Thanks for sharing, Ted!
Thanks for sharing, Ted!
Here is an iStill Blog post on how we innovate and what strategies and philosophy we apply to help move the distilling industry progress. We’ll start with a definition and work our way forward to how innovation is part of our DNA, what the guiding principles are, and how we make sure everyone benefits.
Innovation is often used as an empty filler word, without meaningful intent. If we must use the word, here is how we define it, load it with meaning: innovation is significant positive change. It’s a result. It’s an outcome. It’s something you work towards achieving on a project. And most importantly: it entails a positive change by benefiting our existing customer base first and foremost.
Ingrained in our DNA
Innovation is ingrained in the iStill DNA. Whether it is stainless steel to replace rusty copper, catalysts to treat sulfur problems, liquid management to solve dephlagmator control issues, packing to replace the inefficient, ineffective, and expensive 18th century plate “technology”, or automation, robotization, and process control … it is all iStill innovations.
A month does not go buy or we invent new solutions to existing problems. The status-quo is there to be bashed. We feel you are worth our continuous efforts to make things better. This continuous drive has labeled us as “change initiators” and “industry disruptors”, and we are proud for that. Not because we innovate and change and disrupt for change’s sake, no, because we bring new, refreshing solutions to actual and real problems craft distillers struggle with. Why? Because we feel it is the only way forward if we craft distilling to move forward, to grow into an adult industry, that stands a fair fighting chance against Big Alcohol.
Distilling made easy
To help us apply our energy, our innovative powers best, we have a guiding principle, that is also our tagline: Distilling made easy. Distilling is a very complex process. Becoming a successful craft distiller is even more complex. We innovate with the goal of making things easier. More under your control.
Instead of you being a slave to your (old-tech) still, we want your still to be a tool-kit, helping you out at creating profitable spirits in a reproducible manner. Romantic musings over the noble art of distilling have a place in your dreams maybe, but not in your day-to-day business operation.
In that day-to-day business operation the reality is simply this: making a bottle of booze costs money, selling a bottle of booze makes money. So talk where your money is, and we’ll help you sort out the spirits production part, okay?
Retrofit-ability vs. new sales-ability
The reason why “innovation” so often is an empty filler word, is because it sells. You want to have the latest and newest, right? You know what I am talking about: you just bought a new TV, and now they introduce widescreen TV. You upgrade to widescreen, only to learn that there’s HD now. And by the time you replaced your TV with a HD-version, guess what? OLED comes out …
Companies often use innovation strategies to drive new sales. As a customer of such a company, you won’t end up any happier, but you will end up quite a bit poorer. If you don’t see what’s going on and how this can bait you, “innovation” applied like this can actually hurt you.
We feel that if innovation is about positive change, it should first and foremost be a change for the better for our existing customers. Using innovation as a way to prioritize new customer acquisition would be like leaving the people behind that have bought into our philosophies and technologies earliest. We feel that wouldn’t be fair nor just.
That’s why every innovation we release is retrofittable. Remember the amazing Extractor technology we brought to the market place almost two years ago? Anyone that had purchased a NextGen iStill – say – three years ago, could still order and use one. The same holds true for glass columns, the new Robot 3.0, and new software releases and functionalities like fast aging.
In whatever we do, we have our existing customer base at heart. That leads to something we are truly happy about: when you buy an iStill you buy a system that is basically future proof. Any invention we make will fit on your current iStill! By making our innovations retrofit, we make your stills future-proof. By making your stills future-proof, we help make your business future-proof.
Continuous innovation creates new opportunities constantly …
iStill designs, makes, and sells high-quality distilling equipment. How quality is achieved and maintained? What our philosophy on quality is? Let’s dive in deeper via these three simple yet vital pillars:
Innovation quality starts and ends with the question “What qualities do our distilling solutions bring to the market place?”. And since iStill is an innovation driven company, we ask ourselves that question a lot. It is what helps us invent and introduce disruptive technologies to the very traditional distilling industry.
But how do we measure an innovation? How do we know where to invest our money and to what innovations we need to give our attention and energy? It is our tagline “Distilling made easy” that serves as our north star, iStill’s guiding principle. Whenever a new quality can be introduced that will actually make distilling easier, we’ll pursue it. If an innovation doesn’t make distilling easier, we’ll drop it. In order to help you make quality spirits, we need to offer very specific qualities. And since distilling is pretty darn complex, making it easier results in more control and better spirits.
An example on a quality innovation? Here we go. Boiler and column integrity are very important. For you to run a distillery, you need a functional boiler and column. These are the major parts and the parts that take longest to replace, were they to be damaged. If you drive your forklift into your still and rupture a column or boiler, you will be out of business for a prolonged period of time. A simple design solution we have incorporated to maintain boiler and column integrity is that we do not weld anything directly to either boiler or column. No weak spots and nothing sticks out, making the risk of actually damaging your boiler or column with your forklift infinitely smaller.
Design and manufacturing quality
In our designs, form always follows function. Remember, iStill is about making distilling easier, not prettier or fancier! Fancy and pretty stills are, in our perception, not a goal, but a result. The form follows function philosophy, as a consequence, results in a minimalistic, almost Scandinavian design.
Execution, how design is laid-out in material, follows another simple rule at iStill: double the norm. Put simply, most designs are made according to certain specifications. For instance: how strong does the boiler need to be and what metal sheet thickness will get us there? Thicker sheeting, an above the norm execution, leads to higher costs, and that is something most manufacturers try to avoid, since it would eat away at their cost price and margins.
At iStill, we use a very different approach. Our equipment is build by doubling the norm. Here is an example: let’s say that 2 mm thick Stainless Steel is needed for a certain size boiler. The implication of our “double the norm” philosophy is that we’ll build it out of 4 mm thick steel sheeting instead. Or lets look at the agitator engine. If we calculate that one horsepower is what we need for mixing a certain batch size, we’ll put in a two horsepower agitator.
Even though this approach to execution is more expensive, we feel it is well worth the money. Your still is going to be your money maker. You rely on it to work for decades to come. So wherever we can increase longevity, we feel we should. The double the norm philosophy pays off tremendously.
Most equipment is designed with “value for money” in mind. The designer and producer of a given tool wants to make conscious decisions on what quality he brings to the market, given a certain pricing. In doing so, he accepts that he may not be the best, but that’s allowed, since his products aren’t the most expensive either.
At iStill we replaced “value for money” by “quality over money”. If we can use a better part, if we can design something of better quality, we’ll do so. We always want the best quality, because it helps us limit your downtime. And since you depend on your distillery equipment to make a living, we feel that this is the only way to approach still building: we build according to the highest quality levels, whatever it costs.
Since quality is dependent on so many tasks and functions being done right, it takes a team of specialists to realize high-quality products. A team of individuals that are passionate about what they are doing, whether it is welding, designing, testing or assembling an iStill. It is passion, and the willingness to learn from mistakes, that drives us forward. It is passion that changes the world. Therefore, passion is basically the only job requirement, if you want to be an iStill employee. Passion and the willingness to learn and innovate. To help make distilling top shelf product a little bit easier each and every day.
iStill Quality Philosophy …
Congrats to Avian and Craig on their new premises! The new distillery starts to look amazing and your new iStill 2000 is ready to ship!
The Wrecking Coast Distillery: proud producer of Clotted Cream Gin …
Here is a picture of four more iStills Mini, our recipe development still for the craft distiller. Two units ship to the USA, one goes to India, the fourth one flies to the UK.
If you want to learn more about the amazing iStill Mini, and how it helps you create amazing distilled spirits, please check out:
If you want to order one (and we still have like only 20 available), please reach out to:
Veronika, Wiliam, and Kifli the iStill dog in front of four new iStills Mini …
Jones Distilling, from British Columbia, Canada, made a splash since it opened! They take home eight 2019 SIP Awards for their gins, vodka’s, and liqueurs.
Medal fest …
Jones Distilling’s distilling team in front of the iStill …
Brandon Evans, Graybeard Distillery, proud producer of Bedlam Vodka and iStill customer, informs:
We are very proud to announce that we have been awarded a Gold Medal in the Singapore World Spirits Competition. This prestigious competition, which is a partner to the renowned San Francisco World Spirits Competition, has recognized us as an “exceptional spirit near the pinnacle of achievement” and notes that Gold Medal selections “set the standard for their categories”.
Please see the link below for the press release!
Hi Odin, Veronika, Sebastiaan, Willem,
Firstly, sorry, I do not know William’s email address, so please just thank him for his part(s) in last week’s course.
So, I want to say thank you to you all.
The course was very, very, very good. Very intense, lots of learning. It was good to realise how much I have already learnt myself over the last two years, and then to take it to another level with your course.
I am very happy with my new knowledge of distilling theories, the history of distilling and how the iStills work. And yes Willem, I even understand why we have two thermometers near the top of the Mini column now, I think!
I view iStill as a family. Like Apple Computer was many years ago. I like the idea of being part of this family and buying in to the iStill ecosystem. I first stumbled on this person called Odin with a weird avatar character near the beginning of my learning, probably 18 months ago, but I knew nothing about iStill then. I kept coming across this person and he was very open, sharing information and helping people on many forums across the net. I still new nothing of iStill, but I appreciated how helpful he was to everyone. It was only later, about 6 months ago that I discovered he had started a company making stills. I like that his enthusiasm and openness to share information and help people was evident in all of you last week. Lastly, Odin’s theories and the hardware philosophies (and efficiencies) of the iStills make perfect, logical sense to me – this is something I want to be part of.
I would now like your help in advancing my plans…
Kiwi, thanks for sharing …