Via this iStill Blog post we want to wish you an amazing new year. We hope that all your plans and all your dreams come true!
As is our custom, we use our new year wish also as a way to reflect on the year before and to look forward, into the future a little bit. What has the future in stock? What did the past bring us?
The year 2017 was an amazing one for us. We saw our customers win important awards and medals all over the world. And iStill was able to beef up its production, resulting in an overall increase in new customers and units sold of over 50%. Thank you for your business!
As a follower of our blog you know that innovation is at the very heart of what iStill stands for. So what did we do innovation-wise? Innovation-wise there were three things that stood out to me personally, and that I want to highlight here, looking back at the past year:
- The new Robot and PLC infrastructure that now provides a resolution of no less than 2,500 steps. This new (and final – at least for the coming 10 years) infrastructure allows us to start to predict runs instead of read and react to changes. The PreCog functionality’s automation is something we will be spending a lot of time and money on in 2018 . A special thanks to Arie, for spearheading this project!
- The all new Extractor line-up proved to be a great step too. It helps our customers at gin making, liqueur making, essence and extract production, absinth production, hemp oil extraction, coffee making, grain mashing, and vodka filtration. Thank you Willem for helping us design this great new technology!
- The new bullet proof insulation. Thank you William for your help at creating this amazing new innovation! The insulations always worked great, but was touchy. That’s a thing of the past now.
At iStill, internally, a few things changed as well. Here’s a highlight of some organizational changes:
- Veronika helped us migrate to a new, web-based accounting and book keeping system. Great job and very important to further professionalize our after sales performance. Yes, it will also serve as our CRM!
- Christiaan was responsible for designing and launching our new website. A great improvement in terms of look & feel as well as in performance. My personal favorites? The new design center and the stories our customers share online. The website now attracts 200 to 300 visitors per day!
- Jason and his team became responsible for our North American marketing and (after) sales, which resulted in a bigger iStill presence in Canada, Mexico, and the USA, resulting in way more workshops, support, marketing and sales.
- We have set-up a new distilling hall that acts as our showroom and educational facility, here in Amsterdam. The new laboratory makes it easier to help design award winning drinks for our customers. And last year we educated over 200 craft distillers! They awarded the iStill Certified 4-day Workshop with an amazing 9.7 out of 10!
2018 market developments
The year 2017 was great. More craft distillers than ever before chose iStill. We further professionalized our organization. Major innovations were achieved, that help us make starting and running a successful craft distillery easier again.
What about 2018? How does the future look like? Let’s dive in deeper and find out. First by looking at market circumstances, then by investigating our own role in the distilling industry.
Future developments in the craft distilling industry? Here is my first prediction: I foresee a steady growth of the number of craft distillers being opened worldwide. The new year will see the beginning of a shift from growth being centralized in first world countries to craft distilling taking off in second and even third world countries. Let’s call this trend “Growth & Globalization”.
Prediction number 2? The signs have been on the wall for some time. One of them being … that we are now the biggest manufacturer of craft distilling equipment in the world. It is therefore my firm conviction that in 2018 even the most traditional markets will start to reconsider their options when purchasing distillation equipment. A movement from traditional systems towards future proof distilling equipment is picking up a lot of speed as we speak.
More people than ever, wanting to enter the industry, look at craft distilling as 1. a business and 2. a science. Instead of something traditional, rooted in the 19th century, for which a leather apron, a wooden stirrer, and a hipster beard are required. Control over taste profile, repeatability, and the lowest production costs possible will take center stage when (future) distillers take decisions on what equipment to purchase. We already see this happening at big, established distillers that leave their worn-out copper columns on their 19th century design stills in their visitor center … but reinvest in iStills for improved production quality and quantity. The trends in the above two paragraphs can be labeled as a change “From Copper to Control”.
The last big shift in the distilling market I name the “Cafeteria Model”, which stands for new market entries desiring the freedom to choose what they want and need at the time they need it.
Maybe a still, maybe training, maybe product development or business consultancy, or maybe just a facility they can contract / outsource their distilling to. Or any combination of the above. The new craft distiller is not so much interested in the still, he or she is interested in the whole package, the support that makes his business a success. As a result, he is looking for support on various levels and on various topics given certain timelines: training, product development, distillation support, and equipment.
iStill: “Growth and Globalization”
The last months, we have invested in further beefing-up our production capacity. The iStill Factory and Assembly Halls are now, I am proud to say, capable of producing another 50% more units. That’s 300 distilleries we’ll build. Pretty much one a day! We expect this to sorta cover the “Growth” part of the trend discussed above.
How we adapt to globalization? By opening up new markets and by establishing support on all continents and in all major countries. The year 2018 will see a big boost there. Please follow the iStill Blog for more news soon!
iStill: “From Copper to Control”
With the new robot and PLC upgrades in place, 2018 will see us release even more advanced firmware for the iStills. Firmware that can predict runs, based on past experience, will further optimize spirit quality while lowering production costs per bottle.
Alcohol and taste are created during fermentation. Alcohol is concentrated, and tastes are separated out, during distillation. What if we can design a technology that helps you create a taste definition of the spirits you make? Not just in terms of ABV, run procedures and sugar source, but way deeper and more refined? Think: the amount of acetone, ethyl acetate, ethanol, propanol, butanol, furfural in parts per million. Think: the amount of certain esters and other taste molecules in parts per million in your drink.
If we can help you establish an objective definition of your drink, the next step is that the iStill then automatically adjusts its distillation settings to make sure your profile, your spirit’s definition is met. Or let’s take things another step forward: what if we analyze your fermentation results and then confront that with your now objectified spirit definition, and the iStill learns how to adapt for any changes that might occur? I am proud to say that we are currently investigating technological break-throughs to help you gain that amazing amount of control over your spirits production process!
iStill: “The Cafeteria Model”
When I started designing the first iStills, my goal was not to become a still manufacturer. Instead, I entered the industry from a product development perspective, helping people around the globe at creating better whisky, vodka, rum, brandy and gin. The first iStills were designed to help me understand what distillation is all about, and how different approaches and designs can help harvest the tastes one is after.
So, from the very beginning, iStill, when we started to actually produce stills, has also always been about helping you out as a distiller. Not “just” by producing equipment, but by making distilling easier. The still is not the goal, but the means. A means to an end: helping you to become successful in the craft distilling industry.
Very soon after we started equipment production, we learned that the new theories on distillation that I discovered needed to be part of a training module. And that training and buying an iStill go hand in hand. Our 4-day Certified Workshops are aimed at teaching our customers how distilling really works and how they can optimize the use of their iStills.
This coming year we will take our support model another step forward. Yes, you can buy our stills, and follow our workshops and maybe ask our help at designing award winning drinks. But we now also offer contract distilling. We feel that this addition really puts us in a realm of our own. Still making, spirits design, distilling training, and contract distilling and warehousing. Four parts of your distilling process where each reinforces the other.
Just like our machines can do anything from mashing to distilling, our organization is now fully integrated as well: we can help you out at pretty much every step of your way, the way you want it, and at the time you need it! At this moment we offer this integrated service package (and it is up to you to pick what you want) in Europe. The UK and the USA will follow shortly.
Again, thank you for your business. Thanks for taking the time to read my vision on our industry’s future. I am looking forward to 2018. I am sure it is going to be an interesting year. Together with you, we’ll change the world of distilling some more. Step by step, but always moving forward in the right direction.
At your service,
Drs. H.E.J. (Odin) van Eijk, MScBA, etc.
Founder, owner, and CEO of iStill.