More Sunday Musings!


Since it happens all over the world, you have probably seen a news item about it. A guy buys a sportscar and he crashes it on his first day of ownership. Often it is someone’s first car or first sportscar all together. Often it happens to new drivers that decide a Porsche or Ferrari is the way forward.

New drivers syndrome

New drivers often think they can drive, because they obtained their driving license. They mistake the permission to drive a car with the ability and experience to drive a car.

Normally, this is no problem. Most people buy a small, slow, second-hand car and learn how to drive by gaining more and more experience steadily over a longer period of time. And if something does go wrong, it’s probably while parking that car and the results are a few minor scratches and a hurt ego.

But what if the new driver buys a new Porsche or Ferrari instead? Given the speed and power these cars can develop, the issues new drivers now encounter have less to do with parking, and more with speeding and maybe even crashing the car.

Why? Because they aren’t experienced drivers yet, the potential challenges of driving any car are quite, well, challenging. Add insane power and speed and performance to the mix and the dangers increase. Especially with friends around that watch their first exploits in that new sportscar.


The solution, as we all know, can basically be found in two directions. One we already touched upon: buy a smaller, slower car and build your experience-base in a situation you can afford.

The second solution is to buy that sportscar, but drive it carefully. Maybe do an additional in-car and/or on-circuit training day. Drive carefully, learn to become a better driver, get to know the car, and slowly increase the speed and performance.

Yes, the car can do 0 – 100 in under 4 seconds. Yes, it can lap the Nürburg Ring in under 7 minutes. The car can do all that, but you cannot! Not yet, at least. So take it easy, become a more experienced driver, and slowly improve your race-craft.

Do you see how these Sunday Musings are mostly about common sense? Yes? Well, if you do, let’s progress and see how the above real-world example, that we all understand and can relate to, translates to new craft distillers gaining experience with their stills.

New distillers syndrome

Imagine a new craft distiller that just got his new still delivered. He has his permit, so he is allowed to operate a still. He purchased the best still possible, so he is going to have amazing amounts of fun while producing high-quality spirits at bonkers speeds! And then he does his first run, and things start to fall apart.

Why? Because new distillers are by definition unexperienced distillers. They lack experience and operational competence. The still can maybe do 0 – 100 in under 4 seconds and can lap the Nürburg Ring in under 7 minutes, but you cannot. Not yet, at least.

Oh, but you bought an automated still, you say? One that looks after cuts and temperatures, and that monitors cooling? Yes, just like the Porsche and Ferrari have ABS, are equipped with an automatic gearbox, and feature active chassis control. It doesn’t mean, however, that you aren’t still the driver (or distiller) and the de-facto person in charge and responsible!

Without that understanding, without a mindset of ownership and responsibility, you might find yourself in trouble quickly. In a new sportscar and in a new distillery.


Here is an approach, not unsimilar to the new driver, that will help you on your way and prevent you from wrapping your proverbial sportscar around a tree. Three solutions, actually.

First, yes, you got your permit, but did you get extensive training? The iStill University offers a very high quality distilling class online as well as a more practical hands-on training. See these courses as your additional training days. The more time you spend with them, the more serious you take ‘m, the sooner you’ll become a more experienced distiller, with the operational competence to run his or her distillery professionally.

Secondly, first purchase a smaller, slower still. We specifically developed the iStill Mini for that purpose. To help you train yourself, to help you gain distilling experience. To help you develop your recipes at an affordable scale. If you make a mistake, it’s like that scratch on your small, cheap car. Instead of crashing your Porsche or Ferrari.

Thirdly, please go slowly! Yes, your still can perform an amazing number of tasks and is equipped with very clever features, but allow yourself time to understand them. Gradually learn your tools more and more. Gain operational experience and then competence and finally excellence. It is only the excellent driver that can take full advantage of the handling and power, as well as the amazing driver support systems a Porsche or Ferrari offer.

Do’s and Don’ts

If you buy that sportscar, do you drive it out of the dealership at 200 clicks per hour? Upon getting the keys, and starting the engine, do you immediately check out if it can reach the advertised top speed? Do you take it to the circuit immediately, because there is a race organized that you want to take part in? No! No, of course you don’t do these stupid things! Instead, you get to learn the car, extensively train yourself in its use, and you warm-up the car before any major performance trial.

So, as a new distiller, why don’t you follow the same approach? Why – instead – do so many of you fill the boiler to the brim on the first run? Why not make things easier on yourself and do your first run in – say – a 500 liter system with 400 liters in the boiler? If the run is a success, you’ll build confidence and maybe increase your batch size to 450 liters. Compare that to overfilling the boiler on your maiden-run and overflowing your column with water, alcohol, and maybe grains and herbs and berries? How would that make you feel? It wouldn’t build competence, since it would destroy confidence.

As new craft distillers, why don’t we allow ourselves to slowly open the performance potential of the distillery we bought? Why go full power on the first run? Don’t you want to check if you added adequate cooling on a lower power setting, first? Learn to walk before you run.

As new craft distillers, why do we feel we immediately need to mash a 12% distillers beer? Why not 8%? And why do so many forget hydrating the grain or at least a slow grain addition to the mash kettle on a first run? What’s the advantage of a short-cut, if it leads to clumping or even scorching?

Why follow a certain fermentation protocol and then fire up the still without checking if full attenuation is achieved? Why not check twice before you start a new step? That’s how you would approach buying and driving that sportscar, right? Check the oil, check the tires, make sure you fill her up with the right gasoline …

And if you do “crash” your distillery, not out of plain stupidity, but simply because shit happens, please see it as a major learning point. Use the mistakes you made to create more operational competence. Own the mistakes you make, have a willingness to learn, and be passionate about what you do.

Don’t blame your speeding ticket on the car manufacturer. Don’t blame your crash on the driving license or your former driving instructor. You are the driver and you are responsible. You are the craft distiller and you are responsible for continuously improving your skills.

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