FTOD 2016: Revolutionizing Craft Distilling Once More!

“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, 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?


When I introduced iStill some 4 years ago, we pretty much hit the ground running. Why? Because our equipment rocks, challenges, and integrates!

The sheer performance of our units has rocked the Craft Distilling scene. Our innovations have challenged the status-quo. And our new designs have been integrating various functions like mashing and fermenting or stripping and finishing.

Now, it’s time to take the next step.

My promise to you

My promise to you? We are currently taking that next step. The meaning of the words “rocking”, “challenging”, and “integrating” are about to be pushed to a whole new level. And I plan to reveal just what I mean in this iStill Blog post.

The groundwork

Thinking about the whole spirits manufacturing process, all of a sudden it struck me: mashing, fermenting, and distilling have three things in common:

  1. They all involve heating;
  2. They all involve cooling;
  3. They all take place in a boiler.

So … why hasn’t our industry taken advantage of those similarities? I understand that it creates oversight to give each step (mashing, fermenting, distilling) a machine of its own. And I understand that manufacturers of distillation equipment rather sell you three, four or five machines than only one or two …

But doesn’t the process of making spirits with different, overly specialized machines by definition creates bottle necks? Especially in a scenario where Craft Distilleries grow and/or change their product line-up? You make rum and want to make whiskey … heck, you need a masher! You have a bottleneck with your fermenters one day … and when you solve that issue, it’s the stills that form the new constraint!

My new gold dream

Here is the new gold dream I want to share with you:

  1. Let’s beef up the heating capacity;
  2. Let’s beef up cooling capacity;
  3. And let’s design a boiler that is fit for mashing as well as fermenting as well as distilling.

Let’s create a system that you can tailor for mashing, fermenting, and distilling. No more need for a variety of machines. Instead, I give you one machine that can do it all. From mashing to barreling in one go without compromizing!

iStill NextGen stands for the Next Generation in Craft Distilling

iStill NextGen stands for “Next Generation”. That is not pretention. I am firmly convinced it is the next generation of Craft Distilling equipment. Did you think that the iStill 500 NextGen is just our newest still? It isn’t, because it is so much more than that!

Instead of the iStill 500 NextGen “just” being a newer, better still, it is actually a huge leap forward. A leap that is achieved by us thinking outside of the box. Outside of the box? Far outside any box!

Stay with me, try to wrap your head around what we have done and what I want to share. Believe me, it is worth that effort. You may be part of the new Craft Distilling Revolution.

Revolutionary modular design

Our NextGen units are of a new, revolutionary modular design that can be configured for mashing, fermenting, distilling, or any combination of mashing, fermenting and distilling.

You set it up any way you like. And if you change your mind, you can change the set-up of your iStill NextGen and give it new functionality, new tasks and new responsabilities.

The iStill NextGen changes what is in our industry basically a multi-step process and reduces it to its core: varieties of heating up and cooling down in one (1) boiler, reducing three steps to one, thus limiting pumping, cleaning, capital investment, and more …

Example 1: Simon and Philip from Scotland

Simon and Philip from Scotland have a whisky and gin distillery. They ordered two iStills 2000 NextGen to complement their existing equipment. One will serve as their new main still for gin production. The other will be used as a water heater. They will charge the water heater with the still’s cooling water, that’s already 50 degrees C,  dial in a higher temperature setting, and use the very hot water the next day to charge their already existing whisky mash tun.

Now, if their operation grows further, they may decide to use the iStill 2000 NextGen that’s currently configured as a water heater and have it operate as an additional masher or fermenter or still … or any combination of the above. For them to achieve that next level of versatility, all they need to do is order a column, an agitator, and a radiator. Of course, new software that supports this new functionality will be remotely uploaded to their PLC as well.

Example 2: Matt from the USA

Matt will open up a bourbon, gin and vodka distillery. He originally envisioned buying five of our mashers/fermenter, one iStill One at 2000 liter capacity, and one iStill 500 as well as an iStill Pump. He realized he also had to invest in a seperate water cooker so he could charge the mashers/fermenters with hot enough water.

After introducing Matt to the new NextGen philosophy, and after showing him how it works, I proposed the following solution to him:

  • Five iStills 2000 NextGen configured for mashing, fermenting and stripping;
  • One iStill 500 NextGen with a fully robotized column.

The beefed up heating and cooling, in combination with our new boiler, agitator, and stripper column (see the previous post!), would allow him to mash, ferment and strip in each and every one of the 2000 liter (520 gallon) NextGen units. Without the need of an additional water cooker or the iStill Pump. The robotized column on the iStill 500 NextGen would allow him to further finish his bourbon, gin, and vodka.

Is that what Matt actually ordered? Did he follow my proposal? No, he didn’t! Now fully understanding our new designs, he decided to order as follows:

  • Five iStills 2000 NextGen configured for mashing and fermenting, and with the new robotized 8 inch columns;
  • One iStill 500 NextGen with the new 5 inch robotized column.

The addition of the robotized columns to his 2000 liter NextGen units enables Matt to make his bourbon in one go. He will mash, ferment and finish his bourbon in one go and in one machine, yielding around 230 liters (60 gallons) of 120 proof and ready to barrel bourbon per day. And he will use the smaller 500 liter iStill NextGen as a finishing still for his vodka and maybe his gin.

On iStill Metaphores and NextGen Statements

I like to use metaphores and statements to challenge people’s mindsets. I will use them here as well. A metaphore to describe how iStill has been so different from other still manufacturers over the last years. And a statement by Henry Ford to explain to you how profoundly different our new NextGen approach is.

iStill Metaphore

Sometimes people that want to enter the Craft Distilling industry ask me why they should choose iStill equipment. What makes it so different from traditional stills that have been around for like centuries?

I ask a question in return: “If, instead of opening a distillery, you were to start up a transportation business … would you buy horses and carriages? Or would you buy vans and trucks?”

Horses and carriages were 19th century approaches to solve transportation issues. Vans and trucks are 20th and 21st century approaches to solve transportation issues. If you start a transportation company today and you buy horses and carriages to deliver your services you would go bankrupt in days, not weeks.

Deciding to purchase still designs from the 19th century for your distillery is like buying horses and carriages for your transportation firm today. Yes, they look great. And there is a real “craft” feeling about handling them, but it isn’t the solution that provides you, as a business owner, with a viable future.

If you want to set-up a Craft Distillery and make a profit, you choose iStill equipment.

NextGen Statement

While Gottlieb Daimler invented the “automobile” or car in the late 1800’s, we owe it to Henry Ford to make that new form of transportation available to all of us. Henry Ford designed a mass produced, affordable, and modular car, available in all colours as long as they were black. And because of his vision and execution power you and me and the rest of the world can now actually own and drive a car. A car instead of horse and carriage.

When asked about his vision, when asked why he didn’t just ask his customers instead, when designing the Ford Model T, this is the answer Henry gave:

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

And that’s how it is. You, Craft Distillers from around the world, have not asked for my vision and our new line of iStill NextGen equipment, but here it is. It is the future. Cars instead of horses and carriages. And you are invited for a test drive via sales@istillmail.com. Beware, it may become the ride of your lifetime!