While Dan spends the day in a deep, enviable sleep, work at the Great
Western Distillery goes on at a breakneck pace. That’s because among the
11 distilleries on “Distillery Row” the Great Western is the biggest in both
employees and amount of whiskey produced. Collectively, the businesses
churned out over 18 million gallons of whiskey that year, with the Great
Western being the largest in the world, turning out millions of gallons
Ravenswood Rye and Ravenswood Bourbon.
It’s no wonder that even though the work was hard, almost every man and
woman who worked there did so with great pride. There were the Maltmen
who, next to the Daddlers, had the toughest job requiring the greatest
strength, as they spent their days loading the grains (mainly corn and barley)
onto the malting floor and then into the kilns. Known as malting, this stops the
germination process in the seeds, readying them whiskey making.
While every job at the Great Western was open to any able-bodied soul,
100% of Maltmen were in fact men. This was not just because of the
backbreaking labor but also because of the monotony of the job, which
could lead to “malt mind,” a crippling mental illness in which more than a
few afflicted Maltmen had been found “night shoveling” in their homes or
After the grain has been malted, the Mashmen (and women) take over. It’s
their job to turn the malted grain into “wort,” which is basically a sweet,
earthy tea, created when the malted grain is steeped in hot water. At the
Great Western, massive vats containing hundreds of gallons of the thick
liquid, is turned with giant oars by hand. The hot water breaks the malt down
into sugars, giving the wort its sweet-ish taste.
Once the process is complete the Mashman drain the wort, allowing it to
cool before pouring it into giant wooden vats called “Wash Backs.” This is
where yeast is added and the fermentation process – in which the yeast
breaks down the sugars into alcohol – occurs.
While being a Mashman required physical strength to turn the thick, gloopy
liquid, it also required intelligence and a craftsman’s attention to detail:
each vat had to be heated to an exact temperature, while the volumes and
sugar gravities required precise measurements at precise times throughout
the process. That’s why more than a few Mashmen were Mashwomen.
One of the most critical jobs at the Great Western (or any distillery for that
matter) is that of the Stillman. After fermentation is complete, the “wash” is
placed in massive copper stills where it is heated and condensed twice
(known as distillation). Along with overseeing distillation, it’s the Stillman’s job
to identify the ideal “cut point” in the process – the point where the flowing
condensed distillate is at its highest quality – and make sure this high-quality
liquor makes it into the freshly charred barrels where it matures into either
Ravenswood Rye or Ravenswood Bourbon.
Once it’s poured into the barrels and sealed, that’s where Dan and the
Whiskeydaddlers take over.