FTOD 2016: Revolutionizing Craft Distilling Once More!

“From The Old Days (FTOD)” is a series of interesting iStill Blog posts from yesteryear. Is the info we shared still valuable? Is the craft distilling industry on track of improving, innovating, catching up with Big Alcohol? Or are these articles of old still just as valid today as they were back in the day when they were published?

Introduction

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!

http://www.iStill.eu

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About iStill – Distilling made easy

Why we do the things we do?

The market for alcoholic beverages is dominated by a few very big manufacturers, that produce mostly bland, “acceptable-anywhere” drinks globally. Craft distilled spirits, a new trend where drinks are produced locally, are way more interesting. We believe that, in order to create a more interesting drinking experience, challenging the status-quo – and Big Alcohol’s dominant position – is the way forward.

How we do that?

By thinking outside of the box and doing things differently, iStill designs beautiful, high-tech, and revolutionary distillation equipment. Our technology-push aims to make it easier for craft distillers to produce interesting, top-shelf quality spirits, both efficiently and consistently.

What we do?

We simply design, manufacture, and sell the best craft distillation equipment in the world.

Where we are situated?

iStills are designed and produced in the Netherlands, Europe’s most competitive and innovative economy (source: WEF).

How we support our customers?

Since a tool is only as good as the professional that uses it, we train our customers, both online and at iStill HQ, to become master distillers. iStill shares knowledge and experience widely and freely, and actively supports various craft distillers networks. The iStill Distilling University is the industry’s leading educational facility. The iStill Blog, a free service, is the world’s biggest library of distillation knowledge.

When iStill started?

After three years of inventions, innovations, and in-house testing, the first iStill was produced and delivered to a Dutch customer in april 2013. So only around 7 1/2 years ago.

How big is iStill?

Since 2013, we delivered over 750 stills and distilleries to customers all over the world. With over 200 stills build in 2019, we had an estimated global market share of around 20%. Annual growth rates of between 50 and 100%, rapidly push our market share upwards. We are proud to be considered the world’s leading still and distillery manufacturer. In disruptive technology. In build-quality and warranty. In education and support. And in size!

What will the future bring?

A distilling industry that frees itself from the tyranny of tradition and globalization, and – instead – bustles with vibrant and creative future-proof energy. Because that’s what it takes for craft distillers to be able to give “Big Alcohol” a run for their money.

Regards & speak to you soon!

Drs. Odin van Eijk, MScBA, etc.

Founder and CEO of iStill.

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Pre-Cooler Standard Equipment Now!

On the iStills 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000, the pre-cooler now comes as standard equipment. On the Potstills, Plates Stills, and Hybrid iStills of those sizes.

The pre-cooler takes the load of the main cooler and improves overall cooling efficiency. The same amount of coolant leads to better cooling. Ideal in warmer climates. Or, by running the pre-cooler and the column cooler from different water lines, one can increase the total amount of coolant used, making cooling more effective.

Nota bene! Distilling is about heating up liquids to the point where they boil and create gasses. And distilling is just as much about cooling those gasses down to liquid phase again. In other words, given the iStill’s efficiency, power in basically equals cooling in.

The pre-cooler is no excuse not to invest in a professional sized chiller that provides the same amount of cooling in kWh as the maximum power of your iStill. Without sufficient flow and cold enough coolant (< 8 degrees Celsius), the performance of your still will be affected negatively.

Coolers …

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http://www.iStill.com

What iStill Do I Need?

iStill offers the Potstill Series, the Plates Series, and the Hybrid Series. The potstill is, well, basically a very accurate and efficient potstill, that harvests robust flavors. The plated iStills are our take on the perforated and bubble cap plate technology. With added control and double the output rates, when compared to the older designs out there. It helps create balanced flavor profiles at great throughput rates. The Hybrid Series is the King of the Mountain. The one still that can do it all and make any spirit to perfection.

With the increase in choice that we now offer, what still should you choose? What design helps you best at creating, or better: harvesting, the flavors you are after? Let’s dive in deeper:

The “What iStill do you need”-Table …

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Fruit brandy

Fruit brandy is a two-dimensional, clear drink, that focusses on front-of-mouth and middle-of-mouth, fruity flavors. It can be made on a potstill, but – especially the finishing run – needs to be done slowly for the tails not to overrun the delicate fruity flavors. Plated stills help prevent tails smearing and are perfect for fruit brandies. Our Hybrid Series is good at making fruit brandy, but just as with a potstill, production speeds have to be dialed in defensively, especially towards the end of the run.

Cognac

Cognac is a three-dimensional brandy, aged in barrels. Both the Potstill Series and the Hybrid Series help make amazing Cognac. The plated still can also make Cognac, but getting enough of those tailsy flavors over, for the spirit to stand up to the wood, asks that you push the pedal to the metal, especially towards the end of the run.

Gin

Gin is a 2 to 2.5 dimensional drink. Front-of-mouth, middle-of-mouth, and limited amounts of back-end flavor. Both the iStills Hybrid and Potstill are great solutions. Plated stills, even with the plates turned off, strip out too much flavor, and are therefore not the best solution for gin production.

Rum – light

Light rums have limited amounts of heads and tails smearing, and focus instead on substrate-related, middle-of-mouth flavors. The plated iStills and the hybrids are great solutions. Potstills tend to smear too much flavor in, for this spirit category.

Rum – medium

Medium rums have medium amounts of heads and tails smearing, and branche out towards more fruity as well as rooty/nutty flavor profiles. iStill’s Plated and Hybrid series excel, the potstills do a good job too.

Rum – heavy

Heavy rums depend on high amounts of heads and (especially) tails smearing. The potstill or hybrid are the stills of choice. The iStill Plated Series gets enough tails smearing over for a 3 to 4 year old rum, but not for a 20 year barrel aging program.

Vodka

Vodka has a one-dimensional, middle-of-mouth flavor profile, and needs to be distilled at 190 proof. The iStill Hybrid is the only iStill (still?) capable of reaching high enough proof to make vodka.

Bourbon

Bourbon nowadays is mostly a whiskey with the flavor profile of a fruit brandy. Front- and middle-of mouth. Hardly any back-end flavors. This makes the potstill the wrong choice. Unless you are after a more potstill-style Bourbon like Woodford Reserve. The Hybrid Series is probably a better alternative, while the iStill Plated Series is spot on.

Irish whiskey

There are multiple varieties, but in general Irish whiskey is lighter in style. As with Bourbon, the Plated and Hybrid Series are perfect. For a more three-dimensional product, like Connemara, the Potstill Series are the best choice.

Single malt whisky

You need a hybrid or a potstill. The iStill Plated Series can make single malt, but is more suited for younger expressions.

iStill Distilling University

Are you interested in our taste-model? Do you want to learn how to create and judge spirits professionally? Please check out the iStill Distilling University at:

https://istill.web.app/university

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Odin’s Opinion (8): Consistency Precedes Quality!

In archery, success is defined by hitting the 10 consistently. The quality of marksmanship depends on the archer being able to hit that 10 over and over again. An occasional 10 is not good enough, because it means he or she is inconsistent. Inconsistency, therefor, equals lack of quality. Quality can only be achieved when results are (at least) consistent.

This is true in archery and it is true in distilling as well. Craft distillers might look suspicious at the whiskies of Jim Beam or Jack Daniel’s, but at least their spirits and flavor profiles are consistent. At least one very important prerequisite for quality is met.

Most craft distillers struggle to make their whiskey in a consistent manner, and unfortunately that directly translates into a lack of quality. If you can’t hit your target, your goal, your flavor, your spirits are simply “off”. Even though you might hit bull’s eye every now and then, what are you going to do? Sell different quality bottles or barrels at different prices? That’s not how you make up for screwing up!

Sorry for the harsh words in the above paragraph, but I feel we need to use them, quite simply because “craft” as in “craft distilling” has become an excuse to mediocracy at best on too many occasions

I have tasted whiskies, from the same craft distiller, that were all over the place. When he asked for my feedback, and after I shared the inconsistencies I noted, he said: “Yeah, but it is craft man, and craft means it’s different all the time. That’s the story, that’s why craft is so interesting!” Just so you understand me correctly: I notice inconsistencies with many craft distilled products, and I think it sucks.

I call BS on “craft” heralding “inconsistency” as part of “the story”, and this time I don’t even feel the need to say sorry. Here is why: if “craft” equals “inconsistency”, then “craft” equals “lack of quality”. It is that simple. And if we accept that as a guiding principle, it signals a disastrous future for the craft distilling industry as a whole.

Here is why: with low quality spirts being sold at premium quality prices, the craft distilling industry is never going to compete with Big Alcohol.

The solution is simple. Instead of listening to the romance, start listening to me. All of you start-ups, that so often live under the spell of copper traditionalism: pull your heads out of your asses and realize you are starting a business instead of a pipe-dream.

For the last decade, I have invested every hour of my life to disprove the bogus stories, to replace distilled fiction by distilled fact, and to find out how distilling really works. The few remaining hours were spent on sharing that knowledge with you, often via this very iStill Blog.

Over the last seven years my staff and I here at iStill have worked rigorously to design and produce innovative distillation equipment, that gives the craft distiller total  control over the spirit and flavor production processes. To give to the craft distiller that what lacked: the ability to produce quality spirits consistently.

Why? So you can hit your quality targets all the time! Why? Because it is the only way in which you can build a successful business. Why? Because consistency shows that you mastered the craft and deserve the title “craft distiller”. Why? Because only craft distillers producing premium quality spirits at premium prices can take the battle to Big Alcohol.

Hitting flavor targets consistently equals spirit quality …

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http://www.iStill.com

For Sale: iStill 100 NextGen!

Ceri planned to set up a craft distillery in 2018, but has been dealt an unfortunate change in his personal circumstances. The distillery plans are no longer an option, and Ceri has his 2018 iStill 100 NextGen up for sale. Together with the Extractor. For UK customers, that are willing to pick-up the unit at his location. For more information, please reach out directly via: ceri@waltonbrook.com.