If not our Technology, then at least our Design!

We are in Italy for the Distillo Expo. An initiative from our CEO Odin, executed to perfection by Claudio and Davide and their team! As we are meeting up with hundreds of existing and future Italian craft distillers, we had an hour (before opening) to check out if the “competition” had anything new to offer.

Outcome of our informal research? Nothing. Still the same old 1870’s technology. But wait, there is one exception. Or at least one change! One of the Italian offers decided to change their color scheme. From stainless steel to … stainless steel painted black. Not exactly iStill, but – at least visually – a step towards the future?

It does remind us of the “downfall” of the wooden shoe in Holland. Everybody walked on white wooden shoes And then leather shoes started to take over. The manufacturers of wooden shoes saw their days were numbered. What they did? They changed the design of the wooden shoe to resemble a leather shoe with straps. A sign on the wall? Check it out for yourselves!

http://www.iStill.com

Making Whiskey: from Good to Better!

Whiskey making: the procedure

If we exclude grain handling and aging, traditionally, whiskey is made in three steps:

  1. Mashing (converting starches into fermentable sugars by using enzymes);
  2. Fermenting (converting the fermentable sugars into alcohol with yeast);
  3. Distilling (concentrating the alcohol and harvesting the right flavors).

In order to create the best possible whiskey, both in terms of yield and taste, all steps need to be optimized. The end product is the sum of how the various parts are performed.

If mashing is sub-optimal, the major loss you face, as a craft distiller, is yield. You will create less alcohol. A failing fermentation will, above all, have impact on flavor creation. That’s because over 80% (as a rule of thumb) of taste molecules are made during fermentation. Bad distilling procedures can affect both yield and flavor composition of your new make spirit.

Whiskey making: historically

Historically, whiskey was made in small batches. Small mashes are easy to handle. Small ferments do not generate a lot of heat. Small, copper stills were the norm, because copper was available, affordable, and bendable.

In the 1870’s the industrial revolution found its way into the distilling industry. A lot of the whiskey production became bigger and more centralized. A declining number of remaining distilleries that, each on their own, saw a steep increase in production output.

Small batch traditionally allows for good control and therefore good whiskey …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 08.59.24

Batch size growth associated problems

As distilleries grew bigger, mashing basically scaled up from small batch to big batch, and yield didn’t suffer. Fermentation scaled up from small batch to big batch as well, and this did created a major problem.

Fermentation creates heat, and the bigger ferments created more heat. The warmer fermentations stressed out the yeast and produced multiple unwanted flavor compounds in the base beer, of which sulfur was (and is) the most important.

In short? As distilleries got bigger, mashing didn’t get compromised, but fermentation did. Yield didn’t suffer, but flavors did. Interestingly enough, it took a few more decades for distillers to realize they actually had a problem.

Bigger, uncontrolled ferments generate bad flavors that copper catalyses …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 09.00.19

Houston, we have a problem!

In the 1960’s new metallurgic innovations found their way into the distilling industry. As growing distilleries needed bigger stills, traditional copper stills were replaced with more modern stainless steel set-ups. And guess what? All of a sudden the whiskey they produced had bad, sulfur associated flavors in them!

What had happened, was the following: copper reacts with sulfer. The traditional copper stills had managed to polish-up the bigger, overheated, sulfur-rich whiskey beer! Copper, it turned out, was a really good medicine for a bad ferment.

With SS stills, sulfurs no longer got catalyzed, and bad ferments got exposed …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 09.00.29

The traditional solution

The switch from copper to stainless steel stills brought to light a major problem: bigger ferments created off-flavors. The solution the industry rallied toward, was to switch back to copper stills. The copper catalyzed the sulfuric compounds to below the taste threshold, and the problem was solved. Or wasn’t it?

Bigger ferments, left unchallenged, grow too hot, stressing the yeast into making multiple unwanted flavors. Sulfur is the most significant of those and copper does a good job at cleaning up these sulfuric flavors, and at hiding the poorly managed ferments.

So the distilling industry switched back to copper stills …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 09.00.38

Compromised solution

Using copper stills, to counter bad ferments, is a treatment of effects, not a root cause solution. By allowing for non-optimized whiskey production via copper stills, the following set of new problems occurs:

  1. Uncontrolled, overheating fermentations create more bad flavors than just sulfur;
  2. The copper clean-up during distillation does not polish-up all of those;
  3. Copper stills oxidize, creating copper contaminated whiskey;
  4. Copper stills need extensive cleaning, making for longer working days;
  5. Due to oxidation and cleaning, copper stills need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years.

Even though copper stills are a medicine for bad ferments, they are not the ultimate solution. Bad ferments create bad flavors, and copper does not counter all of them. More so, copper is a heavy metal that is toxic to humans. Due to the reactive qualities of copper, the distillation equipment needs extensive cleaning. This cleaning, as well as the general levels of oxidation, severely hamper a copper still’s longevity.

The iStill solution: a revolution!

That’s why we started proposing a different approach. Here it is. Let’s call it the iStill solution:

  1. Mash in a controlled environment, to achieve maximum yield;
  2. Ferment in a controlled way, to achieve maximum flavor;
  3. Distill in a controlled way, to achieve maximum yield and flavor.

Our iStills are designed to mash with 0.1 degree temperature tolerance. This gives the distiller the opportunity to maximize yield, which helps optimize production quantities.

During fermentation, our technology brings temperature, pH, and SG under control. This ensures that the distiller maximizes the desired flavor development, while mitigating the production of off-flavors.

Finally, the iStills have perfect control over the distillation process. This helps the distiller in optimizing both flavor profile and yield in the most efficient and repeatable way.

iStill gives you the control to make better whiskies …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 09.00.46

Design choices

Because we optimize fermentation, the creation of undesired, bad flavors is minimized. As a result, we do not have to build our stills out of copper. This way, we can deliver a still that is easy to clean, does not cause copper particle contamination in your spirits, and has tremendous longevity.

But if you decide you are going to do your fermentation quick & dirty anyhow, well, please know we have copper waffles that you can insert at the bottom of the column. It takes less than a minute to put them in place. It takes less than 10 seconds to take them out, when the run is done. They have the same surface area as a complete copper column, without the hassle.

iStill copper waffles: well-used …

IMG_2745

http://www.iStill.com

iStill 1000 Hybrid!

The iStill 1000 Hybrid is a fully automated 1000 liter / 260 gallon net capacity distillery. The iStill 1000 Hybrid can make every type of spirit: brandy, gin, rum, vodka, whisky, or liqueur. The unit as equipped underneath, with indirect heaters, Jet Propulsions Agitator System (J-PAS), and boiler radiator, can also mash and ferment.

Mashing, fermenting, and distilling any product in one machine. Making craft distilling easier? Betcha! That’s what iStill is all about.

This specific unit will be on display and in use during the iStill University Courses in April and June. After those events, it can be yours. A complete, 1000 liter / 260 gallon net capacity distillery for EUR 72.500,-.

http://www.iStill.com

English Whisky back to the Middle-Ages?

A few early movers on the English whisky market are making a defensive movement, that stifles innovation. What they seek? A GI for English whisky. What that means? That English whisky will be a protected name. A distillery can only use it when they adhere to the rules stipulated by the so-called English Whisky Guild.

The proposed rules are sold as “innovative”, but are none of that. They are traditional, anti-innovation, and defensive in character. English whisky, the proposed GI states, must be made from English grain. Ok, whatever. But it must also be made via double distillation on copper stills. Last still can have plates, but straight potstills is what’s aimed for. Any type of wood can be used for aging, as long as it is stated on the bottle.

That’s not innovation, that’s back to the middle-ages! And it is totally self-serving by those that already entered the market place. Self-serving as in that it sets up a high entry barrier to others. It hands the playing field to those already there. And to the few that have deep enough pockets, and/or a lack of pride to not go for the best spirits possible, but to make variable quality whisky on old, outdated, toxic, and very expensive technology, instead.

I strongly oppose these kinds of market monopolization movements. Especially since in England there is no tradition of whisky making whatsoever. So what are they protecting? What “tradition” if there is none? None. They are simply protecting their markets and future growth before other, more advanced and innovative craft distilleries can take it away from them.

But, hey, I am not English, so it is not my fight. But if you are an English distiller, it is your fight, and a fight definitely worth fighting for. If you don’t, soon you’ll find you will not even be able to use the word “whisky” (without “English”) on your bottles. Their lawyers will fight that, I expect, pretty soon. Similar behavior to what we see from the SWA, basically.

Regards,

Drs. H.E.J. (Odin) van Eijk – founder, owner, CEO of iStill –

https://whiskymag.com/story/exclusive:-distillers-submit-gi-application-to-firm-up-english-whisky-rules?fbclid=IwAR0tyq5mmT2bjGHgV3vY7vd8rPBbZ_zsO1zRJY4g5Ed4yd0rVSTlwaUjFqM

http://www.iStill.com

Amazing iStill Longevity (real world example)!

Introduction

When we introduced the NextGen iStills, one of our goals was to make our newest and latest generation of stills the best in the world. Not just in technology, but also in quality and longevity. We simply wanted to beat all of our competitors (if you can call ‘m that) on every aspect and measurement possible. Becoming the best supplier of distillation equipment doesn’t mean you excel in one area, to us it simply means we want to tick (and win) all the boxes.

How we achieved our goal

To achieve that goal, we introduced a new design philosophy that we called “2x”. The “2x” refers to the strength calculations that we use when designing and building an iStill. Ordinary still manufacturers use a “1x” model (and some not even that): they design and build a still according to the required strength.

For us, in order to overachieve on what others already brought to the market, we adopted the “2x” philosophy, meaning that we calculate required strength … and then we double that. Examples? If our calculations show that a 2 mm thick boiler gives required strength, we design and build that boiler at 4 mm. When we calculate that a certain boiler size needs a 1 hp agitator engine, we’ll design and build that unit with a 2 hp agitator engine.

Overengineering leads to increased longevity. Higher build costs, yes, that too. But it pays off tremendously, as the still triples or quadruples in longevity, where the cost price is raised by only 30%. For 30% additional costs, you get a still that will serve you (at least) three times longer.

Real world example

We have many iStills out there that have over 10,000 hours of service under their belt. All work fine, did not experience downtime or warranty issues. Underneath, let’s investigate a real life example of an iStill 2000 NextGen that’s used for on the grain distilling. Here are the stats of that real world example:

As the above iStill 2000 is used for on the grain distilling, the agitator is always on, when distilling. This unit, in other words, has been distilling for 15,501 hours. The heater banks show 13,501 hours, because heating hours are calculated on net 100% power. In other words: a slightly lower power setting of 90 or 80% translates into less total hours at 100% power input (therefore 13,501 at 100%).

This iStill has been in service for 4 years. In those 4 years it has been in operation for an amazing 15,501 hours. This equates to 3,875 hours annually or 80 hours per week. Put differently: this unit has been distilling double shifts for 5 to 6 days per week for 4 years. It has been in (close to) continuous operation, without any machine induced downtime or warranty issues. It has basically been “ON” for 4 years.

For comparison’s sake: a regular craft distiller uses his still for about 12 hours per week, on average. So for this “average craft distiller” scenario, doing much less hours than the distillery in the above example, the run hours of this iStill exceed over 25 years of service!

In its 4 years of almost continuous operation, the iStill worked flawlessly. And it did so in a harsh and hot environment with a distilling team that was willing to push the iStill to its limits. How we know? Well, not just because of the semi-continuous operation and the location where this distillery is set-up, but also because of the other numbers in the above picture.

In the past 4 years, the iStill has triggered an overtemperature alarm twice, signaling that the (non-iStill) chiller system they use might be undersized. Also, they forgot to put on the chiller in 121 (!) occasions, signaling they don’t really care for the machine, but that it’s just “pedal to the metal and don’t look left or right at intersections”. Luckily the iStill does that for them.

The message? This is not a “walk in the park”-scenario. This is a worst-case scenario, where the unit is abused on 123 occasions. Abused to the extend of maltreatment. Still, the unit works. Works, and warns, and intervenes when warnings aren’t followed up. Now, that adds a bit of drama to the mix, doesn’t it? Over 15,500 hours in under 4 years in an warm and abusive environment …

To sumarize …

Where iStill stands for? What this iStill user case shows the craft distilling industry? The above post and example make it perfectly clear. Longevity as in that we design your iStill to deliver for decades. Even in the harshest of environments.

Longevity and safety, in the most compact, controlled, versatile, and energy-efficient still in the world. That’s what we are all about. Now, how’s that for empowering the craft distilling industry? How’s that for us creating the tools you need in order to excel, not just tomorrow or the day after, but in decades to come?

More than a Brand Name, iStill is a Product Category!

As The World Atlas of Gin states, iStill is no longer just a brand name, but a type of still! Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley describe the iStill product category as follows: “The iStill is a modern style of still that has taken the concept of ease and efficiency to a new level. It works with computers rather than the more traditional copper stills, which are more manual in their operation.”

Potstill, plated still, continuous still, carter head still, and iStill …

Yes, it can mash, ferment, and distill …

http://www.iStill.com

iStill Customer Satisfaction Rating!

Matchory, the smart supplier database, after researching 23 customers and 48 purchases, ranked iStill with the maximum 5 out of 5 stars! They also established that 52.1% of the customers had already placed previous reorders. As founder and CEO of this amazing company, I want to congratulate my teams on doing an amazing job, each and every day!

Best stills, support, and education result in highest customer satisfaction …

http://www.iStill.com

Good Intentions 2022!

Introduction

As 2021 draws to an end, the time arrives to start thinking about 2022. How will the year look like and what will be our good intentions? Even though it is not an easy prediction, to look ahead in these uncertain times, I’ll give it a go anyhow. On our good intentions for the new year? That’s easy, since we (mostly) have that in our own hands. To further the empowerment of the craft distilling industry? For sure, that is our goal. But let’s start with some predictions on the industry as a whole.

Craft distilling industry 2022

In 2020 the pandemic took us all by surprise. As hotels and bars were closed, more and more craft distillers focused on online and out-of-distillery sales. Long term plans were replaced by short term survival tactics.

The year 2021 started in good hopes. People were getting vaccinated and there was a general consensus that we’d go back to an old normal by summer. That didn’t happen. And as a new wave of regulations and lock-downs were prepared, the craft distillery dug in once more, focussing on making money during the summer season, while postponing major investments.

ACSA research showed that less than 25 new distilleries were openend in the USA, between August 2020 and August 2021. The world’s former biggest market space for craft distillers came to a halt. That’s like a tenfold downturn. Personally, I am proud that many, of the few that opened up, have chosen iStill. Of those 25 new distilleries that opened shop, 11 decided to work with our equipment, our team, and our educational facilities.

For 2022 I expect a further continuation of lock-downs and an intensification of regulation. Both will put pressure on the craft distilling industry. Yet, at the same time, the realization will sink in that insecurity and unpredictability are the new standards in our markets. Lots of investments that have been postponed will start to be released in the understanding that craft distilling has an amazing long-term future ahead, whatever the short-term future may bring.

I also expect a further focus on newer, more advanced distilling equipment, like iStill has brought to the industry over the last decade. From the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen a rise of our sales, in a market that took a nose-dive like never before. When I speak to distillers in general, and our customers specifically, they tell me that opening a distillery with equipment that is more efficient, more consistent, and that helps you save on staff expenditure is the future and thus the way forward.

As such, every crisis comes with its own benefits. A shift from hobby to business. A shift from production towards marketing. In these uncertain times it is adapt and thrive or fail while pretending everything stays the same. The old normal is no longer just around the corner, waiting to be reinstated. The pandemic pushes our industry into maturity at a lightning pace.

iStill in the global market place

In 2020 we plussed with 26%. In 2021 we will grow again. We expect strong growth for 2022 as well, but are also faced with the economic challenges that grip the world currently. We are crises-resilient like no other manufacturer, but we are not immune that what happens to the world economy in general. The following challenges are important to watch and monitor:

  1. Global shortage of chips;
  2. Rising material prices;
  3. Rising transport costs.

As you have probably heard, chips are in short supply. We have purchasers on all continents, to counter the chip shortages. We also have a work around, where the iStill, in case of shortages, can be controlled and managed via a laptop or tablet. Problem solved, especially with the industry experts claiming that the chips shortage crises will diminish significantly in 2022.

Material costs have been rising throughout 2021. Prices for copper, stainless steel, etc. are expected to rise further in 2022. We have implemented a cost saving strategy in 2021 and have further streamlined our production processes to counter these price increases.

Transport costs are expected to increase with around 40% in 2022. Since we (all) are reliant on third parties here, there isn’t much we can do about this. Transport costs are a given in any situation, and higher or lower costs, well, they are just the cards that are dealt to all of us. For 2022? Higher transport costs, for sure.

Our good intentions for 2022

We have designed and perfected the craft distilling industry’s new, 21st century technology. It allows the industry to take on Big Alcohol. It enables each and every family that starts a distillery to make a decent living.

Our good intention for 2022 is to help make it easier for you to invest and grow. How? For the second consecutive year, we will not raise our prices. Yes, chips and material costs go up steeply, but – at least for the first quarter of 2022 – we will maintain our current pricing levels. With our prices staying the same, we expect it to become easier for (future) craft distillers to make a positive decision on investing and growing.

Secondly, we stop the software and support fees contracts, that are still in place with pre 2021 customers. We expect this decision to lower the costs of our existing customers, and that is – in these times of crisis – always a good thing.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

At your service, as always,

On behalf of the iStill Team,

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

Founder, owner, and CEO of iStill.

http://www.iStill.com

Make Your Distillery Pandemic Proof with iStill!

Research via the Craft Spirits Data Project teaches us that, in the USA alone, the number of people employed in the craft distilling industry got significantly lower. In just one Covid-ridden year, the number dropped by over 43%. From 30,000 people being employed to only 17,000!

Laying off people is a way to reduce costs. Given the challenges many distillers face, as they are being confronted with government measures that limit their opportunities to generate income, a cost saving strategy makes sense. Often, craft distilleries find themselves in a “all hands on deck!”-situation.

Off course the total workload doesn’t become less, laying off people, meaning that it’s usually company ownership that need to fill in the gap. Production support staff gets laid off, and the owners – confronted with limited sales opportunities being available in the short term – take over production related tasks.

This choice works in the short term, but in the long term it’s the owner that needs to make sure new sales opportunities are developed. They are responsible for a strategy aimed at growing the company. An owner stepping into the production space basically results in cost reductions short term, but this decision also leads to turnover decrease in the longer term. Not sustainable. Not sustainable, unless you have an iStill.

Given the high level of automation, the ease of control, and the low maintenance and cleaning requirements our amazing technology gives you, an iStill saves you a little over 1 FTE (as in one fulltime employee) per year. As a business owner, you can have the iStill focus on production, where you invest your time in creating new sales opportunities. How’s that for making your distiller pandemic proof?

For more reading, please see: https://istillblog.com/2021/11/10/istill-disruption-distilling-before-staffing/

http://www.iStill.com