John Keuris from Keuris Distillery lives in Holland. His distillery is situated in Barboutswaarder, close to the Old Rhine River. The clay deposits of the Rhine make for very fertile land. Much of which is used to grow fruits on. So what John does? Well, it makes sense he uses those fruits to his and our advantage. John is a Master Distiller specialized in Apple and Pear Eau de Vie making. Time for an interview? You bet!
1. John, how did you get in touch with distilling?
As a beer judge, I came in contact with another beer judge who, next to brewing beer and judging beer, loved to distill. He turned small batches of beer into whiskey and vodka. On one of the meetings of the Dutch beer judging guild “‘t Wort Wat” my colleague gave a presentation on distilling. And when I got the opportunity to taste some of his products, the quality amazed me.
After that, I wanted to know more about distilling. At home, in my garage, I had a small laboratory set-up. Later, I added a small pot still. Both of these stills helped me to train myself in distilling on a very small scale.
Some time later, my colleague beer judge told me he was going to stop distilling. He told me I could take over his bigger pot still.
At the moment that opportunity arose, I decided to go pro. I contacted the local autorities to get the permissions in place and to get legalized.
To gather more information, I also joined the FAWBG (a beer and wine making organization). I followed a course to become a Liqueur Master.
2. How did you start out? Do you distill like every day?
I work at my distillery on Fridays and Saturdays. The Friday is for buying and processing fruits. On Saturday I distill. It is something I do next to my regular, week days, job. Officially, I am now an enterpreneur. Distillery Keuris was established on July 1st 2011.
3. What kind of equipment do you use?
I run a 60 liter copper boiler that can hold about 60 liters. The boiler is an “au bain Marie” type: it has a double copper wall for indirect heating. Between the copper walls, there is a water jacket that’s heated by a 2,200 Watt electrical element.
The pot still was originally build by my colleague beer judge, but I did make some adaptations myself. Most importantly I added some sensors to take good measurements and to read out software on how my runs are progressing. These adaptations had one goal only: to further improve the quality of my drinks. As an Eau de Vie distiller, I want to get over as much of the apple taste as possible.
Besides the probes and software, I changed a few structural things as well. Cooling, Liebig, heating element, and the onion on top of the rig are adapted to further improve product quality.
As a last adaptation, I added insulation to both the both the boiler and the helmet. This way temperature fluctuates less and quality further improves.
4. What drinks do you produce?
At this moment I produce two types of Eau de Vie. A 33% strong Eau de Vie, made out of apples and pears. And I produce a 6 months barrel aged version of that Eau de Vie as well.
In the future I will be producing a whiskey. Currently I am developing an Eau de Vie liqueur based on apples, pears, oranges and lemons. On a special request from super markets in the region that want to sell local products. This tatest product I also sell at markets and annual fairs throughout the region.
5. In what way does the Keuris Distillery want to distinguish itself from other distilleries?
By aiming for the highest quality possible. Small scale and artisan production are at the basis of our production processes. Fruits are processed manually. For more information on our fruit processing and distillation approach, please see the schematics on http://www.keuris.nl.
6. Where do you want to be in like 5 years time? What growth, what products do you foresee?
I do not want to grow much bigger than we are right now. With our current size, I can control every step and every detail in our production process. From buying the right fruits all the way to marketing and selling our products.The The
Quality is judged as “good” to “very good”. Not just by fellow beer and liqueur judges, but also by consumers and other distillers, bar and restaurant owners.
But that does not mean we do not want to improve any further. I belief continuous improvement is the way to go: to learn from past experiences and take small steps forward.
7. What is “The Secret” to making a great drink? What’s the most important advise you could give to other distillers?
There isn’t a secret, really, but if people were to ask my advise, I’d touch like to touch a number of aspects:
- Taste as often as you can, and keep a journal on your runs and findings;
- That way you can start building what I call a “taste memory”;
- Visit other distilleries, both at home and internationally;
- Ask questions;
- Be patient: distilling takes time, getting it right takes even more time!
Any questions for John? Please let me know! If you want to meet John Keuris in person, please know that he will give a workshop on Eau de Vie making on September 14th at the iStill Distillers Event 2013!