Tuesday Tech Talk!


Finishing taste rich product on wooden barrels is common practice. Here’s a short post with a guideline for how to barrel age in such a way you get the desired taste profile!

Barrel aging and flavor

Lots of things happen while barrel aging. Your drink mellows out due to O2 contact. Wood particles enter your drink. And much more.

But taste wise, well, taste wise, the barrel pretty much adds two things you may want to play around with:

  • Tannins;
  • Vanillins.

Tannins add complexity to your spirits, where vanillins adds a sweet, vanillin taste.

Barrel wood and flavor

In general, American white oak is a faster growing oak variety. Less hard structures and more soft wood result in relatively more vanillins and less tannins. French oak grows slower and has therefore more hard structures for more tannins and less vanillins. iStill barrels, that are made from Slavonic oaks from North-East Hungary, are rich in both tannins and vanillins.

Getting over the right flavor

If you are after vanillin taste for your rum, brandy, or whiskey, go for American white oak or Slavonic oak. If it’s the complexity of tannins you want, then please choose French or Slavonic oak to start with.

Now, the next thing I want you to understand, is that vanillins dissolve in water, where tannins dissolve in alcohol. Understanding this gives you a great tool in creating the right barrel flavors:

  • Age at a higher ABV if you chase those tannins (60 to 65%);
  • Age at a lower ABV if you want the vanillins to shine through (50 to 55%).

45% strong organic Bourbon aged for 6 months in a 30 liter iStill Barrel …



Tuesday Tech Talk: Steady State Distilling!


Another Tuesday Tech Talk post! This time about … steady state distilling. What is it? Yes, some explaining is needed, especially since steady state distilling is not something that’s standard procedure. In fact, it is a terminology that I introduce here and now, to describe a certain approach to designing stills. A quite interesting one, that we will put to practice on the iStill 100 NextGen we are about to launch.

iStill 100 NextGen design challenges

When I started designing the iStill 100 NextGen, I wanted it to be an affordable unit that the Craft Distiller can use for small scale production or product development. At the same time I wanted it to be a still we can use ourselves to train our customers in the basics of distilling, prior to them taking the next step: automated and robotized distilling.


For the unit to be both “affordable” and “educational”, I wanted to start with a unit that had only very limited automation and robotization. That beefs up the learning experiences, while cutting costs dramatically on the smaller unit the i100 NG is.

The focus then became something like this: “Yes, we can make a unit that is operated via a manual needle-valve … but how can we design a unit that – given its size, column diameter, packing, power settings – can make both taste rich and pure product in the easiest way possible?”

The answer? Steady state distilling!

Steady State Distilling

Without all the automation and robotization in place to control and manage the iStill 100 NextGen, I had to come up with a solution that would make the unit as easy to manage and as good as running itself as possible. And that’s where steady state distilling comes in …

“Steady state distilling” is the situation where the rig, by structural design decisions, runs perfectly balanced as is, without any control action having to be undertaken, both when making taste rich and pure product. With the manual needle-valve now operating as a mere selector of the amount of taste versus purity the Craft Distiller wants.

What I needed to balance out, in order to achieve that steady state situation for the non-robotized iStill 100 NextGen, were quite a few parameters:

  • Boiler size;
  • Column diameter;
  • Packing efficiency;
  • Power input;
  • Standard needle-valve opening.

The solution, I found, had to have the following specifications:

  • Net boiler content of 100 liter;
  • Column diameter of 3 inch;
  • A newly designed, slightly bigger SPP as column packing;
  • A steady power input of 3.5 kW;
  • A newly designed manual needle-valve with a certain maximum diameter and full 1080 degrees (3 full turns) rotational control.


The 3.5 kW heating element heats up a 100 liter boiler charge in 2 hours. That’s a great number. Long enough for some additional Maillardization to take place, not so long that it makes a total distillation run take longer than a working day of 8 hours.

Also, the chosen power input perfectly feeds the 3 inch column. It allows for a low HETP (Height Equivalent of Theoretical Plates), so that making a pure product like vodka or neutral is perfectly achievable.

So the power setting, column diameter, and everything else work perfectly well when making pure product, but how about taste rich product, like whiskey, brandy, or rum? How about stripping and finishing those?


Stay with me, because this is where the challenge became interesting. Why? Well, because 3.5 kW energy input is actually a bit too low for ultrafast stripping. On a 3 inch diameter column, I’d rather strip at 4.5 to 5.5 kW for faster production rates. But beefing up the power would mean that customers or Craft Distillers buying the iStill 100 NextGen all of a sudden have to invest in special power plugs and probably heavy duty electrical wiring. A standard 210 volt (USA) to 230 volt (Europe) / 16 amp (Europe) to 20 amp (USA) household socket/grid would not cut it anymore. And that was a no go.


Now, for finishing, 3.5 kW isn’t ideal either. In a sort of potstill configuration, a 3 inch diameter column, while finishing, is best fed by some 2.5 kW, not 3.5 kW. More power isn’t bad, but it will create more smearing and may mean your product has to age a bit longer.

Steady state distilling in practice

The solution was found by applying the steady state design principle. In more laymen’s terms? With the iStill NextGen, if you want to make taste rich product, you can stop stripping and finishing all together. Instead, the NextGen line-up offers you a one distillation approach for more taste transfer, for better taste transfer, and for a more efficient total operation (hey, you skip one complete distillation cycle)!

Practically, this is what we did. I designed a needle-valve that at its standard opening would still create some reflux. Reflux that is sent back down the column for redistillation. In such a way that an 8 to 10% beer or wine charge results in a 60 to 65% Hearts cut. Right: the column now gives you two distillations in one go! Ideal for aging, for maximum taste transfer, and for total efficiency.

Do you want to make vodka after all? Use the Hearts cut and dilute it to 30%. Now rerun it with the needle-valve half closed and  you collect at 95% instead of 60 to 65%. It’s as simple as that!


By carefully designing the iStill NextGen according to our Steady State Design Principle, we have created an afforable and easy to run 100 liter size rig. In standard setting, it will create perfect strength Hearts cuts for whiskey, rum, and brandy with the needle valve in its standard setting. It will help you create pure vodka by simply closing the needle valve a notch.

iStill 100 NextGen

Interested in the iStill 100 NextGen? Please know we are buidling the first batch of 3 units right now. More information on its specifications? Please follow the iStill Blog. We’ll post more on the iStill 100 NextGen the day after tomorrow.



Revolutionizing Craft Distilling Once More!


When I introduced iStill some 4 years ago, we pretty much hit the ground running. Why? Because our equipment rocks, challenges, and integrates!

The sheer performance of our units has rocked the Craft Distilling scene. Our innovations have challenged the status-quo. And our new designs have been integrating various functions like mashing and fermenting or stripping and finishing.

Now, it’s time to take the next step.

My promise to you

My promise to you? We are currently taking that next step. The meaning of the words “rocking”, “challenging”, and “integrating” are about to be pushed to a whole new level. And I plan to reveal just what I mean in this iStill Blog post.

The groundwork

Thinking about the whole spirits manufacturing process, all of a sudden it struck me: mashing, fermenting, and distilling have three things in common:

  1. They all involve heating;
  2. They all involve cooling;
  3. They all take place in a boiler.

So … why hasn’t our industry taken advantage of those similarities? I understand that it creates oversight to give each step (mashing, fermenting, distilling) a machine of its own. And I understand that manufacturers of distillation equipment rather sell you three, four or five machines than only one or two …

But doesn’t the process of making spirits with different, overly specialized machines by definition creates bottle necks? Especially in a scenario where Craft Distilleries grow and/or change their product line-up? You make rum and want to make whiskey … heck, you need a masher! You have a bottleneck with your fermenters one day … and when you solve that issue, it’s the stills that form the new constraint!

My new gold dream

Here is the new gold dream I want to share with you:

  1. Let’s beef up the heating capacity;
  2. Let’s beef up cooling capacity;
  3. And let’s design a boiler that is fit for mashing as well as fermenting as well as distilling.

Let’s create a system that you can tailor for mashing, fermenting, and distilling. No more need for a variety of machines. Instead, I give you one machine that can do it all. From mashing to barreling in one go without compromizing!

iStill NextGen stands for the Next Generation in Craft Distilling

iStill NextGen stands for “Next Generation”. That is not pretention. I am firmly convinced it is the next generation of Craft Distilling equipment. Did you think that the iStill 500 NextGen is just our newest still? It isn’t, because it is so much more than that!

Instead of the iStill 500 NextGen “just” being a newer, better still, it is actually a huge leap forward. A leap that is achieved by us thinking outside of the box. Outside of the box? Far outside any box!

Stay with me, try to wrap your head around what we have done and what I want to share. Believe me, it is worth that effort. You may be part of the new Craft Distilling Revolution.

Revolutionary modular design

Our NextGen units are of a new, revolutionary modular design that can be configured for mashing, fermenting, distilling, or any combination of mashing, fermenting and distilling.

You set it up any way you like. And if you change your mind, you can change the set-up of your iStill NextGen and give it new functionality, new tasks and new responsabilities.

The iStill NextGen changes what is in our industry basically a multi-step process and reduces it to its core: varieties of heating up and cooling down in one (1) boiler, reducing three steps to one, thus limiting pumping, cleaning, capital investment, and more …

Example 1: Simon and Philip from Scotland

Simon and Philip from Scotland have a whisky and gin distillery. They ordered two iStills 2000 NextGen to complement their existing equipment. One will serve as their new main still for gin production. The other will be used as a water heater. They will charge the water heater with the still’s cooling water, that’s already 50 degrees C,  dial in a higher temperature setting, and use the very hot water the next day to charge their already existing whisky mash tun.

Now, if their operation grows further, they may decide to use the iStill 2000 NextGen that’s currently configured as a water heater and have it operate as an additional masher or fermenter or still … or any combination of the above. For them to achieve that next level of versatility, all they need to do is order a column, an agitator, and a radiator. Of course, new software that supports this new functionality will be remotely uploaded to their PLC as well.

Example 2: Matt from the USA

Matt will open up a bourbon, gin and vodka distillery. He originally envisioned buying five of our mashers/fermenter, one iStill One at 2000 liter capacity, and one iStill 500 as well as an iStill Pump. He realized he also had to invest in a seperate water cooker so he could charge the mashers/fermenters with hot enough water.

After introducing Matt to the new NextGen philosophy, and after showing him how it works, I proposed the following solution to him:

  • Five iStills 2000 NextGen configured for mashing, fermenting and stripping;
  • One iStill 500 NextGen with a fully robotized column.

The beefed up heating and cooling, in combination with our new boiler, agitator, and stripper column (see the previous post!), would allow him to mash, ferment and strip in each and every one of the 2000 liter (520 gallon) NextGen units. Without the need of an additional water cooker or the iStill Pump. The robotized column on the iStill 500 NextGen would allow him to further finish his bourbon, gin, and vodka.

Is that what Matt actually ordered? Did he follow my proposal? No, he didn’t! Now fully understanding our new designs, he decided to order as follows:

  • Five iStills 2000 NextGen configured for mashing and fermenting, and with the new robotized 8 inch columns;
  • One iStill 500 NextGen with the new 5 inch robotized column.

The addition of the robotized columns to his 2000 liter NextGen units enables Matt to make his bourbon in one go. He will mash, ferment and finish his bourbon in one go and in one machine, yielding around 230 liters (60 gallons) of 120 proof and ready to barrel bourbon per day. And he will use the smaller 500 liter iStill NextGen as a finishing still for his vodka and maybe his gin.

On iStill Metaphores and NextGen Statements

I like to use metaphores and statements to challenge people’s mindsets. I will use them here as well. A metaphore to describe how iStill has been so different from other still manufacturers over the last years. And a statement by Henry Ford to explain to you how profoundly different our new NextGen approach is.

iStill Metaphore

Sometimes people that want to enter the Craft Distilling industry ask me why they should choose iStill equipment. What makes it so different from traditional stills that have been around for like centuries?

I ask a question in return: “If, instead of opening a distillery, you were to start up a transportation business … would you buy horses and carriages? Or would you buy vans and trucks?”

Horses and carriages were 19th century approaches to solve transportation issues. Vans and trucks are 20th and 21st century approaches to solve transportation issues. If you start a transportation company today and you buy horses and carriages to deliver your services you would go bankrupt in days, not weeks.

Deciding to purchase still designs from the 19th century for your distillery is like buying horses and carriages for your transportation firm today. Yes, they look great. And there is a real “craft” feeling about handling them, but it isn’t the solution that provides you, as a business owner, with a viable future.

If you want to set-up a Craft Distillery and make a profit, you choose iStill equipment.

NextGen Statement

While Gottlieb Daimler invented the “automobile” or car in the late 1800’s, we owe it to Henry Ford to make that new form of transportation available to all of us. Henry Ford designed a mass produced, affordable, and modular car, available in all colours as long as they were black. And because of his vision and execution power you and me and the rest of the world can now actually own and drive a car. A car instead of horse and carriage.

When asked about his vision, when asked why he didn’t just ask his customers instead, when designing the Ford Model T, this is the answer Henry gave:

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

And that’s how it is. You, Craft Distillers from around the world, have not asked for my vision and our new line of iStill NextGen equipment, but here it is. It is the future. Cars instead of horses and carriages. And you are invited for a test drive via sales@istillmail.com. Beware, it may become the ride of your lifetime!






The iStill London Craft Distilling Expo 2016!

We are proud to announce that iStill will be the exclusive platinum sponsor to the London Craft Distilling Expo 2016.
The London Craft Distilling Expo 2016 will take place on October 5th and 6th in the Boilerhouse in London. It is the place to go for (future) distillers that want to learn about the craft as well as the trade. Lectures, workshops, suppliers … and we will be the main sponsor.
What we will bring to London? Well at least two iStills NextGen. But also, I hope, lots of iStill customers and fans. Please know we will pour some of the worlds best Gins at our stand!
Equipment … check. Gins … check. Anything else? Yes! As I did last year, I will deliver the Future of Distillation Technology Address in 2016 as well!
Are you an iStill customer or do you want to become one? Please come to London and join us. On the evening of October 5th we will host an iStill Exclusive Dinner.
Regards, Odin.

Building more iStills 500 Pro!

We are building more iStills 500 Pro Series! Here are a few pictures of the boiler being manufactured, insulated and inspected.

This is Konrad polishing the boiler’s inside …


Adrian and Martin (legs only …) are welding the bottom plate to the boiler …


Master Luke’s final inspection and treatment of the boiler’s insulation cover …



Another Sunday Joke!

Mama mia’, what a sad a story….

A Jewish man was leaving a convenience store with his espresso when he noticed a most unusual Italian funeral procession approaching the nearby cemetery.

A black hearse was followed by a second black hearse about 50 feet behind the first one.

Behind the second hearse was a solitary Italian man walking a dog on a leash.

Behind him, a short distance back, were about 200 men walking in single file.

The Jewish man couldn’t stand the curiosity. He respectfully approached the Italian man walking the dog and said: “I am so sorry for your loss, and this may be a bad time to disturb you, but I’ve never seen a funeral like this. Whose funeral is it?”

“My wife’s.”

“What happened to her?”

“She yelled at me and my dog attacked and killed her.”

He inquired further, “But who is in the second hearse?”

“My mother-in-law….She came to help my wife and the dog turned on her and killed her also.”

A very poignant and touching moment of Jewish and Italian brotherhood and silence passed between the two men.

The Jewish man then asked, “Can I borrow the dog?”

The Italian man replied, “Get in the line…”



Thank you FreeMountainSpirit for sharing!

Moonshine Maniacs Workshop!

With over 10 distillers visiting us for the Moonshine Maniacs Workshop, I think we can safely say this introductionary course to distilling was a success!

The course, a blend from theory and practice, saw participants from Australia, England, Belgium and the Netherlands. We started out early. Like around 9 am. At 5 pm the workshop finished and the tastings began. How late we ended? Well, most of the tennants joined us for dinner. Good wines and great food. I think we asked for the bill at around 11 at night!

The goal of the course was to teach distillers the basics of distlling. How to ferment and how to distill. And how to use iStill equipment in the process. During the day we did two stripping runs and a finishing run. We produced a sugar head moonshine whiskey.

Coming Saturday Nick and I willl give the second Moonshine Maniacs Workshop. Some of our Belgian participants plan on turning the course into a nice, long weekend. They come with a trailer and will stay the whole weekend! The third Moonshine Maniacs Workshop is one week later and is already fully booked as well.

Do you want to learn more about distilling? Not just the basics, but also some of my newest theories on how to distill above top shelf product? Please visit the website and check out our rum, whisky, and gin courses. There are still some places available!



From Growth to Professionalization …

The iStill Organization is growing. And to manage growth, I feel we need to professionalize further. To reach that goal, we are hiring new people. Please allow me to introduce Alda, Chris, Nick, Eric, Guido and Chef!

First but not least … let’s start with Guido and Chef. You may remember them from a previous Blog post. Guido and Chef are helping me establish a worldwide craft distribution system. Try-out in the second quarter of 2016 and a potential “go live” moment in early 2017, that’s what they are striving for.

With the new Amsterdam iStill Center ready, we want to give more and more workshops. Education is a great way to train people in distilling as well as in teaching them how to use the iStills to the best of their capabilities. Given his experience in both distilling and running iStills, I invited Nick to the team as our new trainer. He will give most of the EU-based workshops. Nick is also the iStill Forum’s administrator.

Chris is our new management trainee. If all goes well, he will become responsible for first line customer support. He will also help me with marketing.

What’s Eric going to do at the iStill organization? Well, he measures close to 7 feet and has a beard. So guess what? He’s training to become our new Master Distiller. He will work the beautiful stills we have in our showroom slash boutique distillery. First project? Limoncello! Second one? Grasovka!

Alda, a trained registered accountant, is our new financial manager. It is her task to help streamline and professionalize our administrative procedures. She will take over accounting from me and devote time to management information as well.

Studying on some invoices, Alda?


Regards, Odin,