Column Type – What Equipment Do I Need?


Planning a distillery can be daunting. What equipment do I need? A simple question, but there are so many answers that are rooted in even more considerations. This post is the second of a series called “What Equipment Do I Need?”. Each post highlights one consideration. This week? Type! What type of column do I need?

What type of column

There are basically three types of columns a distiller can choose from:

  1. Potstill column;
  2. Plated column;
  3. Hybrid column.

Each type of column offers distinct advantages and disadvantages, when making certain spirits and high-lighting certain flavor profiles. Let’s dive in deeper.

Potstill column

The potstill column excels at bringing over big, bald flavors. Since a potstill column can only perform a single distillation cycle in one run, it is relative inefficient. At least two distillation runs are required, leading to higher throughput times and or your distillery needing multiple stills.

The potstill column is great for full-bodied single malt whiskies and Jamaican style rums. It also does a great job at making gin. If we apply Odin’s Theory of Distillation and, more specific, the Holy Trinity of Distillation Model, potstills are great at making 2.5 and 3-dimensional flavor profiles.

Plated column

Plated columns are designed to minimize tails-associated flavor contamination. As such, they are great for 2-dimensional spirits like fruit brandy, or Bourbon, or Irish whiskey.

The plated column is more efficient than a potstill column. Depending on the number of plates, the design, power, and reflux management, this type only needs a single distillation run, saving you throughput time and additional investments.

There are two generic types of plated stills. The bubble cap plated still focuses on lighter style spirits like fruit brandy. The perforated plated still focusses on medium style spirits like Bourbon or Irish whiskey or medium rum.

Hybrid column

Hybrid columns, when designed correctly, offer the best of both worlds. Due to huge advancements in still design and control in the last decade, iStill Hybrid columns can help the distiller make any flavor profile he or she is looking for.

The hybrid column can make bold flavored, 3-dimensional spirits, like Jamaican-style or single malt whisky. But it can just as easily make 2-dimensional medium flavored spirits or even one-dimensional vodka or GNS.

The hybrid column is very efficient. All spirits, save one-dimensional vodka, can be made in a single distillation run.

Type vs. hype …

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