky we’re crafting at Dunphail.
Whisky is made from three ingredients – barley, water and yeast. And it’s the mashing stage where water is again introduced into the process (as well as during the steeping of the barley during malting). All of our production water is drawn from our on-site mineral-rich borehole. This water has been filtered through layers of ancient sandstone, during which time it becomes imbued with minerals such as calcium, magnesium and sodium. All of these minerals (particularly calcium) have a highly positive effect on the creation of our spirit – allowing the vivid fruit-forward notes that are our hallmark to come to the fore.
Mashing involves us turning our grist into ‘wort’ – the fermentable liquid which will become the basis of our whisky. We do this in our 1 tonne mash tun, which is where we apply hot water to break down the grains to release the sugars that we require for converting into alcohol.
Our mash tun sits directly alongside our mill. It holds the grist that we’ve crushed into the perfect proportions. It is a semi-lauter tun by design, which means that it possesses blades on rotating arms at a fixed height, which spin around within the vessel stirring the malt and ensuring that liquid can properly drain through the grain bed.
During mashing, we apply two hot waters to the grist, ensuring that each individual grain is evenly soaked. As with all things at Dunphail Distillery, this choice is deliberate – by only using two waters, we’re ensuring that the sugary liquid we collect from our mash tun retains its bright and fine profile. This produces a spirit which possesses a vivid intensity – which in turn elevates the fruit-forward characteristics of our whisky.
Our two-stage mashing takes around half a day to complete and produces what looks and smells like hot porridge. But below the now-soaked grain bed, we’re collecting the resultant sugary liquid which we’ll be using to ferment in the next production process.
The collected liquid is called ‘wort’. Dunphail’s wort is clear as opposed to cloudy – due to the volume of husks and lower levels of fines (flour) within our grist. It’s the perfect base for us to build upon as it will produce a fruit-driven whisky where the character of our floor malted barley will also become an integral part of the overall flavour profile.
The wort is collected at the floor of the mash tun, running through the false bottom which prevents the grains from draining alongside the precious sugar-laden liquid. It is then cooled to 20º C using a heat exchanger. This temperature is important as we require the wort to be the perfect environment for the yeast to thrive during fermentation.
The spent grains are now called ‘draff’. They are conveyed out of the distillery into the yard, where they are then dispatched to local farmers as a very welcome source of animal feed!