iStill Glossology!

Introduction

Here’s an explanation of the terminology we use, when giving the iStills their names. What does “iStill 100 Hybrid NextGen” mean? And how is it different from an “iStill 200 Potstill Manual”? Let’s dive in deeper …

Manufacturer

All iStills are called “iStill”. The plural is “iStills”. One iStill 100 and two iStills 100. It is that easy.

Size

Since size matters, that’s what comes next. Our sizes are in metric. “iStill 500” for example means “500 liter boiler”. Please note that, contrary to other still manufacturers, we display net filling content instead of gross filling levels. An iStill 500 fits 500 liters of wash or low wines. And an iStill 2000 holds 2000 liters.

Column type

Next comes the column type. We have potstills, plated stills, and hybrid stills. An iStill 500 Potstill is … well, a net 500 liter potstill, designed and made by iStill.

The iStill Potstill performs a single distillation during a run, and creates robust flavors. Think Single Malt whisky, heavy rums, and Cognac or Gin.

The iStill Plated performs multiple distillation cycles in one run, and creates medium flavored products. This unit is great for brandy, Bourbon, Irish whiskey, and medium rums.

The iStill Hybrid is the jack-of-all-trades. It can perform a pot distillation like the iStill Potstill. It can perform multiple distillation cycles in one run, like the iStill Plated. And it can do many distillation cycles in one run, when making vodka. This unit can make any spirit.

Management

The last bit in our nomenclature depicts how the iStill is managed. It can be done manually, with the iStill Manual Series, or via the automation & robotization that our NextGen series offer.

The iStill 500 Potstill Manual, for instance, works together with the StillControl App & Probe. The probe relais the temperature to the app on your phone. The app allows you to dial in cut points and tells you when to cut for heads, hearts, and tails.

The iStill 500 Potstill Nextgen is fully automated. You can dial in your own cut points and the unit will – automatically – cut for heads, hearts, and tails.

Examples

The iStill 2000 Hybrid NextGen is a 2000 liter net boiler capacity still, with a hybrid column, that is managed via our amazing automation & robotization.

The iStill 200 Plated Manual is a 200 liter net boiler capacity still, with a plated column, that is managed by you, using the StillControl App & Probe.

The iStill 5000 Potstill NextGen is our 5000 liter still, with potstill column, that is managed via iStill’s automation & robotization suite.

Robot …

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Big in the USA!

This week sees four larger units in final assembly. Three iStills 2000, of which two will go to customers in the USA, and one will go to a distillery situated in the North of the Netherlands. One iStill 5000, that will ship to the USA, to a customer that already has an iStill 500 and 5000.

Four more distilleries hitting the road soon …

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Additional Manhole Standard Equipment Now!

By continuously listening to your feedback, iStill makes distilling easier. Sometimes this translates into a new technological innovation. Sometimes it is as simple as rearranging our option list and establishing what should maybe become part of the standard package.

The additional square manhole was an option many of you appreciated. Over the past few years, ever since we added this option, you have been adding it to your orders in bigger and bigger numbers. So much so, that we now decided to add the additional square manhole to iStill’s standard equipment list.

What this means? It simply means that any iStill 500, 2000, or 5000 that’s being ordered from July 14th 2020 onwards will automatically come with this (former) option now included as standard!

Additional square manhole now standard …

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iStill Pricing per July 14th 2020!

iStill Pricing per July 14th 2020 …

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From July 14th 2020 onwards:

  • All iStills Manual come with the StillControl app and iStill Bluetooth Thermometer;
  • iStills NextGen come with the full PLC-suite, automation, and robotization;
  • All iStills come with our industry leading online Distilling University included;
  • iStill 500/1000/2000/5000 come with extra square manhole as standard;
  • iStill 500/1000/2000/5000 NextGens come with Wifi-module as standard;
  • iStill 500/1000/2000/5000 come with pre-cooler as standard;
  • Manual iStills can be retrofitted to NextGens (automated & robotized) later;
  • “On the grain” consists of the Jet Propulsion Agitator System and indirect heaters;
  • “On the grain” is also retrofittable to your iStill afterwards;
  • “Mash/Ferment” needs the purchase of the “On the grain”-package as well;
  • “Mash/Ferment” consists of the boiler radiator and mash/ferment software;
  • “Mash/Ferment” is retrofittable on the iStill 500/1000/2000/5000;
  • The Extractor is retrofittable to all units;
  • Unsigned quotations, issued before July 14th, will expire on their expiration date;
  • Quotations issued from July 14th 2020 onwards will use the above price-list.

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Manual Potstill by iStill!

Robust Flavors, Distilled Consistently

Many distillers are interested in running their stills manually. If only that could be combined with a measure of supervision and help, to let them perform other jobs at the distillery, during the run … And if only that manual potstill could be designed in such a way that the robust flavors they are after can be produced more consistently … Guess what? That’s exactly what the iStill Manual Series offers!

Features & Benefits

Dual Riser Design (DRD)

The iStill Potstill’s unique Dual Riser Design combines a wide lower riser with a more narrow upper riser. The wide lower riser guarantees a very stable vapor supply, while the narrow upper riser provides the higher vapor speeds needed for the full-bodied flavors associated with pot distillation.

Insulation

The insulation lowers energy losses and supports a speedier distillation process. The insulation on the wide lower riser prevents unwanted passive reflux, while stabilizing vapor speeds, supporting more control over the associated flavor profiles of the spirits you produce.

iStill Bluetooth Thermometer

The iStill Manual Potstill comes equipped with the iStill Bluetooth Thermometer. This thermometer measures the temperature inside the riser and signals it via Bluetooth to the Still Control App. The battery life is an expected 5 years.

Still Control App (SCA)

The Still Control App is an app all iStill Manual Potstill owners can download for free. SCA allows the distiller to fill in his cut points for heads, hearts, tails, and end of run. The app helps monitor the run and informs the operator when he needs to cut, by tracking the temperature values provided by the iStill Bluetooth thermometer. This makes it easier for the distiller to perform other tasks around his or her distillery, and is assures both quality cuts and spirit reproducibility.

Copper Foam Technology (CFT)

In case imperfect fermentations result in higher than wished for sulfur counts, copper – as a catalyst – can clean up the contamination. But a copper column or riser would add two hours to your daily cleaning protocols and copper facilitates the formation of ethyl carbamate (a carcinogenic). That’s why we developed CFT. All iStills come equipped with a CFT waffle that can be inserted low in the riser and that takes care of any sulfur contamination without any of the downsides of a completely copper column or riser.

Upgradable

The iStill Manual Series uses the base iStill boiler. This means that the owner can always upgrade his manual still to an automated version.

Psst, free bonus …

The iStill 500 Manual Potstill now comes with the additional square manhole as standard!

Sizes & Prices

The iStill Manual Potstill comes in 100, 200 and 500 liter configuration.

Pricing:

  • iStill 100 Manual Potstill: EUR 10.000,-;
  • iStill 200 Manual Potstill: EUR 15.000,-;
  • iStill 500 Manual Potstill: EUR 20.000,-.

Performance

  • ABV output range: 25% to 79%;
  • Run times (on an 8% boiler charge): 4 to 5 hours;
  • Production rate iStill 100 Manual Potstill: 15 lph;
  • Production rate iStill 200 Manual Potstill: 30 lph;
  • Production rate iStill 500 Manual Potstill: 45 lph.

Availability

The Manual Potstill Series by iStill can be ordered from today onwards. Lead time is around three months. If you want to order one, or learn more, please reach out to Sales@iStillmail.com.

Time to trade up to an iStill Potstill …

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the StillControl App is included …

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FTOD 2015: Odin on Whiskey Column Design (1)

“From The Old Days (FTOD)” is a series of interesting iStill Blog posts from yesteryear. Is the info we shared still valuable? Is the craft distilling industry on track of improving, innovating, and catching up with Big Alcohol? Or are these articles of old still just as valid today as they were back in the day when they were published?

Introduction

The outcome of the Poll was an overwhelming “Yes”. So here we go: another more technical post. This time on column design. I foresee three articles. This first one will lay the groundwork on how a column should perform. The second one will analyse the workings of the bubble cap column, since that’s the one most often used by Craft Distillers. The third post will zoom in on how we translated our design philosophy into creating the iStill 250 and iStill One family.

In this post, on how to design a good column, we focus on whiskey making. More posts will follow, that will deal with other drinks.

Why start with whiskey? Well, because … there’s quite the gap between many of the designs used right now for whiskey making and how a whiskey column should be designed optimally. A nice starting point, therefore!

It is advised to read both posts on Boiler Design prior to starting to read this one. A good design starts with the boiler. And the groundwork of how I feel about total still design is laid out in those two posts. Well designed columns, literaly as well as in a figurative way of speaking … have a great boiler at their base.

What are we after?

It is easy to say that this or that design is better. But how to measure? What is the goal? Luckily, in whiskey making, that’s quite easy. As it is the case with all taste rich drinks … when distilling a whiskey, we are after taste. So a column should be designed in a way that allows for maximum taste transfer. Now, that’s a starting point, we can depart from.

Next question is … where can the taste of a whiskey be found? That’s a question that’s less easy to answer, but let’s dive in deeper and find out.

The tree metaphor

I find the “Tree Metaphor”, that I originally developed for gin recipes, helpful. You can envision a distillation run by looking at a tree, “outside – in”. That’s the trick.

The first thing you see and the first things that come over are the fruits AKA fruity notes. When you dive in deeper, you notice the leafs, AKA herbs (the metaphor was originally designed for gin, remember). The stem or trunk comes next, representing the body or Hearts. And you have to dig them up, and really go in … but there’s roots too. Rooty and nutty flavors are found in Tails, the last bit of the run.

Simplified, and translated to whiskey making, there’s fruity tastes in the Heads, body in the Hearts, and rooty and nutty tastes in Tails.

Now the next step … taste definition of whiskey … whiskey certainly has body, and some whiskies have some fruitiness, but the main character trait of whiskey is its rooty and nutty notes. That’s Tails associated.

In other words … it’s the (early) Tails that are most important, when you are in the pursuit of making a great whiskey.

That’s where – after some aging – the goodies, the character, the multi-dimensional after taste, that lingers and lingers in your mouth, can be found.

If early Tails have the most impact, when in the pursuit of a great whiskey, the column of any whiskey distillery should facilitate harvesting those early Tails, right? But what are the properties and qualities of early Tails? It is only when we know these, that we can start to put together a framework of “do’s” and “don’ts”, when we want to design a great column for whiskey distillation.

Early Tails and the art of smearing

We want some Tails into the last parts of the Hearts run. That’s the goal, when making a great whiskey. This process is also called “smearing”, where – instead of pure and perfect cuts – there are Tails and Tails related congeners (taste molecules) “smearing” into the last part of the Hearts cut. The more Tails congeners you harvest during the run, the more taste potential your whiskey will gain. But reaching that full potential will evidently take longer aging.

When do Tails come over? Yes, at the end of the run, that’s for sure. But how late? The later they come over … the more compacted they will be. Very well compacted Tails come over very late, so your Hearts cut will be quite big, but there won’t be any Tailsy congeners … until they come over. And then it is too late. Due to the compaction, they come over all at once. Like a big gulp, over-contaminating Hearts and making the final product undrinkable.

When making whiskey, great Tails compaction and control either don’t bring over taste or overpower it completely. Perfect Tails compaction just became enemy of state … Now, that’s a statement that can help out, when designing the perfect whiskey column!

Properties of Tails

When Tails management is essential to creating world class whiskey, the properties of Tails need to be further investigated. That sounds like a challenge, right? Chemistry and stuff …

Fortunately, it all boils (literally!) down to … boiling points and weights. Wait, let’s turn that around: molecular weight and boiling points.

Simplified, Tails associated alcohols like Propanol, Buthanol, and Furfural are “heavier” (= have more inter-molucular bonding power) than the good alcohol called Ethanol. Because they are “heavier”, they don’t escape a boiling concoction (AKA your distiller beer) as easy as lighter alcohols or Ethanol. And when they do, most of them are so heavy that they fall back. Back into what? Back into the distillers beer you are currently distilling.

Since Tailsy alcohols are heavier, they do not come over until the last part of the run. And they only come over when enough energy is applied for them to make it to the column and beyond. Energy? Yes, energy. Energy that is translated to speed. Remember, Tailsy alcohols are big dudes with an overweight problem. You need to put a lot of energy in them to get them moving. And it takes a lot of speed to get such heavy molecules all the way over to the product condensor.

Speed? Did anyone just say “vapor speed”? I guess I just did …

Vapor speed is king

When it comes to Tails management, vapor speed is king. Low vapor speeds are great for Tails compaction, but there may simply not be enough speed to carry early Tails over into Hearts. High vapor speeds are what you need if you want to smear early Tails into Hearts.

How to increase vapor speed

We established that a great whiskey can only be made when we master the art of smearing early Tails into Hearts. Translated to column design, this means we need a column (or distillation system) that allows us to do that in a gentle, controlled manner.

There are two ways in which we can increase vapor speed:

  1. Increase power input;
  2. Decrease column diameter.

Increasing power input creates more gasses that travel through the column at a faster speed. A smaller diameter column does not create more gasses, but dramatically increases vapor speed.

A – relative – increase in power input can be created by designing efficient stills. The less energy is used to heat-up the distilling room, the more energy is left to play around with vapor speeds. The smearing of early Tails into Hearts can be facilitated by designing relatively small diameter columns. Small diameter columns in combination with efficient stills.

Hey, did you notice that? All of a sudden we have “do’s” and “don’ts”! Let’s approach it from the positive side … so what are the “do’s”? What do we need to do in order to create the best column for great whiskey making? The total rig needs to be efficient. And the column on which final cuts are made needs to be relatively narrow. Time for an example from practice.

How the Scots do it

The Scots, like no one else, make whiskies that have lots and lots of taste. So they must master the art of smearing early Tails into Hearts, right? How do they do it? Magic? Heritage? No, they do it by designing an effective still … with a narrow column. The stills the Scots use to help them smear early Tails into Hearts are quite efficient and have high vapor speed columns.

How they make the rig on which they want to smear early Tails into Hearts efficient? Easy, by doing a strip run first. The strip run augments total ABV from something like an 8% wash to a 25 to 30% low wines. And that’s what they charge their spirit stills with. Filling them with higher ABV charges dramatically increases the efficiency of their spirit run.

How they create high vapor speeds, that allow Tails to smear into Hearts, on the spirit run? By applying long, narrow, swan-neck designed columns. Narrow colums that increase vapor speed, so the smearing they look for can actually be accomplished. Remember higher vapor speeds are needed to transfer Tailsy molecules from the boiler to the final product.

Scotland versus the rest of the world

Scotland versus the rest of the world? Let me re-write that into: “Scotland vs. Germany”. Remember my posts about boiler design? And about how Craft Distillers from around the world not only wanted to buy BMW and Mercedes cars, but also shiny German distilleries? And if they can’t afford them … one of their Chinese clones? Well, that’s the match we are actually watching here.

Scotland – Germany? No, let me rephrase that again. Whiskey still versus fruit brandy still. Doesn’t that make sense to you? In that case, please read my two posts on boiler design first. If you do, for sure the above remark will make sense.

German still manufacturers conquered the world by selling Craft Distillers on all continents fruit brandy stills. Do you remember that this causes many of today’s Craft Distillers to run stills with boilers that are designed sub-optimal? Well, let me enlighten you on something else. Fruit brandy columns aren’t that well suited for whiskey making either. Neither are they suited for rum and vodka making, and only partially do they support making brandy from wine. But that deserves a new post. That will be in “Odin on Whiskey Column Design (2)”. You want me to lift the veil a bit? Okay, here we go. Remember those fruit brandy stills have boilers that are too narrow and high for efficient distilling? Well, fruit brandy columns are actually too wide …

iStill 5000 Hybrid with glass column segments …

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Odin’s Opinion (7): Fuck Value-Based Pricing!

A long time ago, somebody told me that perception is reality. The way in which people perceive the world defines the way in which they act in that world. Perception precedes action.

More recently, someone told me that price reflects perceived value. As the price of Item A is higher than the price of Item B, this must be the result of Item A holding more value. That’s the perception, it seems.

The two paragraphs above quite nicely summarize how we screwed up part of our marketing, here at iStill. Let me explain that by highlighting some of the value that we bring to the industry:

  1. Only the iStill can make any spirit on one and the same machine;
  2. Only the iStill can mash, ferment, distill, and age in one and the same machine;
  3. Only the iStill combines the advantages of the Maillard Reaction and on the grain distilling for 25 and 20% more flavor respectively;
  4. Only the iStill can reproduce a recipe perfectly;
  5. Only the iStill is fully automated, robotized, and has air pressure corrected cuts as well as a spirit library;
  6. iStills need 0.2 FTE to be managed and operated, versus 1.2 FTE for other stills;
  7. iStills have the best build quality, which is reflected in our industry-leading warranty terms;
  8. iStills come with the best support and service;
  9. iStills come with the iStill Distilling University, the industry’s best educational program;
  10. iStills are three to four times more energy efficient than “traditional” stills.

Ten points to make a point. And I could easily add ten more to the mix. The point being? As far as stills and distilleries go, iStill offers the best value by far.

So … where do we screw up? Is it our pricing policy? Our pricing is consequently too low, potentially negatively affecting the perceived value our stills and distilleries offer.

Why is perceived value important? Because if distillers that use iStills take our amazing innovations for granted, they run the risk of taking themselves and their amazing spirits for granted. If value perception does not reflect value delivered, there is a big risk of reputation erosion. What’s valuable makes one proud, what’s considered worthless makes one indifferent at best.

So again … where do we screw up? Is it our communication strategy, maybe? Our communication about pricing has always been open, contrary to the accepted rules in our industry. But maybe we haven’t highlighted enough how much we offer, given our pricing, and why we choose to try and keep our prices as low as possible?

How do we solve these problems? I think there are basically two routes we could follow. The first one is easy and obvious: iStill raises its prices! The second one is less obvious, slightly more subtle, and requires your help: let’s raise the awareness as to the amazing equipment you run!

Here is a first attempt. I hope you find it thought-provoking:

  • Your iStill 100’s intrinsic value easily exceeds 50k;
  • Your iStill 500’s intrinsic value easily exceeds 100K;
  • Your iStill 2000’s intrinsic value easily exceeds 200K;
  • Your iStill 5000’s intrinsic value easily exceeds 300K.

Proof? There is nothing out there that comes close to – for example – an iStill 2000 at under 200K (or at 400K for that matter). And EUR 200K as established intrinsic value is a very, very conservative number. Especially when adding efficiencies, savings on labor, and savings on installation costs to the already impressive and futuristic technology-mix.

How much does hiring an additional 1 FTE in workforce translate to? Around 40 to 50K annually. And if you save 250 kWh per run on energy costs, while performing 250 runs annually, that’s another saving of around EUR 10.000,-. Over a period of just 10 years, the energy and manpower savings alone amount to 500 – 600K. How would it feel to look at your bank statement and see that kinda money staring back at you? If you want to know how that feels, you need to buy an iStill!

Now, since the iStill comes ready-to-run, and does not need a steam boiler (so 1867!) or extensive piping and tubing, add another 100K of savings to your calculations. Do you see where this is going? Exactly, establishing the intrinsic value of an iStill 2000 at 200K is way too conservative.

Doing the above math really helps establish a more correct assessment of what your iStill’s value is. Much better than establishing its value via our prices, because those are based on us wanting to help you take the battle to Big Alcohol.

“Distilling made easy” is our north star and lower prices help us equal a very biased playing-field. Put differently: investing in iStill equipment is more than “just” investing in state-of-the-art, hyper-efficient technology. Investing in iStill equipment is also an investment in a company that is invested in the craft distilling industry’s long term success, opposing Big Alcohol.

With all that in mind, shouldn’t we be a little prouder, while manufacturing, selling, purchasing, and running those +100K, +200K, or +300K iStills? I mean, if we were to pursue value-based pricing, and really raise our prices, we (iStill) might win in the short run, but we’d all lose to Big Alcohol in the long run. So here’s the management summary on value-based pricing:

Fuck value-based pricing …

download

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