Today Eight Years Ago, We Started iStill!

After having built a reputation as distillery consultant and recipe developer for top-shelf craft spirits from July 2010 onwards, on April 17th 2013 I finally launched iStill. In my first ever iStill Blog post I invited you to join me at the start of what I expected would become an interesting journey. And an interesting journey it has been, indeed! In a mere eight years, we became the world’s leading manufacturer of distillation equipment. Not sure what my expectations were, when we started iStill, but the current status and success was for sure beyond my imagination and grasp, that day.

Our innovations have brought the industry’s technology from the 1870’s well into the 21st century. Our educational programs have trained over a 1000 distillers: a huge reservoir of people that actually know what they are doing. Our recipe development support – combined with our technology and well-trained customer-base – have helped to make better, award-winning products more consistently and at vastly lower price-points, both in terms of up-front capital investment (to open a distillery) and in per liter spirits production costs (to run a distillery).

iStillers, more than any other type of craft distiller, make their own products. iStillers, more than any other category of craft distiller, win most of the awards. iStillers, more than any other category of craft distiller, maintain and grow viable businesses, even in today’s pandemic. Where the market for new still sales tanked with 35% in 2020, iStill grew with 27%.

The seeds of what we are now (and how we got there), were already visible in the first iStill Blog post. We started the iStill Blog to share information and to make the craft distilling world a better, more informed place. We started iStill to provide the industry with better distillery equipment. Again, to make the craft distilling industry a stronger place. Or, in my 2013 words:

How? By talking about distilling and by making products available for pro distillers who want only the best. By means of a website / webshop that will be launched in just a few weeks time. Products that I hope will take the noble art of distilling a step further in terms of quality or at least in ease of use. For distilling, I quickly learned, is not easy. It is a labour intensive craft, where the biggest challenge is not just to get results, but to get repeatable results.

Reading the original iStill Blog post fills me with pride and a sense of fulfillment. Yes, by sharing lots and lots of information, we have made the craft distilling industry a more competitive place. Yes, we have made distilling easier. Yes, we provide the best distilling equipment in the world. Yes, we have maintained a very competitive price point. And yes, this has forced our competitors to cut their prices with a third to sometimes 50%. No, in the transition we have lead, we have not only made friends. And a final yes: “… the biggest challenge is not just to get results, but to get repeatable results.” Process control precedes reproducibility and reproducibility precedes quality. It was true then and it is just as true now. Not just for the 1000 iStill customers that rely on our support and input, but for the industry as a whole.

On behalf of the iStill Team, I say: At your service!

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

Founder and CEO of iStill.

iStill Indirect Heaters!

iStills are total distillation solutions, not shells that still need a separate heating system, like many traditional systems that require a steam boiler. Nope, we are long passed the age of steam. iStill uses electrical heating. Why? Because it gives total control over the amount of gasses that are created. And since gas amount one-on-one translates into specific vapor speeds, and since vapor speeds one-on-one correlate with flavor composition … well, we feel that any craft distiller interested in (re)creating the same quality spirits over and over again, needs electrical heating.

iStill offers two means of heating: direct and indirect heaters. Both heating systems sit directly in the boiler and in the wash or mash. Why? Because of efficiency, reaction-time, and Maillard. Heaters that sit in the boiler dissipate their energy immediately, without losses (like a traditional Au-bain-Marie! double boiler design). And the slight temperature differences in the boiler create the Maillard Reaction: a taste-cascade that adds 25% flavor to your spirits!

Direct heaters work great with relatively clear boiler charges. If you want to mash or ferment in your iStill, or if you want to distill on the grain (or on the grapes), you need the iStill Indirect Heaters.

Our proprietary indirect ATEx heaters …

Low Wines Initiative!

What sets iStill craft distillers apart? Well, the use of modern technology and a better understanding of the theoretical concepts related to all (most) things “distilling”. Yes, that, and the wish to produce in-house.

Strong statement? For sure. And if we mirror it, here is what many, many “traditional” distillers do: they invest into the romance via a (non or hardly functional) copper still, and then purchase most of their product with Big Alcohol (think MGP).

The above two paragraphs merit two conclusions: 1. There is a market for pre-made semi-ready product, especially in the rum and whisky segments; 2. We – as iStillers – are better equipped than anyone else to fill that gap.

How we fulfill that gap? Well, how about we, the iStillers, start producing high-quality low wines? This allows the “traditional” distiller, who now mostly outsource the actual alcohol production, to do the final run and make final cuts. They get control over flavors and – market-dependent – and can do it with a rectifiers license only.

The Low Wines Initiative is a concept we introduced to the UK market like 2 1/2 years ago. It got raving reviews, but never took off because of two reasons: 1. Our launching partner didn’t deliver on their contractual obligations; 2. Our proposed business model was pretty top-down and could be considered a hard franchise, placing too much dependency on iStill HQ relative to the position of the local low wines production center servicing (and understanding) its market.

Given that demand never ceased for high-quality low wines product, how about we give this initiative another try? If MGP has a huge market share in delivering low-quality finished product, why don’t we deliver high-quality semi-finished product? Better quality, more room for the customer/distiller to play with and create their own unique product, that is now sellable at higher margins. And for iStillers that participate in the Low Wines Initiative: a secondary income stream, a central place in your local distillery scenes, continuous use of your equipment, and higher total revenue streams. Diversification also makes for a more future-proof business model.

Interested? If this is an initiative you want to be part of, please let us know. As a customer wanting to purchase high-quality low wines. Or as an iStiller ready to take a place center-stage by servicing other craft distillers with your advanced equipment and knowledge, and our help.

The business model? Soft franchise. We provide the recipes and do most of the marketing. You’ll be part of a global movement. We’ll provide recipes, SOP, and redirect leads. You add your local marketing and sales and production savvy to that. Fixed administration fee and fixed marketing fee.

Placing iStil distilleries center-stage …