Please excuse the late email but I’m prompted to write to you in light of the results of the International Wine & Spirits Competition spirits category.
In reviewing the medal winners, there are many who continually gain awards year on year using iStills. We have to thank you for your insight and advancement of the antiquated systems in producing a brilliant alternative to the copper still.
We all benefit, not only from your state of the art equipment, but your knowledge and your teaching at the IStill university, which educates us and gives us all a platform to explore and experiment with our spirits and flavours.
We came to you originally back in 2018 with no knowledge of the theory of distillation, just the crazy idea that we wanted to make great spirits. Four years on and we gained our first medal 2 months after our Island Gin was released…a ‘Master’ in the gin category, only one of 14 in group of 350 worldwide gins, including entries from ‘big alcohol’ as you call it.
After that, year on year, every spirit we release we have gained a medal…..yesterday we heard that our aged rosé gin won a gold at IWSC. Only 16 golds in the UK and 51 in the gin category worldwide. For us, this is an exciting achievement. I know that many of your IStill customers have gained that, and more, and continually, but for me as a distiller on our little island, I’m so proud ….and thankful to you and your team for the equipment, education, encouragement and support ( poor William, I’ve been emailing him a bit lately with our new still).
We are now moving into whisky, (thanks to Sebastiaan for his guidance and advice). We had a Michelin chef in our distillery yesterday who pledged to stock our gins, but also totally loved our new make spirit. Without you guys, none of this would have been possible and every time I turn on my two lovely i500’s I am grateful to you.
Without seeming too ‘cheesy’ I just wanted to thank you all! You guys give us all the platform to make great spirits, each and every time!
Very best regards
Scilly Spirit Distillery
Isles of Scilly
Our customer Holland & Nobel helps James Martin develop and produce an amazing gin on his iStill …
At Loki Distillery we pride ourselves at making “private spirits” instead of private labels. We don’t produce bulk spirits and toss any label on. For every customer we develop a special recipe, so they have a unique spirit.
That means creating a lot of different flavours. It’s easy to do that for gin, because of the iStill Mini. Any recipe we create on the Mini is transferred verbatim onto the bigger stills. Using the StillControl software we decide the cutpoints for heads, hearts and tails and we simply put those temperatures into the program on the iStill NextGen 2000. Botanicals scale up the same way. Every recipe is developed based on the gin formula we teach at the iStill University and that calculated for 1 liter. Doing a run on the iStill Mini? Just multiply by 10 for the 10 liter boiler. Going on a bigger still? Just multiply by 2000. Well actually… we multiply by 1920. Botanicals take up a lot of space and with around 80 kilograms of botanicals in there you need to scale down a bit on the GNS/water mixture. We don’t want to send those juniper berries up into the column.
But scaling up a different spirit is another story. It’s still easy to do, but there’s a little bit more trial and error involved. We developed a fruit brandy based on pears for a customer. This Austrian style schnapps came out great in the Mini, but it took some more time to get it right on the iStill NextGen 2000.
The challenge with making a fruit brandy from pure pear is the low amount of alcohol in the boiler. We started it with a 5% wash, which in the Mini is very easy to control. Just keep tweaking the power settings and the needle valve until you have it steady at 80 to 85 degrees for your hearts cut. But at the bigger stills, the robot is even smarter than we. When temperatures rise or fall, it doesn’t tweak a bit, it almost attacks to make sure it stays within the limits. And it does a great job, but only when we give it the right information. With so little alcohol and so much water in the still, top temperatures rose pretty quickly. Of course the robot closed down to create reflux, but only to the temperature we had put in there. It meant that most of our alcohol ended up in the tails cut.
It was easily fixed by treating the iStill 2000 as a Mini for once. We fractioned the outcome again and took notes, while we tweaked it. By just dialing the power back and decreasing the tolerance we were able to get the same results as with the Mini. And with all the information from the Mini already available, we only had to do this once. So for recipe development, it’s a perfect combo: start on the Mini, finish on the bigger stills. And of course now a customer is looking for a vodka from potatoes. He expects to create about 4% ABV in his wash… We welcome the challenge!
Another shipment of iStills! The units will go to the Rotterdam Harbor, where they will be crated. After that, they go to new customers all over the world. Today? Today we ship an iStill 2000, an iStill 500, nine iStills Mini, and three 50 liter boilers for existing iStilleries that want to expand on their training and/or recipe development capacity.
We don’t like to waste alcohol here at Loki Distillery. We actually don’t like to waste anything. That’s why we try to be as sustainable as possible. We reuse cooling water for heating up the next batch and our spent botanicals from gin runs are turned into biofuel. But what we are really proud of is the way we are treat our tails.
Tails are quite interesting to observe. We collect about a 100 liters of tails on every gin run and we just leave it in the same 1000 liter IBC until it’s full. During a tails run you can already see the heavy oils getting out of solution. At winter, when we let the temperature in the distillery drop to around 10 degrees Celsius at night, the oils become almost solid and float on top of the IBC.
Whenever we have 1000 liters collected, it’s time for a cleaning run. We call it this because we are cleaning up the tails, but also the still! Thanks to the inventions at the iStill Lab we add a little bit of sodium hydroxide to the tails and then top of it off with fresh water until we have filled the boiler. We then run our special program in column mode, with a very long stabilization time. The robot and the sodium hydroxide work their magic and after 22 hours we are left with almost no heads cut, around 150 liters of pure alcohol at 96% ABV and a very small tails cut. There’s no residual taste to the alcohol and it can easily be reused as base for gins or liqueurs.
But as I said, it’s a double cleaning. Because inside the boiler we are left with an almost milky liquid. All the oils from the tails have been left behind and all we need to do is pump it out. It’s quite acidic, so you need to do this as soon as it has cooled down. But, it’s not that acidic that is dangerous to the environment. We can even just put it back into the Dutch water collection system, as we collect rainwater and sewage water separately. The water is then filtered through large sand dunes near the coast and used again as drinking water. Not a drop wasted. And the best thing of all? The boiler is squeaky clean after a cleaning run. Any residue from calcium on the inside, any discoloring on the stainless steel; all is washed away by the cleaning run. But then again, we are a 21st century distillery.
How’s that for a distillery interior? iStill distillery meets Jaguar table at Cauldron Distillery …
Congrats to the Old Pilots Distillery for winning best Croatian Vodka! Proud to have you as our customer!