Odin’s Opinion (5): 163%!

Shifting realities

The Corona Virus and the Corona Crisis started on December 31st 2019. It first affected China and the Far East (as we see it), and then quickly migrated to Europe and North-America. Soon the rest of the world followed. Where the Virus can cause huge health issues on a personal level, the Crisis creates economic pressures, challenges, and even havoc across industries, on a global level.

As the world’s leading manufacturer of distillation equipment, with a global reach, a large workforce, and over 750 iStills producing spirits from Alaska to Australia, and from Chili to Japan, for sure we are impacted. Not by the Virus. I am happy to inform you that nobody at iStill fell ill. Knock on wood.

But the Crisis must have affected us economically, right? And, yes, it did. In the last 4 months we did 163%, relative to the first 4 months of 2019. Right, that’s a 63% increase.

What!?! A plus of 63%? Yes, that’s how much our turnover increased. And not as a result of pre-Corona orders, but simply via new orders: new deals signed in January, Februari, March and April. And May 2020 is looking to be a significant improvement over May 2019 as well, thanks for asking.

A tour along colleague distillery manufacturers teaches us that we are the outlier. Other still manufacturers are in panic-mode, because of dwindling demand and orders being cancelled on a scale never seen before. Indications? Rumors whisper of a 30% to 40% relapse …

My findings

So I took up the phone some more, and reached out to customers, especially the ones that ordered over the last few months, to investigate what makes them or us (or them and us) special. Here is the feedback I got, to help make sense of it all. Presented in four one-liners and provided with the interpretations and explanations the interviewees gave me.

“The crisis acts as a massive reset button”

“Odin, the crisis acts as a massive reset button!” one of our customers said. The crisis hits craft distilleries hard and puts many in an existential crisis. There will always be a market for spirits, but what does it take to survive, now and tomorrow? More efficient stills allow for profit margins, even in times of Corona. More versatile stills allow distillers to switch from laying down aged spirits to producing cash-rich white spirits. More automated stills allow distillers to lay-off staff while keeping production running and fostering a focus on sales.

“Traditional stills are not the solution, but part of the problem”

“If traditional stills are (or at least: have been) a benchmark for the last 15 years,” I asked “why not stick with that?” Many new iStill customers told me that they are not just looking for stills that are more efficient, versatile, and automated, but that the prices of many of the traditional still manufacturers from the UK, the USA, and Germany are just too high. Especially with the additional piping, tubing, and steam generation taken into account.

“In times of headwind, lower sales volumes, and lower margins, investing in expensive, inefficient equipment with a very big staffing requirement is not feasible.” And, preaching to the choir, bigger investments in higher cost solutions do not make sense in a contracting market, business-wise. Or, as one customer put it: “No need for an expensive traditional token still if the distillery is going bust because no-one can visit.”

“This crisis presents opportunities, not threats”

Most of the people I called and interviewed clearly stated that a crisis like the pandemic we are experiencing today is as much an opportunity as it is a threat. This seems to be reflected in the high number of iStill distilleries that switched from spirits to hand-sanitizer production. Seeing the world as a place of opportunities, and having the versatile equipment to take advantage of ‘m, clearly pays off.

“Quality is king”

“If money is tight, then why not go for the cheapest still you can find?” The answer I got to that question can be summarized as “quality is king”. First, people find, in the production of high-quality spirit, and its inherent higher value, a survival strategy. Less is more if less demand translates to higher quality product and higher margins per liter sold.

Secondly, investing money in a highly reputed company like iStill (thanks for those kudos!), with its professional helpdesk, online support, and proven track-record in build-quality and longevity makes more sense, it seems. One interviewee put it like this: “With so much at stake right now, we can’t afford to add surprise distillery down-time to the already toxic mix of challenges.”

Making sense of it all

Listening to our customers, it all started to make sense to me. Under great-enough pressure, everything liquifies, moves, and shifts. A craft distilling industry, that has been (self) strangled by tradition for a decade and a half now, may – in a way – have needed this crisis as a wake-up call and a charge to newer, greener pastures.

The crisis also brings up that essential/existential question: “Who am I?” Is a facade distillery with a fake still and bought-in, contract-distilled whiskey from Indiana worth going broke for? Fuck no! Is my family business, where we truly and proudly produce our own spirits, blood, sweat, and tears, worth fighting for? Hell yeah!

Just looking at our amazing growth, it becomes clear that the current pandemic has sorta created the perfect storm for us. The perfect opportunity for iStill to shine, because of the reset button being pushed, because of fluidity replacing the rigid structure of traditionalism, and because our customers – more than anyone else – actually make their own spirits.

What we are witnessing here, is a paradigm shift. An industry transformation long in the waiting, that is now accelerated by the current crisis. All signs point in one direction: a shift away from tradition and – instead – a move towards innovation. And it is in innovation, instead of tradition, that craft distilling finally finds its future footing.

 Welcome to that future …

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Odin’s Opinion (4): Medal Fatigue!

Introduction

I love to watch the Olympics. You look at a sport you like and you see the best athletes in the world compete. The best one wins gold, the runner-up wins silver, and the athlete in third place gets a bronze medal.

I hate what goes on with medal competitions in the craft distilling industry. Even though clear cut categories and rules should be easy to define, it has turned into a self-serving shit-show. The few good competitions of old (IWSC and San Fransisco to name but two) are devalued by a pandemic of Medal Fatigue.

Too much, too little

First, there are way too many medal competitions. It’s worse than watching a boxing world-title match, because there’s even more associations, institutions, and organizations than the ones “catering” to the needs of the Noble Art of Self-Defense. And craft distilling doesn’t even have an “undisputed” category, where a boxer (or drink) can become the best of all competitions in a certain weight (or drinks) category.

Secondly, there are way too many medals. Instead of handing out one gold, one silver, and one bronze medal per category, medal competitions now offer multiple gold, more silver, and many, many bronze medals. Heck, most competitions now offer double gold, diamond, and platinum medals as well.

Thirdly, there are way too many categories. Gin, whiskey, brandy, rum, vodka … yeah, that makes sense. Irish whiskey, single malt whisky, bourbon … that makes sense as well. But aged, contemporary, column distilled, London Dry Style gin as a separate category? Really?

All of the above is the result of my fourth pain point: most medal competitions have become businesses. The goal is not to help create better craft distilled spirits, but to make money. Medal competitions only make money when people participate. People only participate when they can win a medal. Ergo: the more medals a competition invents and hands out, the more participants it will attract, and the more money it will make.

This leads to the fifth point, and why I (and I feel our whole industry) have a severe case of Medal Fatigue. The ever growing number of competitions, handing out ever growing numbers of medals, to attract ever growing numbers of participants has lead to strong devaluation. Wanna know the value of winning medals, nowadays? At many of the medal competitions: zero. Often it doesn’t mean shit, other than that you paid. In fact, I feel that I can make a strong case for the value of these medal competitions being negative instead of zero. At least on an industry level.

The reason why I feel that, on an industry level, most medal competitions have become a negative is because they cost money and don’t add value (unless your customers are interested in purchasing make-belief). But there is more: the industry has become self-serving. I’ll give a few examples and then move on to see if there are solutions or general directions, that we as distillers can take to achieve improvement over the current situation.

Examples of wrong

As a first example, imagine an organization that depends on regional craft distilling chapters organizing a trade-show. This is how they compensate the local craft distillers for their time and energy: the members of the organizing regional chapter win most of the medals. How’s that for home-advantage?

As another example, imagine an organization that needs big, new, major sponsors, to make ends meet. Guess what they offer as an informal part to their media kits? Major sponsors get to pick the winners …*

A third example is on two medal competitions competing over international status. The more international you are, as a medal competition, the better, right? So guess what happens if you come from an exotic or at least not yet participating country? Expect favorable treatment …

More examples of wrong? How about this: do you know what objective taste model a medal competition uses to judge your spirits? Here is the answer: most do not use one.

Do you think a judge (or group of judges) can rate any drink correctly without an objective taste model? Again, the answer is negative. What this means? It means they taste from personal preference at best. And guess what gets destroyed after tasting 6 or 7 drinks? Exactly, a judge’s (and anyone’s) pallet. Please know that some judging sessions include over 150 drinks … Start to see the problem here?

A final issue is feedback. Or better phrased: lack thereof. If I come in second best at the marathon, I know to whom I lost, by how much I lost, and probably – together with my trainer – why I lost. If there is one goal in medal competitions, it is that they give feedback for the individual producer to learn from, so that he or she can have another shot at gold next year, with improved chances to success.

How amazing our industry would look like, if we would have well-trained judges, using an objective model, to help us improve our spirits on a continuous basis! Do you think there is any medal competition out there that gives you feedback? Let alone actionable feedback? Again, the answer is almost exclusively “no”.

Much needed improvements

For medal competitions to improve to the point of adding value, instead of discrediting craft distilling’s long-term reputation, here’s what I feel needs to happen immediately:

  1. Establish a simple and clear-cut categorization. May I suggest just brandy, gin,  liqueur, rum, tequila, vodka, and whisky? Less is more.
  2. Every category only has one gold, one silver, and one bronze medal winner.
  3. Every medal competition uses an objective taste model, and:
  4. Gives its participants feedback on scoring and on suggested improvements, so the ones not winning today can return as better distillers tomorrow.

Here is what I feel craft distillers can do to help cure the industry from Medal Fatigue:

  1. Insist that the above four simple rules are followed by any medal competition the craft distiller participates at.
  2. Refrain from participating, when the above rules are not met (to stop future spread of Medal Fatigue).

Here’s what iStill can do to help fight Medal Fatigue:

  1. Start the discussion.
  2. Invite competitions and judges to use our Holy Trinity of Distillation model to objectively score drinks and give actionable feedback to participating distillers.
  3. Open up the iStill University Program to spirit judge participation for proper training in our objective taste model.
  4. Certify those medal competitions that comply with the aforementioned four simple rules.

When everybody wins, we all loose …

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*) Nota Bene!

We are proud to see iStill customers over-represented at winning the medals at those competitions that matter. It reflects the hard work, the dedication to recipe development and in-house quality spirits production, that we know they value above all else. We are happy to inform you that we do not (can not and will not) sponsor well-reputed medal competitions like for example (but not limited to) IWSC and San Fransisco.

Out of respect for the hard work and major investments that our customers have put into their distilleries (no minor part being spent on iStill equipment), we have always, directly and immediately, walked away from sponsoring competitions and trade-shows that “proposed” we help pick the winners. This is and will always be our north star. Even where it means that we have to turn down major, industry-wide marketing and trade-show opportunities, now and in the future.

Sincerely yours,

Drs. H.E.J. (Odin) van Eijk, MScBA, etc.,

CEO of iStill.

New Standard Feature: Education!

With the iStill University Program going online, we can fulfill a long-time dream and goal. Which one? The one of us providing education for everyone that purchases an iStill!

So far, some 80% of new customers followed the iStill University Course. Flying over, spending a week in the Netherlands just wasn’t a feasible solution for each and everyone of you. But now that we have the iStill University available online, why don’t we have all of our customers participate? No need to spend money on flying over. No more need to be away from your family and job for a prolonged period of time, so what’s holding you back?

From our end, we are integrating equipment and education. What this means? When you order your iStill it now comes with the iStill University Course included!

If you want to learn all about distilling, create your own gin, design your whiskey, or develop an amazing liqueur, this is where you need to go to:

https://istill.web.app/university

Upon purchasing an iStill, the iStill University Course will be included. If you want to follow the educational program first and order later, we’ll discount the course costs from your equipment purchase.

Standard feature: education …

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Odin’s Opinion (3): Craft Distilling Definition!

We all self-indulge from time to time, and so should we. As entrepreneurs, as business owners, as creators of fun spirits, as risk-takers and care-givers, we deserve a pat on the shoulder. And if there isn’t anyone around to do us that courtesy, well, we’ll pat our own shoulders. Nothing wrong with that. Not at all. But now that it reaches industry levels, it starts to annoy me.

What am I talking about? About craft distillers down-talking Big Alcohol and singing their own praise. “We are better because we are craft!” Oh, really? Are you really better? And if you are, at what? Probably not at marketing, right? And shall we start with a definition of “craft”, please?

Some say “craft” is small. Most representative and governing bodies agree. You are craft if you stay below certain production volumes. In my definition, that’s “small”, and not by definition “craft”. But if you feel there are inherent benefits to being small, well, I guess you might have a different opinion than I do. Okay, I can live with that. I can live with that, as long as you don’t grow! As long as you stay small! Because if “craft” equals “small”, then smaller is better, and growing your business is not an option.

Weird? Yeah, it is a weird position to take, because it is a completely wrong definition to start with. We should all enter the industry with the goal to grow our business, through great product and even better marketing. If your goal isn’t to grow your business, why the heck would you invest time and money? If you want to spend time and money on something you enjoy doing, then that “something” is called a hobby. Hobby distilling, not craft distilling.

So we already established that size matters and that craft does not equal hobby, so what is it? Before we dive into what it is, shall we elaborate a bit on what I strongly feel it is not?

“Hand-made! That’s what craft distilled is! Hand-made spirits!” Really? I don’t think so. What does “hand-made” mean at all? Yeast created alcohol. Your still concentrated it into spirits. Your pallet, hopefully not your hands, decided on cuts and smearing and flavor. Or did you use your hands to manually pump liquids from one container to another one? Nope, “hands-made” is pretty much meaningless, here.

“Traditionally! Craft distilled stands for spirits that are distilled traditionally!” Hm – again – really? Fruit brandy has been “traditionally” distilled on plated column stills since the 1870’s. Because fruit brandy, before the invention of plates, was pot distilled for many centuries, should we all go back to that technology? And while we are at it, why copper? The first stills were made from clay, so may I suggest clay as a prerequisite? You want to be a craft distiller? Okay, but you need to use a clay potstill over a wood fire! If not, well, then you are mainly using the term “traditional” as an opportunist argument to probably allow your decisions “in” and others “out”. If only the world would work like that, wouldn’t we all be the kings of our own big and splendid, yet under-populated castles?

Here is an easy one, that I think we can all agree on: if you mix and blend outsourced spirits, you are not a craft distiller. I am not judging here. Maybe you are a master blender or craft blender, but a blender it is. Blending is not distilling.

Why talking about blending is important? Because of two reasons. First, if we take North America as an example, around 80% of the craft distillers buy in whiskey, maybe blend it, maybe barrel it, but certainly label, bottle, and sell it and call it “craft distilled”. So I am told.

Secondly, craft distillers selling blended spirits … does that mean you are still a craft distiller? Or did you now loose that title altogether? The reason I ask these questions is that I believe this is where we can find the beginning of an answer: is the distiller “craft” or is his spirit “craft”? Let me explain why that might be an important consideration via an example, that I am sure heats the argument up quite nicely.

I am convinced Jim Beam was a craft distiller. I present this as a fact, not as my opinion. What’s a fact as well, is that Jim Beam Whiskey is not craft distilled anymore.

When Jim whipped up his first batch of whiskey, it was his idea, his recipe, his creation. Heck, since he didn’t exactly consider that “craft” should stand in the way of “growth”, he made a huge success out of it. So he wasn’t just good at distilling, he was very good at marketing. As craft distilling should be about “craft” and craft stands for profession, metier, trade, it is as much about making a drink successfully as it is about making the drink a success. In short? He ticked all the boxes and deserves to be called a craft distiller. Given his success, master craft distiller.

Jim Beam Whiskey is no longer craft distilled, because the recipe and production procedures have changed. From 45% to 40% and from potstill to continuous still, to name but two. Those changes came about by a company changing its policy, not by a craft distiller, let alone the original craft distiller, changing procedures. In other words: even if Jim Beam as a corporation hired another craft distiller, say Johnny Cooper, and even if they gave him carte-blanche, it would never have remained craft distilled Jim Beam Whiskey. They could have renamed it Johnny Cooper’s, though.

A craft distiller is a distiller that crafts his spirits successfully. It is that simple. He (or she) created the (idea for a) recipe, produced the spirit, and sold it successfully. Creation, production, and sales form the triple foundation of craft. Successful creation, production, and sales, that is!

A blacksmith or a carpenter of old would be considered craft, because they created, produced and sold an iron fence or a beautiful wooden cupboard. Without sales it wouldn’t be a profession but a hobby. Without creation, it would be reproduction. Without in-house production, it would simply be outsourcing.

There you have it: the only definition for “craft” we should apply to ourselves. We are craft distillers as long as we create recipes for drinks, produce these drinks successfully, and then sell them so we can create and produce some more.

A craft distilled spirit is created, produced, and marketed by a craft distiller at his distillery. A person at his location, not a corporation at any location.

A craft distillery is the workplace of the craft distiller. It is the location where he or she creates recipes, produces spirits, and sells bottles from.

Craft step 1: Recipe creation …

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Craft step 2: In-house production …

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Craft step 3: Successful marketing & sales …

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iStill University Expands its Reach!

Introduction

The iStill University is the distilling industry’s leading educational facility. In he last 5 years over 1000 students have been trained. Participants score the iStill University courses with an amazing 9.7 out of 10!

In order to make the iStil University even more impactful, we have decided to use online as the medium to make participation easier. We aim to reach more people, to make the course easier to access, to have more students participate.

Online

Online provides an amazing medium for communication. You can learn in your own time and at your own speed. And you can do so at your own location, saving money on travel and stay-over expenses.

Online also provides challenges. It’s a medium well-suited for sending and receiving information, so great for explaining theoretical concepts. But how about practicing distilling and student-teacher-interaction? Let’s dive in deeper …

Theory, practice, and interaction

The iStill University teaches about distilling on three levels:

  1. Theory;
  2. Practice;
  3. Q&A.

Our amazing theories of mashing, fermentation, distillation, and maturation are taught via video’s. Since “online” allows you to learn in your own time, at your own speed, the time-constraint that the physical courses, at iStil HQ, had are no more. This means we can add more content!

The second level of teaching is practical. If you purchase the iStill Mini with the course, we’ll do online distillation runs together. We’ll train you – at your location, on your iStill Mini – how to make brandy, gin, vodka, rum, and whiskey!

The third level of teaching is in the students and teacher interacting. This final level of training is secured via topic-specific Q&A sessions, where we answer your questions and dive in deeper, and make the whole learning experience an interactive one!

Package deal

The iStill University Certified Training costs EUR 1.895,-. If you want to be able to practice your skills and develop your recipes, you can add the iStill Mini to your order. Combined, including trolley-bag and transport for the iStill Mini, the cost is EUR 5.000,- instead of EUR 1.895,- plus EUR 3.500,- is EUR 5.495,-. A EUR 495,- discount package deal …

Are you running an existing distillery? Do you have product on the shelf? Are you interested in the course theories, and in learning how the iStills work, but not in learning how to distill or develop your recipes? In that case, order the training, but maybe not the iStill Mini, and use your EUR 1.895,- investment as a discount for future production still purchases.

Roll-out

The iStill University is online as of today. Please check it out at:

https://istill.web.app/videos

The first 5 videos have been released. Consecutive videos will be released at a rate of two per week.

Availability

We have stocked over 40 iStills Mini. So if you want to combine theory with practice, please know that you can order the iStill Mini with your course. We ship the next day, so the iStill Mini can be at your location well within a week.

Certification

At the end of the theoretical part of the iStill University course, there is an exam. If you pass the exam, you get a diploma as “Certified Distiller”.

If you pass the theory exam, you can step things up and make drinks and ship them to us. We’ll test the drinks, and if they are consistent with our taste model, that is thoroughly explained during the training, you can earn a diploma as “Certified Master Distiller”.

Ordering process

You can order the course online. Just visit: https://istill.web.app/videos. The first step? Register your account. The second step? You purchase the course (with or without iStill Mini). Thirdly? You’ll get a link with payment info. After payment is done, you’ll get full access to the iStill University, and we’ll ship your iStill Mini, if that was part of your order.

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Odin Offers His Opinion, Loud and Clear (2)!

How stupid can you get!?!

Question to myself. Almost a rhetorical one. And the answer is … pretty stupid sometimes. What I am talking about? The way in which we position iStill, in what markets we are successful, and where we lag behind and what causes that.

With a global market share of somewhat above 18%, we are the world’s leading manufacturer of distillation equipment. Great! Job well done, right? Wrong!

Analysis of our market shares and penetration rates differ per country. Makes sense. No problem. Some countries are ahead of the curve. And some have – given our effort – adopted the disrupting new technology iStill offers faster than others.

So what’s wrong, or better: what’s skewed? Not what countries we are successful in, but what market segments. We do amazingly well among early adopters. In fact, a case can be made that we OWN that market segment. But what about the other market segments, how do we perform there? If we distinguish between early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggers, it is fair to say that it’s the first two groups that love what we do. Late majority and laggers? Not so much …

On a superficial level, that makes perfect sense. It’s the “early’s” that adopt new technology, well, earlier. And it is the “lates & laggers” that, eh, lag behind in the adoption of new technology? Yeah, makes sense, but let’s dive in deeper.

What are the stills of choice for the early and late majorities? As a general rule they choose plated stills. The smaller and medium craft distillers that belong to the early and late majority segments focus on batch plated stills, the bigger boys and girls use continuous plated stills.

The still of choice for the so-called “laggers”, people that frown upon innovations, that are distrustful towards new technology? Well, the potstill of course. And what do you think they see, when they get referred to our current website? “That doesn’t look like a potstill to me! You can TELL me it’s the best freakin’ potstill in the world, and that it does loads of other things for me, but I don’t care, since it doesn’t look like a potstill at all!” The fear of something new clouds a rational assessment of the actual benefits.

What is the still of choice for early adopters? What the market calls “hybrid stills”. Stills that can perform multiple jobs, like make gin and whiskey, or rum and vodka. What’s the current line-up of iStills in a nutshell, looking at it from the outside in, instead of inside-out? The mother (or better: smart and sexy daughter) of all hybrid stills.

Does it start to make sense why we are so successful with early adopters and why we appeal to the earliest part of the early majority? It does, doesn’t it? And why we are less successful with the late majority? You know the answer and now so do I. How stupid I can get? Pretty darn stupid, expecting to sell hybrid stills to plate polishers and pot heads (pun intended)!

I confidently state that iStill makes the best stills in the world. In terms of ease of use, control, spirit quality, build quality, bang for your buck, efficiency, versatility, non-toxicity, repeatability, and more, there is nothing that even comes close. But we have been a bunch of (unintentionally) arrogant bastards, basically telling a big portion of the industry that they better listen to us, where we should have done a better job at listening to them.

So, let’s take care of some business. Do you want a hybrid still? We have one for you. All sizes, from 100 to 5000 liter. The best in the world? You better believe it is.

Now, let’s envision another kind of customer, one that learned the trade on a potstill and then upgraded to a plated still. Took him a few years to master it, but now that these growing pains have subsided, he is all okay with it. He wants a new still. Business is booming. He does not want a hybrid still. No more growing pains, please! He doesn’t want a potstill either. Been there, done that. He knows exactly what he wants: another plated still.

Does iStill need to be more catholic than the Pope? More right than your ex? I don’t think so. What we need to do, is give the customer what he wants. A plated still? Fine, yeah, we have one. Not just any plated still, but (and that is a prerequisite) the best plated still in the world. Imagine that: a plated column combined with the super-efficient iStill boiler, and our amazing management and control systems.

Can you picture it? A plated column-still managed via our robot and cuts selector? Air pressure controlled. Reflux Capacitor for a 25% column performance boost. ABV-Control? Sure. Automated programs for Bourbon and brandy and rum? You’ve got it. Cooling Management? It makes so much more sense to choose our far-superior Liquid Management technology to manage plated stills, because now you can turn plates on or off via the robot instead of having to do so manually!

We needed to pull our heads out of our asses. And analyzing our successes in some segments, and failures to penetrate others deep enough, helped us do just that. You select the sort of still you want, we’ll deliver you the ultimate version of that still. Are you into a hybrid still? Please check out our current models! Are you shopping for a new plated still that helps boost production while lowering your energy bill? Boy, have we got the plated iStill for you! Are you into continuous distilling? If “continuous still” is the answer to your questions, rest assured that “Continuous iStill” is the best proposition, the best response the industry has to offer.

“iStill Pedantic” is no more (well, as long as you don’t count these posts of mine). Instead of us building a hybrid still and convincing everybody that this is the solution to all distilling problems, we trust you to decide what you want and need. Our role? Delivering according to your wishes and adding some much needed iStill Magic to the current, existing, more traditional still-segments.

Early and late majority iStill customers? Welcome to the show! You’ll love the amazing plated iStills we’ll introduce shortly. Dear laggers, glad you finally found us. Please know we are planning an iStill potstill, that will make you lick your fingers. iStill competitors? Enjoy your late majority and lagging customer base while it lasts, since THE LONG, DARK STONE-AGE OF DISTILLING HAS FINALLY LIFTED!

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Odin Offers His Opinion, Loud and Clear (1)!

Shout-out!

Fuck it! I have been behaving myself for far too long! I almost had myself convinced. “Odin, you are the CEO of the world’s leading still and distillery manufacturer now. You need to set the example by following the rules!” If it wasn’t me convincing myself, for sure lots of folks around me thought it a great idea to see me grow up, stop innovating, and behave myself like the responsible figurehead I should be.

Yeah right! Did we come this far by following conventions or by breaking them? If we would have played it by “the rules”, iStill would have never changed the craft distilling industry. People would still have to pay 200K for a still designed by their great-great-grandfather’s contemporaries, that thought a flail the pinnacle of technology. My responsibility lays in changing that, not in following the rules!

Without us taking the lead and breaking the established and outdated conventions, craft distiller education would still be based on anecdotical fiction instead of science fact. Distillers would still be indoctrinated in believing that their profession is all about “the romance” instead of understanding it is actually about running a business (do you hear Big Alcohol roaring with laughter?). We’d all still be manually laboring our asses off behind our no-good stills, struggling to make quality product repeatedly. And we’d probably still poison our customer base with copper and ethyl carbamate, without us even knowing about it.

Craft distilling resided in the stone age and we haven’t guided it into modern times by keeping our mouths shut or by playing it safe. On the contrary! I am proud to have changed the industry fundamentally by speaking out, by trampling ignorance, and by hurdling traditions out of the window, if those traditions proved to be nothing more than mere window dressing.

This is me shouting out: “No more mr. Nice Guy! All work and no play makes Odin a very dull boy, indeed!” I have unlocked my golden cage and I am calling things the way they are once more. Calling? Shouting, screaming, and yelling! This is me taking back the one and only professional responsibility that ever mattered.

Distilling needs to be fun and easy. Craft distilling deserves lower investment and production costs, and the technology to turn a romance into a viable business. The industry does not need misinformation, so ubiquitous and often self-servingly provided by people that want to take advantage of your insecurities. You deserve to be treated fairly. Abuses will not be tolerated. That’s my goal here. That’s why I opened that freakin’ golden cache. As I looked outside from the inside, it struck me that not enough has changed. Well, strap on your seat-belts folks, because THAT IS ABOUT TO CHANGE!

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Aspects of Distillation (3): Insulation!

Introduction

“Aspects of Distillation” is a new series the iStill Blog hosts. It aims to cover as many aspects as possible. Aspects of – you guessed it! – the distillation process. Think alcohol formation, flavors, mashing, distillery design … and more. In fact, if you have a suggestion, please email us the aspect you want us to dive into. Via Odin@iStillmail.com. Today’s topic? The influence and importance of insulation on distillation.

Insulation

There are three things I want you to consider, when investigating the importance of insulation of your still (or absence of it) for the distillation process:

  1. In general: saves energy, which lowers run times and operating costs;
  2. Top of boiler insulation: minimizes inner-boiler reflux, which improves production rates;
  3. Column insulation: maintains vapor speeds, which lead to consistent flavor composition.

An insulated still radiates out less heat. As a result more of the energy input is used for the actual distillation process. Depending on distilling hall temperatures, these gains can easily result in 25% lower energy bills and 25% faster runs.

When the top of your boiler isn’t insulated, it acts as a heat-exchanger, that returns gasses to liquid state. The drops that form fall back into the boiler and decrease your distillation system’s overall efficiency. By insulating the top of the boiler, gains of up to 2 or 3 liter in spirits produced per hour can easily be achieved.

Finally, an uninsulated column or riser experiences variability in vapor speeds. Like the top of the uninsulated boiler, an uninsulated column acts like a heat-exchanger, returning gasses back to liquid state and thus lowering the total amount of gasses (and associated speeds) in the column. Variability in vapor speeds translates into inconsistent flavor composition of your drinks.

So guess what? Insulation is important for efficiencies, savings in time and money, and for flavor consistency. In short: you want your still insulated.

Feature

iStills have insulated boilers as well as insulated columns. It is a standard feature on all iStills.

Benefits

The benefits of the iStill insulation is that you save time on your run and money on your electricity bill. Unwanted inner-boiler reflux is minimized, which results in – again -faster production rates. The insulated column maintains stable vapor speeds, translating to a consistent flavor profile.

Insulation in black …

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http://www.iStill.com

Aspects of Distillation (2): Power Management!

Introduction

“Aspects of Distillation” is a new series the iStill Blog hosts. It aims to cover as many aspects as possible. Aspects of – you guessed it! – the distillation process. Think alcohol formation, flavors, mashing, distillery design … and more. In fact, if you have a suggestion, please email us the aspect you want us to dive into. Via Odin@iStillmail.com. Today’s topic? The importance of power management.

Power Management

The possibility to manage the power setting on your still is important, because it allows you to distill faster or slower. There are four more things I want you to consider, when investigating the role power management plays in the distillation process of taste-rich spirits like whiskey, rum, brandy, and gin:

  1. Higher power settings translate into more heads and tails being pushed into your hearts faction;
  2. Lower power settings translate into less heads and tails being pushed into your hearts faction;
  3. Power settings influence the flavor composition of the drinks you produce;
  4. And also have an influence on the size of the hearts cut: your yield.

Higher power settings result in more smearing, longer aging periods, and a lower total yield of new make spirit. Lower power settings result in less smearing, faster aging, and a higher total yield of new make spirit, at the low cost of the distillation run taking a bit longer. Since power settings have a huge impact on both yield and flavor composition, it is an important tool that any distiller should have on his or her still.

Feature

All iStills come standard with power management.

Benefits

All iStill customers have perfect control over their still’s power setting. They can manage the power setting to 1% accuracy for total control over flavor composition and yield.

iStill’s Power Management …

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http://www.iStill.com

iStill Online is Live!

Introduction

We are very proud to inform you that iStill Online just went live! What it is? An online community from and for iStill customers and aficionados. For people that are interested in craft and advanced distilling! Go check it out via http://www.iStill.com/online !!!

Lay-out and Levels

What iStill Online offers? Basically there are five major topics:

  1. Articles;
  2. Videos (iStill University online!);
  3. My Distillery;
  4. Calculators;
  5. Support.

There are three levels at which you can participate:

  1. Customers;
  2. iStill University students;
  3. Distillers in general.

Articles

A selection of articles is available to all. We want to share our experience and knowledge with as many people as possible. The articles are therefore open and available for anyone that wants to research distillation, advanced distilling, craft distillation, or iStill.

Videos (iStill University online!)

The whole iStill University Training is video-taped. People interested in the iStill University’s curriculum, distillers that want to learn more about the craft and science behind their (future) job can subscribe and order and study online. Purchasing the online iStill University Training is possible from next week onwards.

The online iStill University consists of 25 series of videos, ranging from making whiskey, gin and vodka, to still design, and the business side of affairs. Two videos are shared for free, so that potential students can get a good feel for the level of detail and practical applications the iStill University Training offers, before investing in their further education.

“Yeast Management” is the first video that’s free for all to see and enjoy. “Understanding Barrels” is the second one. Have fun watching them! We feel they contain information any distiller should have access to.

My Distillery

This is where you design your own distillery. In such a way that iStill Online remembers you and your design, so that you can easily come back and improve your plans as time progresses. The design center is already fully operational. The memory function will be added next week. My Distillery is available for free and for everyone.

Calculators

Calculators are available for customers and people that followed the iStill University Training. In the past or now, via online. The calculators help you hone your business and distilling processes. We are currently building calculators that help you gain insight in yield, operating costs, brewing vs. distilling capacity, ABV/proof, SO2, and more.

Support

This part of iStill Online is specific for our customers. What you can find under Support? Well, your manuals, for instance. On iStill assembly, testing, calibration, and cleaning. There will be a Q&A, that helps answer your questions. If you have an issue, Support is the section where you can find the online Issue Management Protocol. Customers will be informed about registering for support in the next few days.

iStill Online …

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http://www.iStill.com/online