Whisky or Whiskey?

Often people seem confused about the spelling of whisky. Basically the Scots spell it without the “e” (so: whisky)
and the Americans and the Irish spell it with an “e” (so: whiskey). But this is part of the law in Scotland, not in
Ireland and the USA. So while most Irish and American whiskey’s are spelled with an “e”, some like Maker’s Mark
or Dickel choose to label their products “whisky”.

To call your product whisky there are several rules that need to be followed, although every territory in the world
has its own set of laws. Basically most regulations worldwide follow the Scottish rules. Whisky is a spirit made
from cereals, water and yeast. It can not be distilled above 94.8% ABV and not be bottled below 40% ABV. Also it
needs to mature for three years in a wooden cask. No additional flavorings or sweeteners may be added. You
may filter the whisky and add caramel for coloring though. And of course we have to ask ourselves if a wood
finish (like a port cask, rum cask, etc.) is not actually adding extra flavors to the whisky.


Positive Spirits: Showcasing Sustainable Distilling in London!

1. Hi Karen, thanks for joining! Can you tell a bit more about yourself, your career path, and what your current position is?

Hello thanks for inviting me to your blog.  I am an Events Producer for Legacy Events, a sustainable events agency with B-Corp status and I am motivated  towards hosting events that create positive social and environmental change.

I have spent my career helping others and earlier in my career I was focused on helping disadvantaged youth in London.  I supported them to rebuild their lives and find work or education.  In 2015 I started my own events company Absolute Alchemy and was passionate about putting on events that created change.  This was when I met Abena Fairweather and Carole Quinn from Legacy Events and during the pandemic they asked me to join their team and help build their sustainable events agency and produce a range of events for clients.

With a passion for the planet I was honoured when they asked me to lead their flagship event Positive Spirits – a new pioneering show bringing the best sustainable spirits in the world.

2. You work for Legacy Events. What can you tell us about that organization?

Legacy is an award winning, sustainable events agency and consultancy. As an agency, we  help companies run events that are better for the environment and which contribute towards positive social change.

Legacy believes that events have the power to provoke original thinking, shape communities and transform people’s lives. Unfortunately, all too often, events are wasteful and have a negative impact on the environment, detracting from their potential to inspire and uplift.

At Legacy, we want the impact of their clients’ events to be…just positive. We work with clients to advise on and deliver engaging, delightful, inspiring, beautiful events that are also sustainable.  We can also give you access to our bespoke marketplace of sustainable events products and resources, democratising event planning and creating the conditions for innovation.

Check out their website – https://legacy-events.com/

3. Together with Legacy Events you organize Positive Spirits. Can you tell us more about what it is, what you aim to achieve?

Working with many clients to make their events more sustainable, has given us a unique insight into the people that push for sustainability within their businesses. Often they care about the issue of sustainability deeply outside of work too and want to make a difference in their personal actions and the brands they choose to support. What we’re seeing more and more is a willingness for people to educate themselves on how to make sustainable choices as buyers and consumers. Of course, this isn’t just Legacy; according to a survey in February, 58% of Europeans consider the climate impact important when buying food and beverage items.

As independent spirits and non-alcoholic spirits are moving towards sustainability to meet consumer demand, there is a need for visibility, transparency, collaboration and ideas sharing. This is where Positive Spirits comes in. We want to celebrate the work of spirit makers, showcase their products and innovations to drinks enthusiasts and empower consumers to make more sustainable choices – all whilst having fun with it.  We want to be the tonic to your gin.

4. When and where will Positive Spirits be?

We are excited to be hosting the event at  White Rabbit Studios in the heart of Shoreditch on Saturday 17 June from 11AM – 6PM.  We have hospitality and trade attending in the morning and the general public will be coming in the afternoon to meet the brands and try out their wonderful drinks. We’re really excited to welcome everyone on site for a day of discovery, product tastings, inspiring speakers, music, activities and food.

For all the information you can visit our website – https://www.positivespirits.events/ 

5. Is the goal to make this a recurring event for craft distillers?

We have big plans for this show’s legacy and future potential. Taking it to Europe and building upon our  strong community of innovators in the drinks and hospitality industry, would be the dream.

6. How do you see iStill or iStill customers participate or contribute?

Come to Positive Spirits and be inspired by the ongoing sustainability innovations and practices in the drinks industry and how your work, or future work, could contribute. There’s no better space right now for growing your network and getting ahead of the game. Cheers to change!


iStill’s CEO Odin will give a presentation on how technological innovations – over the last decade – have made distilling a more sustainable place. Where? At the Positive Spirits event in London, as mentioned above. When? June 17. See you there!

If you come and would like to meet up for drinks, please email me at Odin@iStillmail.com, so we can get something going We have 5 VIP tickets available for free!


Genever or Jenever: it pays to go Dutch!

Genever or jenever is a unique Dutch product that can only be made in The Netherlands, Belgium and two small
regions of France and Germany with traditionally Dutch speaking populations. It is a juniper-flavoured drink, where there must be a certain percentage of so-called “malted wine”. This is basically a new make spirit from grains that is not distilled above 50%, so the grainy flavour is kept. Juniper and other botanicals are distilled with GNS and the distillate is mixed with the malted wine.

A young genever (meaning the new style) must contain between 1.5 and 5% malted wine, an old genever (the old
style) needs to contain above 15% malted wine. A special category is the “koornwijn” (corn wine) that contains at
least 51% malted wine, but doesn’t need to have juniper berries in the mix.

Genever is getting back into vogue after a long absence. During the end of the 19th century millions of bottles of
genever where exported to the United States. The first written cocktail recipes actually call for genever as a base
ingredient, instead of gin. During the 1920’s prohibition made an end to the export and sales collapsed.

Smugglers made sure the Americans had plenty of Scotch whisky and English gin in their Speakeasies. The
recipes for cocktails were rewritten with gin instead of genever. In current times mixologists are experimenting
with the originals recipes again, using a genever as a base. You can now even find non-Dutch genevers with
names like “Geneva” or “Dutch style gin”. Also the German drink Wacholder is basically a genever, but from the
Bavarian regions.

Genever is a very old drink. It got mentioned in the 12th century already, well ahead of other spirits. There is a strong connection between genever and health. Originally, it was sold as a medicine against the black death. From the 16th century onwards, its recipe was tailored to help Dutch sailors survive the gruesome voyages to the East or West, that could take up to 9 months. How genever helped? Well, juniper is a diuretic, coriander protects the stomach lining, and St.-John’s Worth is an anti-depressant. All help was needed to survive the rotten food and loneliness at sea, apparently.

The Dutch that sailed the world also spread genever. In Africa it was the used as money. Henry Stanley, trying to discover lost tribes throughout the darkest parts of Africa, hated it, because wherever he came, he was invited to drink some … establishing that the tribe or village he visited had had prior contact with what was then called “civilization”.

In the horn of Africa, weddings are still blessed with genever. And if there isn’t any, well, then the marriage starts off on the wrong food and probably won’t last long. Now that’s another reason to drink more genever: it is a marriage saver!


All You Need to Know About Armagnac!

While cognac is recognized as a famous brandy from France all around the world, it’s sibling armagnac is far less
known. Armagnac is a brandy made from grapes from the Gascogne region in the South of France. It’s actually
the oldest wine brandy that was ever described; in 1310 tthe cardinal Vital du Four wrote about the 40 benefits of
drinking armagnac. In those days the spirit was probably closer to an eau-de-vie or fruit brandy than to the
armagnac we know today.

Armagnac trade really took off during the 16th and 17th century. It was introduced at the courts of King Louis XV
and Dutch traders invested heavily in stills in the Armagnac region. The Dutch were the biggest exporters of
brandy (both cognac and armagnac) to England and avoided trading blocks for French wines by distilling the wine
first. The word “brandy” comes from the Dutch word “brandewijn”, meaning “burnt (distilled) wine”.

The unique thing about armagnac is that it’s once distilled in a so-called continuous Armagnac alambic. Here
fresh wine is used not only at the base of the spirit but also as a cooling agent. The wine is continuously flowing
from the bottom of the cooler and cools the serpetine that turns the vapors back into a liquid. Then it’s forced to
the top and enters the distillation column, which contains plates with bubble caps. The now warm wine flows over
the plate to the boiler, while the vapors from the boiler rise up and mix with the esters from the wine. There is a
continuous exchange of esters between the wine and the vapors. This unique way of distilling gives armagnac
it’s special flavors, which are more like wine than cognac.

A variety of grapes can be used, but basically all armagnac is made from uni-blanc, folle blanche, baco and
colombard. New oak is used for the first months to years of maturation and the new make spirit is then transferred
into used barrels. Here the aging can take up to 50 years, although most armagnacs are between 2 to 8 years


iStill University: Learn in two weeks what others cannot teach you in three years!

Tony, an award winning craft distiller and iStill University student, shares his experience and gives his feedback:

“I very much enjoyed my time in Woerden on your course. I love learning and hold several university degrees in my previous career paths. I had considered the meticulously detailed, doubtless fascinating Edinburgh-based Master Distillers course some years ago. However, and most appropriately considering iStill’s dedication to revolutionizing distillery technology, your course seemed to me to distil the essential essences out of Edinburgh’s multi-year course, and present what we as competent practicing distillers each really need to know along with providing access to a global support system which links directly into iStill’s own expertise. Fabulous. Most impressive. Thanks, a lot!”

Do you want to learn the craft of distilling? Do you want to truly master the skills of operating a distillery while making some of the best spirits in the world? Reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com and ask for the iStill University curriculum. Students rate the courses we offer with a 9.8 out of 10!


Mastika: Greek Spirit from Chios!

Mastika or mastiha is a unique Greek spirit from the island of Chios. The drink is flavored with the resin from the
mastic tree (Pistacia Lentiscus) and is often served as a liqueur after dinner. The resin gives a pine like flavor,
that can also be very earthy. The same resin is often used in the Greek wine retsina.

There are different ways of making mastika. The most traditional way is first distilling pomace from grapes into a
high ABV spirit, similar to grappa. The resin is harvested by making small cuts into the trees. This has to be done
carefully; when you cut too deep or at the wrong place, the resin either doesn’t drip out or contains no flavor. The
people of Chios are known for treating each tree like an individual that “shouldn’t suffer from the cut”.

The resin is then dried out in the sun, so it forms crystals. These crystals are added to the distillate and the whole batch is
redistilled. This has to be done carefully, as the resin can stick to the sides of the boiler and burn, ruining the whole batch. After distillation the spirit is diluted and sugar is added, bringing the flavor of the resin more to the forefront. Other distillers produce an oil from the mastika and add this to the distillation to prevent the scorching
of the crystals.

A special version of mastika is made by fermenting the resin itself. This means the real resin flavor is partially
lost and the result is more like a honey mead than the original mastika.

Mastic running from a Chios’ mastika tree …


Palinka, what is it?

Pálinka is a traditional fruit brandy from Eastern Europe. It can be made from all kind of fruits, but mostly plums,
apricots and pears are used. The name pálinka is a protected geographical region and only fruit brandy’s from
Hungary and the “Burgenland”-region of Austria can carry this name. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia it is known as pálenka, and in Romania, Italy, and Greece as palincă. So slightly different spellings. When grains are used instead of fruit the
drink is known as Tótpálinka. There is also a version made of pomace, similar to the Italian grappa which is then
called Törkölypálinka or just Törköly.

To create a fruit brandy that’s like pálinka you start with mashing and fermenting your fruits. Often fruits like pears
or plums start to ferment instantly, because there’s natural yeast on the skins of the fruit. Be sure to remove all
stones and stalks. The stones contain cyanide, which give you a lovely almondy flavor when distilled, but is
really toxic. The stalks will give you a lot of pectine in your mash, which will turn into methanol during distillation.
Also undesired. You can add more yeast to the fermentation to keep it going. If you want to experiment with the
fermentation, adding special wine yeasts (like chardonnay or tokay) will give you more fruity flavors.
Fermentation can take up to 20 days.


The iStill Extractor is a Flavor Bazooka!

The Extractor, a proprietary and revolutionary iStill technology, is a flavor bazooka. It is the perfect tool to make extracts, essences, liqueurs, and amazing gins. iStill Extractors replace vacuum distillation tools all over the world at a rapid pace, as they are more versatile, easier to run, and come at a friendlier budget.

For more reading, see: https://istillblog.com/2022/06/01/vacuum-distillation-fck-off/

Denny puts his iStill Extractor to good use …


Ethanolize Heads & Tails with iStill!


Heads and tails cuts are usually considered losses in any distillery. Minimizing those losses translates into a higher yield, more turnover, and an increased profit. So what if I told you we offer two ways to process your heads and tails back into perfectly usable ethanol? What if we told you that iStill supports two ways for you to turn your heads and tails back to perfect GNS?

First method: 90% recovery of heads & tails

Heads and tails primarily consist of ethanol, contaminated with low boiling point alcohols (heads) or high boiling point alcohols (tails) and their associated flavors. As the actual contamination level, in terms of parts per million, is very low, we can conclude that most of the alcohol in the heads and tails factions is actually good ethanol.

The craft distiller can use the iStill Hybrids in pure mode to push the heads and tails contaminations to the very beginning and end of the run. This way about 90% of the ethanol, in what would otherwise be you heads and tails losses, can be recovered as pure and neutral 96%+ GNS. GNS you can use for gins, vodka’s, bitters, and more …

Second method: 100% recovery of heads & tails

As heads and tails primarily consist of ethanol, we found a way to break down the lower and higher boiling point alcohols as well as the associated esters (taste molecules). Any craft distiller that operates an iStill Hybrid can now add an agent to the boiler, in order to recover 100% of what would otherwise be heads and tails losses.

Do you want to follow up?

If you want to help s solve your heads & tails losses, please be informed that you can order an iStill Hybrid by contacting Odin@iStillmail.com.

iStill helps create the cleanest 96%+ GNS from your heads & tails …


The Future of Craft!

The Craft Distilling Seminar is a new initiative that aims to empower the craft distilling industry in creating a better, brighter, and more sustainable future for itself. A seminar for craft distillers, and a seminar by craft distillers, the CDS offers opportunities to learn and network. At CDS 2023 you will see the launch of a global distribution network for craft distilled products, peer spirit reviewing (and amazing free take-aways!), and a host of presenters (not consultants!) to help you further grow your craft as well as your business.

Topics? How craft distilling and Big Alcohol can cooperate in order to achieve common success. The production of whisky. Successful out-of-continent distribution of craft distilled spirits. An easy to implement quality management procedure to continuously upgrade your production towards better quality spirits. How sustainability offers distillers both great marketing upsides as well as vast cost reductions and an improved overall profitability. And more, much more!

The seminar is English-spoken and aims to help professionalize craft distillers by providing best practices and interactive discussions on topics like distribution, spirit quality management, sustainability, and more. CDS23 also offers great opportunities for meeting up and establishing partnerships with other distillers.

CDS 2023 takes place in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 November. One ticket, two days, two lunches, a dinner on the first day and two network meetings – with drinks, if you bring them! – are all included. For just EUR 250,-.

The seminar is limited to 100 participants, so book your tickets online as soon as possible, if you want to be part of the future of craft. Use the link underneath.