“Terroir”: Thing or Fling?


Today’s topic? The importance of “terroir” to the craft distilling industry in general, and in whisky production specifically. What is “terroir”? How does it apply? Is it worth the attention it is currently getting? Is it a buzz word or is it simply the latest FUD word that consultants use to scare you into thinking you have an issue that needs to be resolved, preferably with their help?

Underneath, I’ll explain in depth what “terroir” is, how – if at all – it is applicable to craft distillers, and I’ll come up with an easy model that allows you to decide if it is something you have or should aspire to have. Let’s dive in deeper.

What is “terroir”?

“Terroir” refers to soils, on different locations, having different properties. And those properties influence the crop that grows there. Mineral content, moisture, wind, etc. make that the crop that’s grown at a specific location is bigger, smaller, or maybe even tastier than that same crop grown on another location. Another location with different properties results in different flavor profiles and therefore, if we use what’s grown on that location to make spirits, in differences in spirit quality. That’s what consultants try to sell you, at least.

“Terroir” comes from France. It is used in the wine industry. Is it important to the wine industry? It is. Here’s why. There are many varieties of grapes and there are many, many vineyards. All grapes have specific flavors and all locations have different hours of sun, rain, wind, and more. Grape production – at least for the wine industry – is both localized and compartmentalized. Many very small stretches of land with many different properties result in many different wines. The best wines come from great wine-makers and the “terroir” of where they make the wine must be a very good one. Better “Terroir” basically means that one location is a better place to make better wine relative to another location.

Just to be clear, “terroir” is not about Napa Valley wines being different from Burgundy wines. “Terroir” is about one small vineyard in Burgundy, in a specific city, on a specific hill, having a slightly different climate and soil composition than its neighbor. It is about my hectare of vines being different from your 0.8 hectares. We are talking micro here. Really micro.

Why “terroir” is of no importance to most craft distillers

There are two main reasons why “terroir” does not apply to most craft distillers that make whisky. First of all, grain is a commodity. It is grown on big, very big patches of land with the aim not to diversify flavors, but to maximize yield. Contrary to winemakers AKA grape growers, grain growers do not intently look for different, specific flavors. Grain yields carbohydrates and flavor is a byproduct. Contrary to vineyards, that produce specialty products, grain farming is about the mass-production of a commodity product. All grains, from a certain variety basically taste the same.

So craft distillers cannot claim “terroir” for their grain-based drinks, but how about brandy? Brandy is made from wine and wine has “terroir”, so brandy could have “terroir”, right? Well, it could, but it doesn’t. Distilling a specific wine of great “terroir” taught us that it couldn’t be reproduced in the brandy. In fact, great wines result in poor brandies. A brandy made from Petrus or Margaux wines is pretty unimpressive, as we established, where cheap wines from both Germany and France delivered excellent results.

What makes the difference, if not “terroir”? Higher proof wines result in lower flavor brandies, where lower proof wines result in high flavor-intensity brandies. The cheap 9 and 11% wines resulted in more flavor concentration than the 13 and 14% high-end wines. Did the amazing “terroir” of the high-end Petrus and Margaux shine through? No, not at all. Like as if it never existed in the first place. And that’s the second reason why “terroir” does not apply.

There you have it: consultants and craft distillers talking about “terroir” are like the emperor’s new clothes. There are no new clothes. “Terroir”, in 98% of the cases, is complete BS, too often used by the consultant to get into your wallet. They want to consult with you so that you do not miss out on today’s “opportunity”, today’s fling. It is not an opportunity for most, so please miss out.

We also see “terroir” being used by some craft distillers, that want to sell their inconsistencies as something good or intentional, instead of as the lack of craftsmanship it actually is. To those I say: get some proper training and purchase some proper equipment and try to produce some consistent quality drinks. Consistency is the precursor to quality. Inconsistency does not equal a claim to “terroir”, it usually just signals minimal process control.

Side note: how many craft BREWERS do you know that claim “terroir”?

The exceptions to the rule

Let’s be very clear: some craft distillers CAN claim “terroir”. Here are the ones that I think can:

  1. Those that grow their own grain;
  2. Those that purchase their grain locally;
  3. Those that work with specialty grains.

Drentsche Schans Distillery and Wieke Distillers from the Netherlands, and Distillerie de Soligny from France are three great examples of craft distillers that have “terroir”. All three distilleries are farms that grow their own grains. These grains, and these grains only, are used for their whiskies. As the specific location consistently plays a role, as they actually use their “terroir”, they can claim to have “terroir”, where most others cannot.

Aristides Distillery from Cyprus uses locally grown Cypriot barley only, in their whisky. They use the “terroir” of Cyprus and are a great example of the second category that can claim “terroir”.

Wood Hat Spirits, from Missouri, USA, grows specific varieties of white, blue, and red native American corn. His whiskies have “terroir”, because this distillery only works with very specific grains that are even grown in-house, so locally. Dornoch Distillery, from Scotland, is another great example. They use older styles of barley, that have less focus on yield and deliver lower fermented ABV and higher flavor concentration.


I love craft distilled whiskies. Even though most have no claim to “terroir”, some craft distilled products are just fabulous. And so are some of the craft distilled products that can actually claim “terroir”.

The above iStill Blog post is not a rant against or in favor of “terroir”, and those that possess it or those that don’t. It is a rant against a new fake topic that I read too much about nowadays. It is not something anyone of you should be worried about. It is not something you should aspire to or miss out on. A specialty grain fits your story or it doesn’t. You know best. You do grow your own grains or you don’t. And maybe you don’t, but your barrel aging is amazing. Or maybe your Whiskey Sour, that you serve in your bar, is unmatched.

Your whisky is about your choices and priorities, and that is what matters. That’s the real TERROIR each and every craft distiller, that produces its own whisky, can claim. And none of you need a consultant to help “explain” that.

Gary Hinegardner and his wood hat and amazing whiskey…


Laboratory Verdict: Bourbon vs. Single Malt!


Very exciting times! We have added the iStill Laboratory Services to our already impressive portfolio of products and services. Why? To help empower craft distillers all around the world. How? By providing them with scientific feedback on the drinks they produce. Feedback and advise on how to improve product quality. More and better information helps make better decisions. A better informed craft distiller is an empowered distiller.

Today we present the laboratory findings of a comparison of a Bourbon (Jim Beam) to a Scottish single malt whisky (MacAllan 12 year old). Not your cup of tea? We disagree. The analysis and advise we share underneath is as applicable to your whisky as it is to Jim Beam’s and MacAllan’s. If you want to beat them, all you need is a steeper learning curve. So stay with us … and stay focused … and learn. It will be worth your time.

What are we looking for? What do we expect to find? Well, in a very concise way, the very first thing we want to find out is how a regular Bourbon and single malt compare. But on a deeper level, much more is at stake. What? Well, how about Odin’s Holy Trinity of Distillation? What does this theory say about Bourbon and single malt whisky? And does the model survive scientific and laboratory scrutiny?

So, first, let’s dive into the Holy Trinity of Distillation a bit. Some understanding of how the model works is needed. Secondly, if we apply Odin’s theory, how do we expect Jim Beam and MacAllan to perform? We need to find out what the model predicts. Thirdly, we’ll present the laboratorium results. Let’s confront the lab results of the Bourbon and the single malt, and evaluate if the Holy Trinity of Distillation’s predictions were adequate.

Jim Beam Bourbon …

Odin’s Holy Trinity of Distillation

A summary. Less heads and tails smearing results in a lighter product, that highlights the flavors associated with the hearts cut. The flavors that are associated with the hearts cut are the base substrate. In a rum it is where you taste the molasses. In a whisky or Bourbon it is where you taste the grains the product is made from. The flavors hit you in the middle of your mouth. Above the tongue. From seconds 2 till 6 or 7 after taking a sip, wetting your entire mouth with it, and then swallowing the drink. Longer fermentation times and on the grain fermentation and distillation add to a more flavorful hearts section,

The heads smearing can be tasted in the front of ones mouth. Lips, point of tongue, and gum. The heads-associated flavors are fruity in nature and can be experienced in the very first second after taking a sip, wetting your entire mouth with it, and then swallowing it. More heads smearing leads to more fruity flavors in a drink. Less heads smearing, via a bigger heads cut, results in lower front of mouth flavor intensity.

The tails smearing is tasted at the back of your mouth and gradually transitions towards your throat. The tails-associated flavors hit you from seconds 7 till 15 or 20 or even 25. More tails smearing results in a higher and longer lasting back-end flavor.

As 30% of flavor associates with heads and 50% with tails, heads and tails smearing are tremendously important for a drink. More smearing equals more flavor, but also means more aging is needed to mellow all those flavors out.

How a student of the iStill University put it …

Applying Odin’s theory on Bourbon and single malt

A single malt whisky is a three-dimensional product, that has a front, a middle, and a back-end. As the MacAllan has seen a much longer maturation time than the Jim Beam, we expect the whisky to have more heads and tails smearing. The bigger amount of smearing allows the MacAllan to take advantage of 12 years of barrel aging. More flavor equals more time to develop those flavors into something coherent and enjoyable.

Bourbon, in general, is a two-dimensional drink. It has a front and a middle, but not much (if any at all) of a back-end. This is the result of the applied distillation technology, that uses bubble-cap trays in the (continuous) columns. Bubble-cap trays are invented to effectively prevent tails smearing in fruit brandies. It is an 1870 innovation that gained wide traction in American whiskey distillation, because it allows for multiple distillation cycles to be performed in one go. The gained efficiency comes at the loss of the third dimension, to the extend that this absence now is an inherent characteristic of almost all Bourbons.

So, we expect the Bourbon to be relatively fruitier, as the front-end flavors make up more of the total flavor profile. Heads smearing attributes 30% of flavor, hearts just 20%, and tails as much as 50%. An expected absence of tails makes the Bourbon the lighter, sweeter, and fruitier product. The MacAllan is made on a traditional potstill. An old technology that is great at smearing heads and tails into the hearts cut. So, again, we expect the MacAllan to have a bigger first and third dimension than the Jim Beam.

But how about hearts? Hearts flavors contribute about 20% to the overall flavor profile, but who will win here? We expect the Jim Beam to outperform the MacAllan. Why? Because Jim Beam ferments on the grain and does the first distillation run also on the grain. More substrate contact during fermentation and distillation results in a tastier, fuller-bodied middle-flavor profile. MacAllan ferments and distills off the grain, so Odin’s Holy Trinity of Distillation predicts a lower flavor-count for the Scottish whisky’s middle.

MacAllan 12 year old single malt whisky …

Laboratorium results

As predicted by the model, the MacAllan has a more flavorful first dimension. Jim Beam hits the market after four years of barrel maturation. They make a tighter hearts cut with less heads smearing, simply because there isn’t enough time for a bigger heads smearing to mellow out. The MacAllan hits the market after over a decade. There is much more time for the bigger amount of heads smearing to mellow out over time. Put differently: MacAllan takes advantage of its prolonged maturation time via the incorporation of more heads, resulting in a bigger overall flavor profile, at least at the front. Jim Beam applies a similar flavor maximization strategy: given the limited amount of maturation time of four instead of 12 years, they still achieve an impressive result of about 60% of front-end, fruity flavors of the MacAllan.

As predicted by the Holy Trinity of Distillation, the Jim Beam has more substrate-related flavors. The fact that Jim Beam ferments and distills on the grain results in a 15% more flavorful second dimension than MacAllan has to offer. MacAllan lags behind on substrate flavors, because of the off the grain and short fermentation and distillation protocols.

Wow! The Bourbon basically has no back-end flavors. It is a two-dimensional product indeed. The MacAllan has a back-end and therefore a third flavor dimension. The outcomes depicted above are exactly as predicted by the Holy Trinity of Distillation.

Overall, we see that the front-end, sweet, and fruity flavors are more important in the overall flavor profile of the Jim Beam Bourbon. At the same time, we can learn that this generic Bourbon characteristic is more the result of the absence of those dominant back-end flavors than that it stems from a lot of heads smearing.

Advise to Jim Beam and MacAllan

What advise could we give to Jim Beam and MacAllan? In order to improve their whiskies? Not part of the lab results that we presented above, but the MacAllan is a fully matured product. Longer aging does not add anything. As MacAllan bases all of their whiskies on one and the same New Make, we expect that older varieties, like their 15, 20 and 25 year old products, primarily differ via specific cask finishes. The aging itself, above 12 years, seems to be more of a marketing or financial decision than that it is the result of the base drink needing further aging. Again, the spirit itself does not need more aging. Put differently: longer aging does not add anything, but might risk older MacAllan whiskies to loose their front-end due to oxidation.

Could we improve on the MacAllan? Yes we could. And – even though it is never going to happen – so could MacAllan. Where they can improve? Well, the middle of mouth flavors lack body. If MacAllan was an iStill customer, and if they weren’t all caught up in tradition, but open to innovation, we’d advise them to consider on the grain fermentation and distillation. It would put the flavor intensity of their second dimension above Jim Beam, and would bring grain flavors up, thus creating a better balance between the impressive front and the sorta adequate back-end.

Since Scottish single malt is usually fermented and distilled off the grain, there is another solution MacAllan could apply in order to strengthen the weak second dimension while staying true to tradition. MacAllen could return to a 5-day fermentation schedule, instead of the 3-day they have been using for some time. The longer fermentation would probably push the substrate flavors to about 2,000. Of course, it would come at the cost of an overall production output loss of around 40%. As single malts keep on being highly sought after, we do not see that happen any time soon. But be aware: this does open up a window of opportunity for craft distillers that now can quite easily outcompete Big Alcohol single malt production on flavor!

For the rest, we’d advise MacAllan to differentiate their New Makes and allow for more tails smearing in those New Makes that will become their 15, 20 and 25 year old products. More tails smearing will create a more interesting flavor profile that better distinguishes the more expensive and older whiskies from their 12 year old offering. Even the 12 year old might actually benefit from a little bit of additional tails smearing …

The Jim Beam that we tested was well-matured but not fully-matured. Our laboratory estimates that an additional 3 to 6 months would create a slightly smoother taste experience. We’d advise Jim Beam, if they were our customer, to take advantage of the little bit of additional, and thus far unlocked, potential of its Bourbon whiskey by giving it a few more months of rest. But on the other hand, we understand that commercially it is probably not worth it, to wait longer or to even have the labels changed to stating that they now age for 4 1/2 years instead of just 4.

Jim Beam’s market entry delivers where a Bourbon needs to deliver: in the first and second flavor dimensions. We expect their older varieties, like the Jim Beam Signature Craft, which is aged for 12 years, to contain a little more heads and even some additional tails smearing, but haven’t tested that yet. More heads and tails smearing would easily stand up to the robust middle flavors, that Jim Beam already delivers on, and make for a more interesting product, with a longer lasting taste sensation.

Some conclusions for you, the craft distiller

Since you, the readers of this iStill Blog post, probably aren’t the owners of, or distillers at, Jim Beam or MacAllan, what is your take-away? How does this information help you? Well, first of all, you now know scientifically what distinguishes a Bourbon from a Scottish single malt whisky. Secondly, we challenge you to buy a few bottles and start training your taste buds according to Odin’s model. Compare the Jim Beam to the MacAllan yourself, and taste the science we have presented here first hand. After that? Maybe buy a Pappy van Winkle and see how you’d score that on each of the three dimensions.

But there is more. All of you that studied at the iStill University now know that the models we trained you in are more than an amazing toolkit for the craft distiller to work with. Our models and theories are the only toolkit for the craft distiller to work with, since they are now proven scientifically. And that is not an opinion, but a fact.

What this means to you and to the craft distilling industry at large? That we have taken the guessing out of distilling. Finally and definitely and overwhelmingly so! Put slightly differently, it means the following: if you want to become a craft distiller, your future starts with taking the courses the iStill University offers. Interested? You should be. Please reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com for more information. Why? If that is still a question on your mind, let’s summarize …

iStill – and nobody else! – trains you so that you can make better products. And not in the sense of “I think this is better” or “I actually enjoy this drink”, but with scientific proof that factually confirms that it is better and why it is better. Not an opinion. Not science fiction. Simply science fact.

iStill – and nobody else! – helps you design spirits that are better than anything other companies or consultants can deliver. That is no longer an opinion, but now a scientific fact. We are the only ones to apply science to improve your spirits in a manner that is objectively measurable and verifiable.

iStill technology – and nobody else’s! – makes the best spirits. That is not just an opinion, but now a scientifically proven fact.

Hold on … what? Wasn’t this iStill Blog post about scientifically and chemically comparing and evaluating a Bourbon and a single malt whisky? Yes, it was. But hold on to your seats as well as your pants: we also tested whisky made on an iStill. We’ll publish the results next week, but allow us to break the news to you here: iStill-made whisky blows anything else out of the water!

Do you want to test your whisky? Do you want our scientific advise on how to further improve it? Do you want to implement our recommendations and scientifically proof to your customers that your drinks are better than those of Big Alcohol? Under secrecy, yes, of course. Then please reach out to Robert@iStillmail.com and order the iStill Laboratory Services.


Perfect Storm equals Perfect Opportunity!


A perfect storm is a situation where multiple unfavorable circumstances converge. Imagine big waves, hard winds, a cold front, and the darkness of night all conversing on that one ship, in the middle of the ocean. The craft distilling industry is facing its own perfect storm. But with perfect storm comes perfect opportunity. Let’s investigate what is going on!

Unfavorable circumstances

Energy and grain prices are at all-time highs. This puts a strain on craft distillers’ input costs. In plain English: the costs of goods produced rise significantly. In even plainer English: it costs more to produce a bottle of spirit at the expense of profit.

Labor is hard to get by. This results in rising staffing costs, that – again – make the costs of goods produced rise significantly. Or, if the owner is both the sales person and the distiller, it results in less attention and focus on sales and marketing, hurting revenue streams.

Inflation, interest rates, and uncertainty are on the rise. This makes it harder to come up with a business plan that shows a profit. New entries to the market may postpone their plans, existing distillers may decide to hold-off on further investments.

Components are in short supply. This makes setting up a distillery take longer, because the parts and tools you need might take longer to acquire. With shortages come higher prices. More people fighting over the same limited resource? That results in this resource becoming more expensive.

Favorable perspective

Consumers are looking for adventure, for a story rather than a one-liner. And local beats global each and every time. The trend of localization – as a counter-weight to seven decades of globalization – is here to stay.

So there you have it: looking at our industry, there is both an amazing perspective as well as four major threats. What do we need to do, to turn that perspective into the prefect opportunity? Here’s what we need to do: we need to simply take counter-measures for the threats of input costs, labor shortages, uncertainty, and component shortages. Each and every threat needs to be dealt with.

Curiously enough, that is exactly what we have been doing at iStill. Curiously enough, iStill has been preparing the exact counter-measures you need in order to turn this perfect storm into a perfect opportunity.

Creating a perfect opportunity

iStill unfortunately cannot help with lower grain prices, but we do offer a solution for the energy part of the peaking input costs. iStills use 70 to 75% less energy. The savings you make on energy will offset the rising energy costs and most of the higher substrate costs as well.

iStills are designed to take care of the repetitive tasks associated with distilling. As a result, they help save 1,0 to 1,5 FTE on the work floor. Investing in an iStill basically makes your additional staffing costs, as far as production is concerned, go to zero.

Starting a distillery comes with many uncertainties. Spirit quality and equipment longevity can be added to the list discussed above. Can I make great enough spirits, drinks that make a difference, have an impact? Does my production equipment support the products I want to make? iStills are the most versatile machines on the market. One unit can make any spirit. Our controls ensure the highest spirit quality. Longevity? How about our 10 year warranty!

Do you want to hit the market sooner rather than later, tapping into the huge commercial potential offered by local drinks production? A less component-dense still at a more affordable price-point supports this move. The all-new iStill “Essential”-series is designed to achieve just that: lower priced units that can be delivered quickly, yet still take the guessing out of distilling.

Prediction and conclusion

The only craft distillers that can turn today’s perfect storm into a perfect opportunity are the ones choosing for our amazing technology. Sorry for the copper fetishists, sorry for the romantics and nostalgics, but 1870’s technology no longer cuts it. Not in the 21st Century.

Outsail the storm with iStill …


New Customer Feedback!

Hi Odin,

Hope you’re doing well.

Couple of updates!

The first gin distillation went well. It was a long one but I picked up a few things which was great. 1000L at 30% resulted in 860 bottles of 42% gin at 700ml. It slightly louched so added neutral to it of the same strength until I was happy. The flavour was still very heavy which was perfect. Compared to my old still, it saved roughly 3 days… brilliant!

I had to cut the spirit run shorter than the standard Istill gin program as heavy tails were coming through. Got my notes so we’ll be fully dailed in for next time.

Throughout the distillation, I couldn’t help think that I’ve made myself redundant! It’s completely automated and it reinforced that purchasing the Istill was the correct path for us.

Today, I’ve done the first rum strip run. 800 litres at 6.5% abv molasses boiler charge. I reached 200 litres of 37% abv.

Anti foam is here in a few days so I’ll fill to 1000 litres once it arrives for a proper full boiler charge test.

This Istill preformed very well throughout the run. Towards the end I noticed some cloud in the distillate but that could be from puking. I’ll have that sorted on the spirit run so not too bothered at this stage.

Just ran bread yeast as per the Istill university course. I only added DAP so next ferment is DAP plus nutrients. Hopefully I’ll gain around 8% then. I was expecting 8 so the 6.5 was annoying.

This Istill really pumps out the alcohol. It just flows and flows, hats off to you and the team.

Will get in touch with finance as might get a couple copper waffles sent over and at the same time a replacement insulation section for the top column. It got damaged in transit and crushed. Willem said if it doesn’t pop back out to get in touch with him.

Anyway, after a few more runs will update you on the progress.

Also thinking of the hybrid column and our next still. Thanks for the offer of storing it, very kind of you.

Speak soon


The most amazing potstill …


Wieke Distillers: Grain to Glass Single Malt Whisky!

The Wieke Distillery grows its own barley, malts it, ferments it, and then distills it in an iStill 2000. Grain to glass. Single malt whisky. Still in the barrel, but already tasting great!

13 Big Bags of freshly harvested barley, ready to be malted, enough for 3,200 liters of 65-70% New Make …

Arend tries out the maturing whisky …


Bubble-Cap Stills Suck at Making Whisky (vintage)!


There, I said it. I have long considered not writing this post, but the misinformation about this topic affects the craft distilling industry negatively. That needs to be amended. Sure, statements like this will make me some haters, but hopefully that will be compensated by more craft distillers now being able to make better choices. And more importantly: better whiskies.

In this iStill Blog post, I’ll first investigate what a whisky is, and what its flavor profile should be like. Then, I’ll dive into the bubble-cap still design and elaborate on its pro’s and cons. Finally, I’ll explain how the bubble-cap still design prevents the craft distiller from making great whisky.

What’s whisky?

“Whisky is a distilled spirit, made from grain, where one – while drinking it – can identify the grain the whisky is made from”. Don’t you just love the above definition? It so clearly explains everything a whisky needs to be. Made from grain. And with the flavor profile intense enough to allow the drinker to establish the exact grain base. A spicy whisky? Probably rye. A sweet kinda whisky? Corn, so maybe a Bourbon. A mellow whisky? That must be a whisky made from wheat. A complex, full bodied whisky? I am putting my money on malted barley as its grain source.

Grain flavor profiles – and therefore whisky – are quite unique in that they offer front-of-mouth, middle-of-mouth, and back-of-mouth flavors. The floral and fruity flavors can be distinguished in the first second, where heads blend into hearts. The generic grain flavor hits you in the middle of the hearts cut, right after the headsy flavors subsided. The long finish reveals the tails-associated earthy, rooty, and nutty flavors. It is this long finish that is essential to whisky; essential to bringing out not only a long-lasting taste experience, but also the flavor identifiers for the grain bill.

What are the design pro’s and cons of a bubble-cap still?

A bubble-cap design is basically a potstill with two kinds of obstructions in the vapor path. First (from the perspective of the rising vapors), there are the plates with the bubble-caps on them. The gasses need to travel through them. Secondly, the vapors hit a cooler (that is often called a dephlagmator). The plates hamper the free flow of vapors. The cooler liquifies part of the vapors. The liquids fall back on the plates, creating a fixed liquid bath on ‘m. The gasses now have to almost fight their way upwards: through the plate, through the liquids, and through the cooler.

The benefits? Where a potstill can perform only one redistillation cycle, a bubble-cap plated still can perform multiple distillation cycles in one run. No more need for a stripping and finishing run! That’s great news. It helps with time and energy management.

The drawback? Those fixed liquid baths on top of the bubble-cap plates are tails traps. Now, mind you, this isn’t a drawback when producing fruit brandy. Fruit brandy focusses on heads associated flavors. For those fruity flavors to shine, tails smearing (with its heavier flavors) must be prevented. The bubble-cap still was invented for fruit brandy production. Bubble-cap stills offer a great defense against tails smearing. That was the real innovation they brought about, over a century and a half ago. Good for fruit brandy. Bad, really bad for whisky!

Why do bubble-cap stills suck at making whisky?

Bubble-cap stills suck at making whisky because they create two-dimensional spirits, drinks that high-light front-of-mouth and middle-of-mouth flavors. Whisky is (or should be) a three-dimensional drink, that offers a front, a middle, and (most importantly) a back-end.

Over 50% of the flavor is tails associated, is rooty, nutty, and earthy in make-up. It is that third and last dimension that makes or breaks a whisky. Try it. Drink some single malt. Wetten your mouth with a sip, then swallow. Keep your mouth closed. Now start counting. How long do you taste? Where do you taste it? A good fruit brandy is gone in seven seconds. A good whisky lasts and lingers in your throat for 15 to 25 seconds. The difference? Whisky has (or should have) a back-end, fruit brandy shouldn’t.

This is why bubble-cap stills suck at making whisky: they prevent the very flavors, that define any good whisky, from coming over into your spirit. The back-end flavors are trapped on the lower plates.

Now that you know it, you can make better purchasing decisions, when starting-up (or reconfiguring) your distillery. Do you want to learn more about stills design and how it can set you up for success or failure? The iStill Distilling University teaches you all there is to know about still design. For more information or course registration, please reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com.

Bubble-cap plate …

Bubble-cap still …

“All that a Craft Distillery should be!” by New World Distillery



On-site crafted products consume less energy and create a smaller economic footprint than mass production, thus making them more sustainable.


You should feel better about spending your money on locally-made products because your contributions will create and sustain jobs.


Independent distilleries, unlike large, industrial producers, return a higher percentage of their revenue to the community in which they live and work.


Today’s society increasingly values handcrafted products not only because they are more authentic, but also because they are made by skilled artists who choose high quality raw materials and put painstaking care into each of the production stages.


That which is handmade brings us a more pleasant shopping experience because the product has a “back-story” that is an authentic story with real talent and the true inspiration for each spirit.


One of the most frequent reasons why people prefer to buy craft sprits is because they are not from the crowd, nor can they be seen everywhere. The allusiveness of a product can be frustrating for the consumer, but worth the effort when acquisition is a success. Each spirit carries the personal stamp and style of its maker and the passion is real, not contrived simply as a marketing ploy.

Chris and Ashley Cross …


Buyer Beware on Julia Nourney!


I have known Julia for quite some years now. She is a self-proclaimed spirits consultant from Germany, that – quite frankly – never impressed me. Not in the meetings I had with her. Not in the forums we sat on together. Sure, her consultancy was unimpressive, but that’s not the reason I put a Buyer Beware out on her.

The reasons I do? In the last few months multiple customers have told me that Julia badmouths iStill. And I have just been informed that she was arrested upon trying to enter the USA.

It is a sad story, that does cry “karma”. It is more consultancy-induced shit that hits the fan and that needs to be exposed to the wider industry. Why? Because there are huge legal and financial liabilities for those that hired her services or are in the process of doing so.

Badmouthing iStill

Multiple customers have informed me that Julia talks bad about iStill. Now, she is a consultant, so maybe she has bad experiences with iStills? No, she hasn’t. In fact, she (unsuccessfully) applied to work for us a few years ago, wanting to learn more about the iStills, and becoming a consultant for our customers.

If one hires a consultant, one should be able to trust him or her. The advise the consultant gives should be trustworthy. How come Julia speaks negatively about iStill, even though she hasn’t worked with us, and hasn’t had any training or experience with our machines? Because she works for Mueller.

From personal experience, talking to two iStill customers that hired Julia for recipe development, I can corroborate this. The customers reached out to me, afterwards, and told me that Julia really wanted them to buy a Mueller. Mind you: not a traditional copper still, but specifically a Mueller. And when the customer didn’t, because they were invested in iStill, she’d talk negatively about us.

The reason why you shouldn’t hire Julia is not because I find her consultancy unimpressive. You shouldn’t hire her because she performs the worst kind of hypocrisy. She pretends to be objective and on your payroll so on your side, but in fact she is in close cooperation with a specific still manufacturer. You pay her, but you are not the only one. Julia has it both ways and hasn’t been honest about it. You cannot have it both ways, something has to give. And something just did. Dishonesty just caught up with her.

Being arrested

Today I learned that Julia got arrested, when she tried to enter the USA, just over a week ago. Why? Because of undeclared income and for not having a work permit. She apparently has been entering the USA on a tourist visa for many years now, while working for her American customers and earning money illegally. That’s fraud. In fact, it is a crime, as one is not allowed to work in the USA without a work permit.

But there is more. Not only wasn’t she not allowed to work in the USA, she also hasn’t paid taxes on the money she earned. Now that’s an offense everywhere. She conducted business, as we have been informed, without having an actual business. No company means she didn’t have to pay company taxes. Until she got caught.

Two crimes, there you have it, that resulted in her being detained for a day. And after that, she had her visa revoked, and was returned to Germany. She is no longer welcome to the USA. She is now an undesirable alien, as I have been told.


Julia’s consultancy comes with risks. She is not just on your payroll, so not really on your side. She is not objective. She is not open about her affiliations. She performed consultancy in an illegal manner, as I understand it, in more countries than just the USA. Our initial research adds the UK, Canada, Australia, and India to the mix. We fear she also illegally worked on the Faroe Islands. And all of those countries, as well as her home country, still have a tax claim on her.

Her fraudulent behavior may have grave consequences for the distilleries she consulted with. Distilleries that host illegal workers face huge fines. Simply put: each and every distillery, that employed her services, is at risk. And every distillery that ever worked with her and deducted her costs on the company accounts, owes their government additional taxes, because her costs aren’t tax deductible.

Julia is not a consultant to your company. She is a liability to your company and to the industry at large. To everyone that worked with her: please consider taking legal council. You want to play this pro-actively, not defensively. Especially, now that you have been informed about what I have learned.

Redemption, Julia?

Everybody deserves a second chance. What is needed for me to withdraw this Buyer Beware on you, Julia Nourney? What do you need to do for redemption? For your second chance, if you feel you deserve one? Not sure it is just up to me to establish that. I mean, we got dealt the rotten end of your wrath on multiple occasions, but I am much more worried about the legal and financial damages that you caused to craft distillers by working for them illegally and without paying proper taxes on what you earned. Here is what I think is needed, but others may chime in later with additional demands.

The first thing that is needed, Julia, is an understanding of your affiliations. How did that work? We all need to know how and how much you benefited, as it is a measure of how much you cheated on the distilleries that actually thought they hired your services to the fullest extend.

Secondly, a list is needed of all the distilleries that you worked for illegally. That way, these distilleries can prepare their legal defenses.

Thirdly, please give an update on how you expect to deal with the outstanding tax bills. If the governments that you still owe money to are satisfied by how you handled your financial obligations to them, there is less risk of your customers having to face the bill.

Fourth, you need to personally apologize to each and everyone of those distilleries, where you take full responsibility for your actions, to alleviate the legal and financial consequences your customers face.

The fifth thing that is needed is a list of all the distillers where you badmouthed us, so that we can establish damages, execute repairs, and prepare our own legal case against you.

Sixth, a personal apology to iStill and to our customers, for the badmouthing that you did. An acceptance of damages inflicted is the least we expect, to our customers and to us.

Finally, a written declaration by you, where you define your future work ethics to be:

  • Open and free of any affiliations
  • Fully in the service of those that acquired your services
  • Objectively and professionally
  • With a quantified yearly measure of education followed by you to further hone your consultancy skills