Perfect Storm equals Perfect Opportunity!

Introduction

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 …

http://www.iStill.com

Buyer Beware on Julia Nourney!

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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

Guerrilla Solution to High Energy Prices!

Here’s Jon. In true British style he found a way to deal with the high energy prices Europe is currently facing. What he does? He has an iStillery and re-uses the energy from his cooling water to heat-up his bar and restaurant (120 seats).

Please meet Jon …

And his warm bar and restaurant …

Jon:

“Really really proud of myself today. They said it can’t be done or not worth doing. Today my prototype is blowing hot air in the restaurant all from waste energy from our bigger still “Becket”. Whilst distilling #Canterbury #Gin . I reckon it will run two more 1/2 meter fans.”

Odin:

“Jon, can you explain what you did here?”

Jon:

“Still a work in progress but basically connected the hot water out hose from the condenser and attached to a large coil fan heater. So warm water goes in the coil and the fan blows the heat into restaurant. I ran the top temp probe at about 35C . Because we start distilling at 7 and the restaurant opens at 12, we are nice and warm. The coil heater take 120C so looking at pumping the waste wash through as well. Using brewery hoses and pump.”

Craft Distillers React to “Odin Deflates”!

Introduction

A few weeks ago, I wrote an analysis about what’s wrong in our industry and how the London Craft Distilling Expo is dying. Since then, I have received over a dozen emails, letters, and messages, from distillers around the world, congratulating me with the analysis, and applauding my iStill Blog post on this matter. Many distillers, as it turns out, have been harmed by the very consultants I speak about.

Thank you all for your feedback and support! It is important for me to know I am not fighting the fight alone, and that the efforts we make and the industry directions that we support, are sincerely appreciated by those who should be at the center: the craft distillers.

Underneath, I have collected three examples that sorta summarize the overall nature of the messages you have been sending me. I think it is important to share, as it will create more awareness for the shenanigans that our industry is plagued by.

Oh, and here’s the original article:

Feedback 1

Excellent analysis and thank you for swimming against the current! Today’s craft distilling industry is not the same as 14 years ago when I started out. Our industry today consists of makers and fakers, so if someone has not put in the time, motivation, money, and energy to become a maker, chances are that they are faking it. Success is not handed – it is gained.

Aris

Feedback 2

Hi Odin,

I read with the utmost understanding your recent “Odin Deflates” blog. There wasn’t a single paragraph where I said to myself “I don’t Agree with that”.

An absolutely brilliant, truthful summary of what I have been saying for too long and the only time I ever learnt anything useful was at iStill and from your exceptional team. For example, I paid consultants for label designs and they were crap, rehash of other work that they had done for previous gullible clients. Eventually, I designed my own out of frustration.

The one area where we have struggled is with the financing of growth and we realise that we should have borrowed first off to buy iStill. But life shouldn’t be about regrets should it, but a series of learned events.

All the best

Kindest regards,

Kevin

Feedback 3

Hi Odin, you are running an innovative company, with an own environment. An iStill environment. In the end things will probably end like this. First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they hate you and fight you. And then you win.

The period of ignorance is clearly over. Others have to move now, but innovation is an iStill monopoly at this period of time. So keep going!

Regards, Derek.

Since most consultants aim to thrive on you, your business does not thrive on consultants …

http://www.iStill.com

iStill Laboratory!

Introduction

We are starting a new service. We are starting the iStill Laboratory! The goal? To further empower the craft distilling industry. How and why? Let’s dive in deeper!

What’s craft distilling’s main USP?

Well, that’s easy. It is quality. Spirits quality. As craft distillers offer a story, an adventure to the consumer, it has to be a better story and a better adventure than Big Alcohol can serve. And that story or adventure always starts with the quality of the spirit served and the pride of the craft distiller that talks about his products.

Price? Not an issue. I mean, yes, it is a big issue, but it is out of the craft distiller’s control for a big part. In the competition with store bought products from Big Alcohol, craft distillers can never compete on price levels. Not even when using iStills. Big Alcohol simply has too much economy of scale behind its business model.

That’s why craft distillers need to focus on quality. If your products are going to be costlier to make than those of Big Alcohol, the only way to carve out a niche for yourself is via quality.

What is quality?

A difficult, yet not impossible question to answer. Those that studied at the iStill University might find it easier to answer than others, because of the models we teach. So, for craft distillers not yet versed in Odin’s Holy Trinity of Distillation, here’s the gist: a high-quality spirit matches the taste profile of the category it belongs to, while maximizing associated flavor and minimizing toxicity.

Example 1

An example? A whisky is a three-dimensional drink. It needs to hit the front, center, and back of mouth and tongue and throat and the flavor needs to last well over 20 seconds. A whisky where the front has gone (usually through oxidation while in the barrel) has lost a dimension and is no longer a three-dimensional drink, so not a high-quality spirit anymore. And if we compare two whiskies that are both three-dimensional, the one with more flavor offers the better and longer experience, as long as we off-set it with toxicity. If the flavors are “off” or bad, they don’t count. At least not in a positive manner.

A three-dimensional whisky is made according to its category, where a two-dimensional one isn’t. A whisky with a higher ester (taste molecule) count is a better whisky than one with a lower ester count, as long as we deduct for potential impurities and toxins. Impurities and toxins can add flavor, but these are both bad and unhealthy, and not markers of a high-quality spirit.

Example 2

Another example to help clarify quality. Let’s compare two gins. Gins are two- to two-and-a-half-dimensional drinks. The ones with a front and a middle are great for G&T’s. The tonic will provide the back-end flavor. The gins that also have a bit of back-end from themselves, a taste count of 10 to maybe 12 seconds, are great sippers. To be enjoyed by themselves. Or to be mixed with more carefully selected small-batch tonics that “sit” where the gin still leaves a flavor gap.

A two-dimensional gin that has only a middle and an end is not a good gin. In fact, it is normally hardly identifiable as a gin. It is not a high-quality spirit. A gin with a front and middle is good, where a gin with a front, a middle, and a bit of back-end is high-quality indeed.

But there is more. How about flavor intensity? How many esters are there, when we compare two gins that both follow the category’s flavor profile. And how many impurities do we detect? The gin with more esters and a lower level of toxicity is better.

How is quality made?

If quality can be defined, how can it be achieved? Via the right mashing, fermentation, distillation, and aging techniques, mostly. And by using quality ingredients and tools, of course. Manipulating the right ingredients in the right way with the right tools results in high-quality spirits. Want to learn more? Reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com and register for the iStill University, please. We teach 200 students per year how to make better spirits. And y’all should know by now: craft distilling is all about making better, tastier spirits.

How does the iStill Laboratory help?

How do you know if you have created a high-quality spirit? To measure it is to know it! And that’s where the iStill Laboratory comes in. The iStill Laboratory scientifically analyses your spirit, gives objective feedback on the results, and even provides advise on how to improve.

The iStill Laboratory offers two levels of support to help you improve (or at least monitor) your spirit quality:

  1. SET Analysis (Smearing, Esterification & Toxicity Analysis);
  2. SOP Advise (Standard Operating Procedure).

Smearing, Esterification & Impurity Analysis

Your spirit is judged on the amount of heads and tails smearing that made it into the hearts cut of your spirit. The outcomes are compared to the specific product category and compared to category benchmarks.

Your sample will also be tested for total and specific ester count. Specific ester count relates particular esters to the front, middle, and back-end flavor sensations. Both total and specific ester count are compared to industry standard products from Big Alcohol. An analysis is made, where you get feedback on how your spirit scores relative to the category definition and Big Alcohol benchmarks.

The iStill Laboratory also establishes the amount of impurities. What’s the total level of impurities and what are the specific scores for the most important ones? Think sulfuric compounds, methanol, carcinogens, and copper particle contamination. Again, your spirit will be rated against Big Alcohol benchmarks.

Standard Operating Procedure Advise

If your spirit follows the category’s flavor profile and you outperform the Big Alcohol benchmarks, all is fine. You can use the Smearing, Esterification & Impurity Analysis to show your distributors and/or customers that you make better quality spirits, that are worth paying for. But if you feel you lag behind or didn’t completely hit all the boxes, well, you might want to dive in deeper. That’s where SOP Advise comes in.

SOP Advise goes a step deeper. The iStill Laboratory asks you for your current standard operating procedure (SOP) and confronts it with the findings from the SET Analysis. Based on the available chemical and practical distillation knowledge, an advisory report will be drawn up that helps you change your SOP to the effect that it will improve your spirits.

Pricing

The SET Analysis can currently be ordered for EUR 1.495,-. The SOP Advise also costs EUR 1.495,-. These are introduction prices for the first ten customers. After that, prices will rise to a commercial level still to be established.

Process

If you want to order the iStill Laboratory’s analysis or advise, please reach out to Robert@iStillmail.com. He will send you an invoice so that you can pay. After payment is made, ship us two bottles of the spirit you want the iStill Laboratory to test. The tests have a throughput time of 1 month. Outcomes and SOP’s are considered confidential. You can use the outcomes as you like, but we can not. Not unless we have your explicit consent.

Use-cases

How to use the services the iStill Laboratory offers? Here you go:

  • Test your spirit against Big Alcohol benchmarks;
  • Test your spirit against a specific competitor;
  • Spirit improvement;
  • SOP improvement;
  • Substrate assessment (how does a new ingredient affect taste);
  • Chemical spirit signature (does my spirit still have the same flavors as before);
  • GNS-testing (how pure is my GNS and which one should I buy).

Our chemist Willem performing inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy …

http://www.iStill.com

Odin Deflates!

WHY THE LONDON CRAFT DISTILLING EXPO IS DYING

(and the harmful ongoings in our industry)

Introduction

This year was the last year we sponsored the London Craft Distilling Expo. Is that important news for craft distillers? Yes it is. On multiple levels. Not just because the expo is in sharp decline and because we won’t be part of it any more, but because the reasons behind the decline directly reflect on something that’s wrong, very wrong in our industry. So, let’s dive in deeper. Let’s examine how sharp the decline of the expo is, what the causes are, and how these causes bring to light something that’s been holding our industry back. Something is rotten in the proverbial Kingdom of Denmark. And before it can be dealt with, it needs to be exposed. A long post? Yes. Worth your time? I sincerely think so. Let’s start with the numbers.

The numbers

The previous time the London Craft Distilling Expo was organized, it had 300 to 400 visitors. This time only about 100 people visited. We counted 60 to 65 on the first day and the second day was significantly quieter, we heard. Of those visitors, about 40% was either an iStill customer, that specifically came by to see us, or people interested to see an iStill pre purchase.

The previous times the expo was organized, it hosted 30 to 35 exhibitors. This time only 17 companies made the effort to display their products and services.

So there you have it: the number of visitors more than halved, and so did the number of exhibitors. And since iStill withdraws its sponsorship for future events, we expect the expo’s income for next year (if there even will be a new event at all) to halve again. Given our absence, from now onwards, we expect the visitor numbers to drop even further in the coming years. Apart from our future absence, what causes this dramatic downfall?

Quasi-causes

Discussing the causes of the low interest with expo management taught us that they thought it was being caused by Corona. Interesting, but not true. After two years of not being able to meet, many distillers were yearning to see each other again. The many (relatively many) iStill customers that did visit us in London may serve as proof of that. We had more iStill customers at our booth than we saw new and future distillers, though. Quite contrary to the last event, a few years ago. Yet, based on our numbers, the show should have drawn twice as many visitors instead of only a third.

Macro-causes

We argued that Brexit played a big role. With the UK having left the European Union, the event is no longer European, with a continental reach, but British, with only national significance. Proof for this statement? In the past, half of the visitors came from outside the UK. This time we met one Swede and three Irishmen. The rest of the audience, visitors that is, was all British.

Talking to the visitors from outside the UK taught us that nobody wants to come, simply because no one wants to do business with the UK anymore. “Our colleagues from Ireland would have liked to come, but why should they? We don’t want to buy labelling machines, bottles, bottling machines or stills from the UK! It’s a pain, close to impossible, to buy anything here and then have it exported to the European Union!”

Most exhibitors said the same. “Why should we come back as no one comes anymore since they don’t want to buy UK stuff? What’s the sense of having a UK tradeshow if nobody shows up?” It is a conclusion that saddens me, since we have so many lovely British customers, and I strongly feel they deserve better opportunities.

But with the expo’s continental aspirations falling away, it is now a UK-based, national show. And that’s why the visitor numbers didn’t double, as they should have. And there’s more, of course, when we shift from the political to an economical perspective.

Both grain and gas prices have gone through the roof, lately, making it hard for any new distillery to come up with a business plan that shows a profit. But is postponing the opening of your business a reason not to visit an expo? Especially an expo with seminars and speeches, which are supposed to help you come to terms with today’s realities? So where were the hundreds of established and future UK distillers? Why didn’t they show up?

The value proposition

A transaction between two parties should be mutually beneficial. I sell you a still because I make money on the sale. You purchase the still because you can now make spirits that you can sell for a profit.

As a visitor, you go to an expo because you want to learn new info. You want to get answers to important questions like “How do we – as British distillers – deal with Brexit?”, or “What’s the long term perspective on the rising energy and grain prices?”, or “Given rising input costs, what can we do to save costs in other places?” Important, if not existential questions, that you, as a visitor and distiller, need to get answers to. Especially if you pay over 200 pound Sterling to be allowed to enter the expo.

You pay the organization and they value your money. In return you expect to get value added back as well. But did you? Did any of the important questions mentioned above get answered? No. No, instead it was more of the same. “Find faults in these drinks”, “Nose these drinks and be surprised”, “What to do when starting a distillery”, “How to make gin or rum”, oh, and a presentation on solutions to save the climate and environment, that did not mention our technology, even though our innovations, on themselves, reduce energy expenditure in the distillery with a whopping 70 to 75%!

The workshop “Nose these drinks and be surprised” was attended by seven people. Seven people only. Seven people that paid an additional 45 pound Sterling to have the privilege to nose and be surprised. That’s seven times 45 equals 315 pounds. Did the consultant that gave the workshop fly over all the way from Germany for that little money? We don’t think so.

But it gets worse. Two of the seven participants, customers of ours, were asked to simply join the class for free, so it wouldn’t look so empty. So “Germany” didn’t fly over for 315 pounds, but for only 225 pounds? I ask the question, since we now might conclude that the returned value of – let us say – 100 visitors paying a 200 pound entry fee, is repaid via a “workshop” that had a value of just 225 pounds. That’s 20,000 pounds of entry fee vs. 225 pounds of added value. How’s that for a value proposition? Easy and harsh conclusion: it sucks!

Okay, but there is another group of people that engaged in a transaction with the expo, and that would have loved to create value, right? The exhibitors! They also pay and expect something in return. What they expect in return? Well, at least satisfied visitors, preferably many of them, and most with a mindset of wanting to buy stuff. Did that happen? No, it didn’t.

First of all, 100 visitors is like only 25 to 33% of the 300 to 400 visitors from the expo’s previous edition. And – as stated above – most of these visitors were existing distilleries looking to reconnect. New distillers or distillers that were expanding, and needed new stuff, were the minority. We – as always – had the busiest stand. We always do. But even our booth was empty 50% of the time. When we looked around, to see how other exhibitors were faring, well, you could only see the staff that manned their stands, and occasionally, very occasionally, like maybe once every two hours, a visitor would show up.

Let’s do some math. I expect that the exhibitors paid about 40 to 45k to the expo, of which 15,000 pounds was paid by us. If the show had 100 visitors, of which 2/3rd showed up to reconnect and only 1/3rd was interested in purchasing new equipment … that means that the potential lead count – from the exhibitor’s perspective – was just 33. That’s 33 leads divided by 17 exhibitors, or less than 2 potential leads per booth.

And that number still needs to be compensated downwards, simply because those coming with purchasing power, didn’t come to purchase bottles AND stills AND labelers AND steam generators. Most come with a limited list of equipment needed. And of those, for example, interested in stills, well, these weren’t interested in iStill AND Mueller, mostly. Shall we conclude that this leaves less than one lead per booth available? An optimistic one. Too optimistic, because 40% of the visitors came for us. This means that 13 of the 33 leads, that we originally calculated, were there because they want to buy an iStill, leaving only 20 leads for the remaining 16 exhibitors.

Why? Why was there so little value provided to the most important group, the visitors? Why was so little value provided to the sponsors? I think I figured it out. In fact, I am pretty sure that I figured it out! But let us first see how the expo not only underdelivered on value creation, but how they even resorted to value destruction. I mean, how else would you call loosing your main sponsor for many years? Yeah, let’s dive into that topic first. We must drain the poisoned chalice first, if we want to get to the bottom of it all.

How to loose your main sponsor

This is how an expo looses its main sponsor:

  • The expo fails to put up the iStill banners that had always been part of our sponsorship package;
  • And stating “we didn’t have enough money” doesn’t make sense, with us paying 40% of sponsor fees;
  • The expo only puts our story and sponsorship and pictures up on their website the week before the event takes place;
  • So none of the expo’s website visitors, in the months previous to the event, got iStill exposure;
  • The expo didn’t put me on the “How to start a distillery” pannel, even though I have been participating for years;
  • The expo single-handedly and without consultation changed the name of my presentation, making it less disruptive and more “go with the flow”;
  • “Maximize your flavors with the extractor” got renamed to “A varied approach to botanical distillation” – REALLY!?!;
  • The expo changed words in our online and magazine story. Instead of the industry’s leading technology innovator, we became “a leading still manufacturer” – again, REALLY!?!;
  • Yes, really. They changed titles and texts without consultation – and not in a favorable way. Oh, and they didn’t inform us on the dwindling number of visitors either;
  • I mean, 15k should have bought us at least some expectation management, right? I think it should have;
  • Finally, you don’t add people to your expo staff that we kicked out because of scamming and breach of contract. Not if you want us to stay on board.

Why this matters? Well, it shows how little the expo cares for value creation for its paying partners and visitors. And our personal recount above shows that – in the case of our sponsorship – we are not just talking about limited value creation, but rather value destruction.

Why? Why no focus was given on adding value to those that pay? Why was a lot of value we tried to deliver basically destroyed? Doesn’t make sense, right? He who pays the piper calls the tune, so to say. In the case of the London Distilling Expo, however, the visitors and manufacturers paid the piper, but the tune was nothing like they wanted or cared for. So who called the tune?

The tune of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

The expo is run by consultants. And since there is no binding and unified theory of distillation, other than Odin’s Holy Trinity, well, consultants are like that one-eyed man that’s king in the land of the blind. They don’t KNOW. They do not have an objective measurement to fall back on. They just know a little bit more than most starting distillers. And how do they sell their services, at least most of them? Via Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. They want to scare you, they will embrace any opportunity that makes you fear the road ahead, and they will not stop filling your head with doubt to the extend that … well, you need a consultant to help you out and that holds your hand now, right?

There are a few good ones (more on that later), but most consultants, at least in the craft distilling industry, sell their services through Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. How does that help empower the craft distilling industry? It doesn’t. Instead, it helps them sell consultancy services to you. Consultancy services that are questionable at best, and that are not founded in any real science. Services that are self-serving to the consultant at your expense.

The London Distilling Expo actually brings value. It brings value to the consultants that organize it. It offers them a platform to sell their services. Mind you: these consultants didn’t pay. You paid, we paid. We didn’t get much (if any) value. But the consultants that organize the event did get value without paying, so basically: at our expense.

Allow me to elaborate how bad most of the consultancy was, that I have seen over there. Allow me to share a few worst practices. Examples that make the hair om my back stand up. It is important that I share my stories, because these practices hurt you. And they hurt the industry on a fundamental level. Damage assessment precedes damage repair. Here we go.

Worst practices

How to make gin?

On a “How to make gin” workshop a student asked if the pannel (consisting of two consultants) could elaborate on the benefits or negatives of going for a single-shot vs. a multi-shot approach to gin making. In plain English: do I distill each batch of gin separately or do I distill a stronger gin essence that I now dilute with more neutral alcohol, in order to create more booze?

Curious to the answer she got? Here’s the answer she got. Mind you, it is a bit short. The answer the consultants provided her with was this: “It depends.”

And that was it. WHAT it depended on wasn’t discussed or revealed. Just this: “It depends.” Good luck with that answer! The student didn’t walk away with an answer, but with an even bigger question: “On WHAT does it depend?” I am pretty sure she felt her goal to start designing, producing and marketing her own gin slip away just there. Or maybe, just maybe … she could hire the consultants, because at least they knew, right? She needed an answer on an important question. The “it depends”-answer increased here uncertainty and doubt. I imagine she thought right there: “Fuck, I really need a consultant to pull this of!”

How to do your branding?

So I am in the pannel of “How to start a distillery” (yeah, had to ask for it) and the question came up like how should one do their branding. A fair question. I am no expert here, but I’d say bottles and labels and to have a bar or not, are important topics. But, hey, I am not an expert on branding, and there are other pannel members that might have worthy insights to share.

A German consultant, that apparently not only knows “all” about nosing but also about branding, picks up the mike and gives this answer (imagine a fat German accent): “Well, in relation to branding, well, the most important thing is … the most important thing is … that you fill your whole hall … your whole distilling hall … in fact your whole distillery … with YOUR passion!”

Like, WTF? Say what? That’s not advise, that’s a platitude. You are serving people that paid 200 pounds to get in … a platitude? Unbelievable to the point of it being unacceptable. What can any distiller do with this “advise”?

The couple that asked the question were between flabbergasted and mesmerized. I saw fear creep into their eyes. I saw doubt spread between them. I could see them look at each other in a manner that expressed that they were more lost now than they had been before asking their question. But luckily, there is always consultancy hours you can pay for to relief you of your fear. There is always a consultant willing to relief you of your money for that very service.

The medal judges are in high spirits!

On a forum discussion, I found myself seated next to a clownesk figure. I wanted to know what he did and why he was on the panel. He told me that he had come up with a great business idea, so that now he was a figure that looked like a clown with actually, for the first time in his life, a sound business idea. Really. His words. No lack of seeing through his own image, at least. All that was missing was a big, red nose.

So I asked the obvious follow-up question, since he still hadn’t answered my original one. I mean, clowns with sound business ideas … what’s their place on a forum intended to inform distillers? I asked: “What is your idea?” And he answered: “I am a spirit judge at IWSC and I am now gathering all judges, also outside IWSC, together in a company. The company helps distillers win medals. They approach us … or we approach them. And we say “do you want to win medals?” Well, and then they pay us and we give advise and they start winning medals.”

This is SO wrong on every level! A spirit judge should be independent. If he wants to make a business out of his art or craft, at least let him resign from IWSC or whatever other organization he judges for. Because that is how you keep things objective. And that’s how you prevent blemishing the reputation of a – so far – highly praised medal competition, that should be able to make their own sound decisions like if this is ethical, or at least if it is what they want! I mean, how is this going to work out, other than that the distiller that pays the most, will win the biggest awards?

How do you start a distillery?

“Well, that is an easy to answer question,” another consultant says. “You don’t. What you want to do instead is contract distilling. No need to start your own distillery. Big investment, risks … and I have a distillery in Cornwall and we do contract distilling and that’s what you need to do as well, because now you have no investments and I can even help you make a recipe!”

Wow! I mean, yes, contract distilling can be an answer to many questions related to starting a craft distillery. But is that the answer that stops all questions? Why is that even okay? Does expo management think this practice of blowing your own horn is acceptable? It does think that is okay, actually.

The expo is organized by consultants and the charming gentleman from Cornwall, that offers contract distilling services, is the newest addition to their team. Of course he gets a platform. Of course he gets to pitch his services to you. The methodology of “back and forth”, pro’s and con’s, of visitors learning via various, often contradicting answers and opinions, doesn’t help the consultants at selling their services. And as it doesn’t serve their cause, why make life difficult? The expo is not there to empower you. It is there to empower the consultants.

Psst … wanna do business?

The bad consultants that plague our industry always need a “ride”. They need, in other words, a “vehicle” that makes them money. If nobody outside of your country is interested in fruit brandy, you present yourself as being an expert in gin as well. Or rum. It just depends on what sells and where you think you can find customers for your “services”.

A preferred ride, that those bad consultants want to hitch, is cooperation with a still manufacturer. The idea is that the still manufacturer sells a still and the consultant can then help with recipe development and/or training. The consultant makes money and the still manufacturer might be happy because his stills come with the broader, wider solutions his clients are looking for.

We don’t cooperate with consultants, because, well, most suck. We don’t need a broader, wider package of solutions. iStill is the only still manufacturer with a science department, with a laboratory, with its own university, and with its own recipe development team. We provide the biggest source of distillation information in the world for free (yes, the iStill Blog) and we support a Facebook group, where many hundreds of craft distillers communicate and empower each other.

So, a consultant that used to work for a German manufacturer approaches us. Kinda stealthy? The other still manufacturer wasn’t supposed to know … but, but, she’d love to work for us, to consult with our customers. Makes sense. With a global market share of 35 to 40% on new still sales in the craft distilling industry, we are the biggest source of potential new customers for her.

She proposes she visits iStill HQ and we explain how the iStills work. I propose that she does the iStill University courses first, so that she knows what she talks about and so she can appreciate the level of understanding that our customers have (which in most cases is higher than hers, I am afraid). I thought that a good starting point for her. But she said: “Odin, I am already a well-known recipe developer! I do not need extra training!” Upon which I answered: “You do, but if you feel you don’t, please do not make the effort to visit us at iStill HQ. We do not need consultants. Our customers probably don’t need consultants. And I am pretty sure they don’t need consultants that are unwilling to do their due-diligence.” She’s probably still with Mueller, I guess.

Best practice

Not all is bad. Some consultants offer more than others. How you can distinguish one from the other? A lack of FUD and an eagerness to learn. Okay, that doesn’t mean they know all the answers, but an open mindset at least allows this consultant to grow and be – over time – of more importance to you. And I met an example (one example) of just that happening at the last London Expo!

A man approaches me at our booth. He asks: “Odin, I have been working in the alcohol industry for 24 years, of which the last five years as an independent consultant. How come I have never consulted with one of your customers?”

I told him that I could tell him, but that he might not like the answer. He answered that my answer was all the more reason for him to want to hear the answer. So I told him that we don’t do Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. I tell him that our goal is to empower craft distillers by teaching them how things really work. And once they learn that, well, they usually don’t need a consultant anymore. Most of our customers know more about the science of distilling than most consultants do.

Instead of being offended, he thought that marvelous! He is going to enlist for the iStill University. Even though he understands that it is not a way into “doing consultancy for iStill customers”, he is intrigued to learn more as it allows him to further hone his skills. He – in short – will become a better consultant.

Wrapping things up

I thought it important to share what I learned with you. What’s rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark? The many bad consultants that sell you their services through Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. They do not empower the industry, they hold it back.

Do you start to see why – and I am not even sure it was a deliberate or organized attempt – they destroyed the value we tried to add to the expo? We inform you that you can walk this walk alone, yet provide you with a network of fellow distillers. We teach you to empower you. We innovate to make your road ahead, as a craft distiller, steep and challenging though it may be, easier.

Empowered craft distillers are no longer triggered by FUD, and that’s pretty bad for business, if you are a consultant. iStill is the antidote to Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt and this makes us an existential threat to those that want to take advantage of your insecurities.

Having consultants organize an expo, is the beginning of the end. They feast at your expense and at our expense. But no more. It’s done. Let’s close this book, once and for all, and put a lock on it. The idiots in the room will be sent to the asylum and are no longer allowed to take advantage of craft distillers. Not on my watch. I unsupport the London Craft Distilling Expo.

It’s the vultures that CREATE the carcass …

http://www.iStill.com

Harpers Wine & Spirits Article, August 2022!

“Romanticisation of copper stills needs to go!”

Joff Curtoys, founder and creative director of Sloemotion Distillery, explains why copper
stills are the spirit industry’s dirty little climate secret.

“Copper stills are everywhere these days. It’s no surprise. They look great plastered across Instagram and marketing materials. But if we’re ever going to make meaningful change in the drinks industry, we need to take a long hard look at how damaging this approach is for the environment.

A recent report by C&C Group provides a snapshot on how energy intensive the drinks industry is – and how lacking when it comes to leading on sustainability initiatives. Alcohol manufacturers in the US for example, release the annual equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions as 1.9 million US households. As concerns around the impact the food and drink industry on the planet grows, there needs to be more scrutiny on brands to ensure their sustainability claims are authentic.

This brings us to the distilling industry. Spirit making is entrenched in tradition. The fervour for using 19 th century copper stills is still raging, while distillers continue to believe that using huge, heat-pumping copper stills attached to a web of copper pipes is somehow keeping our history alive, while turning a blind eye to the damage they are causing. The truth is we can’t offset our way out of this unsustainable and old-fashioned approach.

I founded Sloemotion Distillery in 2002, long before the issue of sustainability was trendy. Moving from a job where I was lobbying for the RSPB in Westminster & Brussels, to setting up a food processing business on a farm in North Yorkshire, this path unknowingly led me to pioneer environmental actions into what has become a bestselling and award-winning product. I quickly learned that traditional copper still distilleries are unbearably hot; and they are hot because copper stills conduct and lose massive amounts of heat. I don’t claim to be an expert in distilling. I’m an environmentalist who stumbled upon a business opportunity in the distillery industry. But I have been able to apply my environmental instincts; and when it came to distilling, I knew it had to be done right.

The ultra-modern iStill for example, which we now use, is made by a company based in the Netherlands since 2015. The founder and CEO, Odin van Eijk, launched the business with the ambition to drive the transition to a more modern distillery industry. iStill cleverly produce the same quality of liquid as a copper still, but by using significantly less energy. iStills use 25% of energy of a traditional system through insulation, direct heat sourcing and computer control. Adopting an iStill has helped us to maximise the efficiency, controllability and repeatability of our distilling process, therefore making the quality in fact, better. For small craft alcohol producers like ourselves, quality is essential; reproducibility is a precursor to making quality products. The iStill has also helped us to cut running costs by about 90% when compared to a traditional copper still.

Copper stills do look beautiful and no doubt add a string to an eye-catching marketing strategy. But this choice is morally reprehensible in today’s climate.

Our choice allows us to create the same quality of liquid with less energy used. This is a massive achievement for us. We also have to wear a lot of jumpers whilst we work. That’s fine. We’re happy to do it, because it means we don’t waste energy.

Of course, as a business owner, I recognise that there are financial implications involved. It can be difficult to adopt new technologies whilst still being invested in a current system. Copper stills are expensive and for those operating with them, it might feel impossible to change paths. But our industry cannot continue to accept this way of doing things. If we continue to live and breathe inside an echo chamber which tells us one way is the only way, then there is no hope for building a spirits industry which puts the planet first.”

The article …

https://harpers.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/30524/Soapbox:_Stop_romanticising_copper_stills.html

More about Sloemotion …

Joff Curtoys …

https://www.sloemotiondistillery.com/

We Just Made the iStill Mini Bigger … A Lot Bigger!

An essential question

The iStill Mini is a huge success. With its 10 liter boiler it is the perfect training and recipe development still. And with the additional 50 liter boiler, it can even be used for initial, small-size production runs.

Everybody loves distilling with the iStill Mini! The success and your feedback and requests have raised an essential question: why limit the iStill Mini to 10 and 50 liter boiler sizes? If everybody loves their iStill Mini, there are 400 in operation around the globe, why not follow up on requests for bigger sizes? When the iStill Mini offers all what’s essential in a still, to so many distillers, why not offer larger versions?

There you have it: we just made the iStill Mini bigger … a lot bigger! It did mean that we had to change the name, though …

What is in a name?

Well, we can’t call bigger iStills Mini a “mini”, now can we? Doesn’t make sense. So we opt for a new name: “Essential”. Why “essential”? Because that’s exactly what the iStill Mini offers in terms of functionality. It is loved because it offers exactly what you look for in a still. It is versatile, indestructible, and affordable. It is the design that essentially got you going, so let’s keep that momentum and push it forward into bigger, more production-oriented still sizes!

Size & Price!

What sizes the new Mini, sorry, the new “Essential”-series comes at? 100, 250, 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000 liters. Right. You start to get why “essential” is a better name here, don’t you? And the 10 and 50 liter versions will remain as well, of course. We’ll keep on calling ‘m “Mini’s”.

That’s size, but what about price? Here you go:

  • iStill 100 “Essential”: EUR 15.000;
  • iStill 250 “Essential”: EUR 25.000;
  • iStill 500 “Essential”: EUR 35.000;
  • iStill 1000 “Essential”: EUR 45.000;
  • iStill 2000 “Essential”: EUR 60.000;
  • iStill 5000 “Essential”: EUR 90.000.

Innovations

All new iStills “Essential”, including the small “mini” varieties, come equipped with an app where you can set cut points and be reminded of them. In the future, the app will also support saving and retrieving your recipes.

All new iStills “Essential”, including the small “minis”, come equipped with our newly developed POM-system. The POM-system allows the distiller to do single, double, triple, and vodka distillations.

Choose POM-1, and the iStill “Essential” will perform a single distillation. This is the option you want for gin and liqueur making, and for potstill runs.

Choose POM-2, and you’ll get a double distillation in one run. POM-2 is what you insert in the still if you want to make a big and bold flavored whisky or rum.

If you choose POM-3 the iStill “Essential” will perform three distillation cycles in one run. POM-3 is great for lighter style rums and whiskies, and for fruit brandy.

If you select to use POM-14, your iStill “Essential” will give you 14 distillation cycles in one run. Ideal for vodka and GNS production, and for heads and tails recovery.

The POM-system is a new innovation. It is “fire & forget”, or “set it up & let it run”. No need for interventions or continuous still management. Just select the right POM for your spirit, and you’ll get to the intended purity and ABV levels automatically. Distilling made easy? Betcha!

Availability

Lead times? Three months. We help with crating, transport, and transport insurance. Want to learn more? Want to order your essential still, your next big, maybe really big iStill Mini? Please reach out to Esther@iStillmail.com for an initial interview.

iStill 500 “Essential” prototype: versatile, indestructible, and affordable (35k) …

And it comes with a parrot …

http://www.iStill.com

Jamie Explains Why the iStill University Matters!

Hi Veronika,

Well, I finally made it back to Australia after a fantastic overseas trip, which obviously included the iStill University course. 

I want to thank you all, all of the team that took part in the teaching, the admin, and even the cooking!! I honestly felt that each iStill employee I came across went above and beyond to deliver with no short-cuts – to me there seemed a bar in standards that was set very high and you all as a team totally went over it. Even your help with the train strike and helping me get a flight to Italy, just great. A special shout out to Willem who really made sure i wasn’t just nodding my head but really had the grasp of what was being taught.

My limited skills as a distiller, starting on my own Journey, have been given a huge injection of confidence and I am really looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting stuck in, your course really had that effect on me and I look forward to growing my business with iStill in the future.

So also now I’m back you can send over the iStill mini package whenever it works for you and thanks for keeping it for me, I finally got permission to own a still 🙂

Warmest regards,

Jamie

Do you want to become a craft distiller? Please reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com and register your place at the iStill University! It’s the industry’s best educational program, rated at 9.8 out of 10 by the students …

https://istill.com/university