Wieke Distillery, from Groningen, the Netherlands, picked up their distillery at iStill HQ. Here are a few pictures:
This week we are dispatching an iStill 2000 to the USA, an iStill 500 to the UK, and two iStills 100. One will go to Australia, the other to France. Quite an international audience, it seems! Here are some pics:
iStill offers the Potstill Series, the Plates Series, and the Hybrid Series. The potstill is, well, basically a very accurate and efficient potstill, that harvests robust flavors. The plated iStills are our take on the perforated and bubble cap plate technology. With added control and double the output rates, when compared to the older designs out there. It helps create balanced flavor profiles at great throughput rates. The Hybrid Series is the King of the Mountain. The one still that can do it all and make any spirit to perfection.
With the increase in choice that we now offer, what still should you choose? What design helps you best at creating, or better: harvesting, the flavors you are after? Let’s dive in deeper:
The “What iStill do you need”-Table …
Fruit brandy is a two-dimensional, clear drink, that focusses on front-of-mouth and middle-of-mouth, fruity flavors. It can be made on a potstill, but – especially the finishing run – needs to be done slowly for the tails not to overrun the delicate fruity flavors. Plated stills help prevent tails smearing and are perfect for fruit brandies. Our Hybrid Series is good at making fruit brandy, but just as with a potstill, production speeds have to be dialed in defensively, especially towards the end of the run.
Cognac is a three-dimensional brandy, aged in barrels. Both the Potstill Series and the Hybrid Series help make amazing Cognac. The plated still can also make Cognac, but getting enough of those tailsy flavors over, for the spirit to stand up to the wood, asks that you push the pedal to the metal, especially towards the end of the run.
Gin is a 2 to 2.5 dimensional drink. Front-of-mouth, middle-of-mouth, and limited amounts of back-end flavor. Both the iStills Hybrid and Potstill are great solutions. Plated stills, even with the plates turned off, strip out too much flavor, and are therefore not the best solution for gin production.
Rum – light
Light rums have limited amounts of heads and tails smearing, and focus instead on substrate-related, middle-of-mouth flavors. The plated iStills and the hybrids are great solutions. Potstills tend to smear too much flavor in, for this spirit category.
Rum – medium
Medium rums have medium amounts of heads and tails smearing, and branche out towards more fruity as well as rooty/nutty flavor profiles. iStill’s Plated and Hybrid series excel, the potstills do a good job too.
Rum – heavy
Heavy rums depend on high amounts of heads and (especially) tails smearing. The potstill or hybrid are the stills of choice. The iStill Plated Series gets enough tails smearing over for a 3 to 4 year old rum, but not for a 20 year barrel aging program.
Vodka has a one-dimensional, middle-of-mouth flavor profile, and needs to be distilled at 190 proof. The iStill Hybrid is the only iStill (still?) capable of reaching high enough proof to make vodka.
Bourbon nowadays is mostly a whiskey with the flavor profile of a fruit brandy. Front- and middle-of mouth. Hardly any back-end flavors. This makes the potstill the wrong choice. Unless you are after a more potstill-style Bourbon like Woodford Reserve. The Hybrid Series is probably a better alternative, while the iStill Plated Series is spot on.
There are multiple varieties, but in general Irish whiskey is lighter in style. As with Bourbon, the Plated and Hybrid Series are perfect. For a more three-dimensional product, like Connemara, the Potstill Series are the best choice.
Single malt whisky
You need a hybrid or a potstill. The iStill Plated Series can make single malt, but is more suited for younger expressions.
iStill Distilling University
Are you interested in our taste-model? Do you want to learn how to create and judge spirits professionally? Please check out the iStill Distilling University at:
Ceri planned to set up a craft distillery in 2018, but has been dealt an unfortunate change in his personal circumstances. The distillery plans are no longer an option, and Ceri has his 2018 iStill 100 NextGen up for sale. Together with the Extractor. For UK customers, that are willing to pick-up the unit at his location. For more information, please reach out directly via: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week sees four larger units in final assembly. Three iStills 2000, of which two will go to customers in the USA, and one will go to a distillery situated in the North of the Netherlands. One iStill 5000, that will ship to the USA, to a customer that already has an iStill 500 and 5000.
Four more distilleries hitting the road soon …
What may well be the world’s best Sake producer choose iStill. Their staff followed the iStill Distilling University. They then purchased an iStill 2000. And now they emailed us some feedback:
The iStill 2000 arrived at our company two weeks ago and was quickly assembled. We have completed the cleaning and have already produced the first lot.
What a great gin we’ve created! This is truly a wonderful quality.
Thanks to all the members of iStill.
Umenoyado Brewery: over 120 years of Sake history …
Where tradition matters …
Atsushi Ohkawa’s feedback …
The direct operating costs of producing a liter of new make whiskey or rum on an iStill, ready to barrel at 65%, are EUR 0,49 versus EUR 1,99 on a traditional copper potstill. Producing whiskey or rum on an iStill reduces operating costs with as much as 75%, when compared to a traditional copper potstill. The lower operating costs of running an iStill translate into higher margins and a more sustainable, future-proof business model.
This iStill Blog post presents an operating cost comparison for new make whiskey or rum production. iStills versus traditional set-ups. Why operating costs are important? Well, the lower they are, the higher your profit margin – given a certain selling price. Higher margins allow you to make more money or use part of that extra margin to weather through tough times. Also, lower operating costs signal a more eco-friendly, more environmental and sustainable business model. Less energy consumption equals a lower carbon footprint.
Of course we know the iStill numbers through-and through. The numbers of traditional stills, that we present in this iStill Blog, are based on feedback we got from customers experienced in running traditional equipment before switching to iStills. If the manufacturers of more traditional, copper stills feel that the examples underneath do not do their distilling solutions total justice, please reach out to us directly, so we can discuss and – where needed – amend.
Operating costs are the expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis. Rent of the building, power to run the stills, the costs of buying in grains or other substrates, staffing costs, equipment depreciation costs, etc.
In order to keep this post relatively simple and to the point, we’ll focus on the variable costs of running the still, depreciation costs of your distilling machine, and the staffing needed to keep on distilling. Costs like the rent of the building or substrate purchase costs won’t be investigated, since they are (in the context of this iStill Blog post) considered a given. Meaning they don’t necessarily vary a lot between different still options.
Calculating energy costs for whiskey or rum
The efficiency number of a traditional potstill is around 35%. A traditional potstill needs two distillation cycles to bring an 8% whiskey beer or rum wine to the barrel aging strength of 60 – 65%. The iStill can turn an 8% base beer or wine into 60 – 65% new make in one go. So you save the manpower and energy of at least one run.
The iStill 2000 uses around 280 kWh to make rum or whiskey new make spirit. The associated costs are per run are well under EUR 50,-. Given the inefficiencies of the traditional set-up, a total energy usage of 800 to 1000 kWh is expected per run. This translates into direct energy usage costs, for a double distillation, of around EUR 190,-.
The amount of 2000 liters of base beer translates into about 220 liters of 65% strong new make spirit. When we divide the energy usage per still type by the number of liters of new make produced, we can learn the energy costs per liter. For the iStill the energy costs per liter are EUR 0,22. For the traditional copper potstill the energy costs per liter are EUR 0,87.
Calculating depreciation costs for whiskey or rum stills
A traditional 2000 liter copper still, made by a reputable manufacturer costs at least EUR 200.000,-. The iStill 2000, with some options, is around EUR 80.000,-. Because the iStills are made from chemically resistant stainless steel, instead of copper, the unit has an expected longevity of around 20 years.
The copper or stainless steel boiler of a traditional set-up may have the same longevity or slightly less. The copper column or riser oxidizes and suffers from the continuous need for (acid) cleaning. It is usually eaten away in around 10 to 15 years. Adding up boiler and column life expectancy for traditional potstills and averaging them out, leads to an overall total system longevity of 15 years for a traditional copper potstill.
Following a lineair depreciation curve, the 80k iStill 2000 has an annual depreciation of EUR 4.000,-. Based on 200 runs per year, the depreciation costs per run are EUR 20,-. When one run produces 220 liters, the depreciation costs per liter are EUR 0,09.
Following the same lineair depreciation curve, the EUR 200.000,- traditional copper potstill has an annual depreciation of EUR 13.300,-. At 200 runs per year, this translates into EUR 66,50 of depreciation per run or EUR 0,30 per liter of new make spirit produced.
Calculating staffing costs for whiskey or rum
Manning the still costs time, and time is money. Managing a traditional still asks for constant supervision. Cleaning can take 2 to 3 hours. Often the boiler design and column/riser design are not optimized for 8 hour shifts. How much manpower does it take to run a traditional still? At least 1 FTE. How much manpower does it take to run the iStill, which is automated and needs much less cleaning down-time? Around 0.2 FTE.
Say that hiring a distiller costs EUR 36.000,- per year. Running a traditional set-up then adds EUR 36.000,- to your overall costs. The iStill – by comparison – costs less than EUR 8.000,- to staff. A stunning difference of EUR 28.000,- per year.
In the above example, where we use a 2000 liter still to make 220 liters of 60-65% new make spirit per run, doing 200 runs per year translates into 44.000 liters of new make. The staffing costs of a traditional system are EUR 36.000,-, which translates into additional variable costs per liter of EUR 0,82. The much lower effort needed to run the iStill 2000 translates into only EUR 0,18 of staffing costs per liter.
iStill: reduce your operating costs by 75% …
Just like we had announced last September during London Craft Distilling Expo, last week we have placed an order for an iStill 500!
Why did we decide to go with iStill technologies?
“There is no subject more captivating, more worthy of study, than nature. To understand this great mechanism, to discover the forces which are active, and the laws which govern them, is the highest aim of the intellect of man.”
These are words of our fellow countryman Nikola Tesla, whose ideas, accomplishments and advanced way of thinking were always a huge inspiration to us. We come from Lika region, just like our Nikola Tesla, we share the same respect for nature and science, the same curiosity and desire for progress. Since the first days of our distillery idea planning, one thing was very clear to us: we wanted as much as possible to combine our distilling tradition, modern technologies and respect for nature with the aim to create the best products we possibly can.
Fossil fuels were never an option and steam power, no matter how romantic, belongs to industrial revolution era. So what did this mean for us?
It meant we needed a modern, electric powered still capable of producing highest quality spirits, which will also use energy from renewable sources one day.
Last year we decided to buy a lab still made by iStill, the Mini 2 model, and take it for a test ride. The results were better than expected and we managed to create some astonishing spirits. All things considered, the next step was obvious: the iStill 500 model ticked off all the boxes for us. The iStill company is constantly innovating and upgrading, and the support and information flow from Odin and his iStill staff have always been very satisfactory. So, we decide to roll the dice.
A fully equipped iStill 500 is on order, and we can’t wait to start working with it!