middleofnowhere

What's everyone's "pieced together" distillery?

8 posts in this topic

Don't get me wrong, I love beautiful distilleries. Polished 12+ columns, wood fermenters, aesthetically pleasing stacks of aging bourbon....I love it. That said I have a dream, and that dream is on a shoestring budget. I know I'm not the first in this situation. Many others have blazed the trail.

I'm curious what everyone's favorite "pieced together" distillery is. I hope to look to these for direction and inspiration. I currently live in Reno, NV but grew up in Missouri. I'm wanting to start a distillery in rural Nevada, and my parents recently were loving enough to go and tour woodhat distillery http://www.woodhatspirits.com/. They took a ton of photos, it seems like a great place. This is a great example of using second hand equipment to make top shelf spirits.

What other distilleries are out there using second hand equipment?

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The guy below tweeted about my distillery recently

gXMzGac3_bigger.jpg Benjamin@Bynjammin Apr 9

It's not the perfect equipment that makes good #whiskey, but execution of good concepts. @BelgroveWhisky

He was commenting on a story about my distillery that appeared on BBC website. The story was about some recent Gold I had achieved from my distillery that was built from re-purposed / re-cycled equipment.

Starting from my malting equipment, it is a slightly modified industrial clothes dryer, cost me zero.

95% of the energy used in the distillery is from burning used fryer oil, cost zero

The still is direct flame heated, much cheaper to build (by me) because no steam jacket and no steam boiler

The burner under the still is a modified diesel burner, initial cost zero but about $20 of parts to modify.

The burner needed a variable speed motor to adjust the oil feed, cost $15, it is a cake mixer from local tip shop.

My mash tun is an old milk vat that I swapped for a day's work

Most of my fermenters are HDPE totes, zero to $50 each. ( a recent source for these is trucking companies. Anti pollution liquid called Add Blue comes in them. That is high quality urea, a fertilizer/nitrogen source. Traces left in tote would probably aid fermentation)

A stainless fermenter cost me a whopping $400, cheap because it had a big dent in one side.

Plate heat exchanger is an old dairy milk cooler, cost zero.

Shell in tube heat exchangers $200 from scrap yard, re-cycled surplus from chocolate factory upgrade.

6 stainless 2inch butterfly valves from above yard, numerous brass taps, elbows, copper pipes, etc etc, at most $100

Single head Enolmatic bottler $200 on E-bay

Barrel racks are second hand wood 2 X 4's

Unfortunately in US you can't re-use barrels, these cost me from $50 for 100 liters to $120 for 220 liters

The bar that I take to promotions is made from re-cycled timber and oil drums that I collect the fryer oil in.

Plastic buckets from restaurants are free if you ask nicely after you dine there.

I will stop there, I think I have made my point.

I was at ADI in San Diego a few weeks ago and saw all those magnificent looking column stills. They really are beautiful pieces of engineering, but $$$$$

My still is a basic alembic pot, no column or plates. Very much cheaper to build.

(An alembic pot is inefficient at separating ethanol, I exploit that inefficiency to produce flavor, I treat ethanol as a by-product.)

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Yes.... But.

You would loose customers that came to your distillery. If you had a website and marketing campaign that emphasized the quality. flavor and the facts that independent judges rated your quality of product best. You would grow your business.

A restaurant can have great quality food. But if the plates are mismatched, the bathrooms clean, but shabby. It will have difficulties as well.For the public, perception is well over 50% of reality and opinion. The polished copper and stainless on the outside of the still and the building have nothing to do with what happens to the ingredients and process within it.

But the customers that see the inside and outside of the production facility don't think of that.

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We bought used.....still, fermenting tanks, pump, scale, 3 bay drop sink, totes, racking, bottler. So far everyone loves what we have done. We have a 6 foot window from the tasting room looking into the still house. We are a small operation (60 gal still) just getting started, but all feedback has been positive.

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Yes.... But.

You would loose customers that came to your distillery.........................................................For the public, perception is well over 50% of reality and opinion. The polished copper and stainless on the outside of the still and the building have nothing to do with what happens to the ingredients and process within it.

But the customers that see the inside and outside of the production facility don't think of that.

If it was a food processing facility I would agree with you.

I tell visitors that I used to have a small cheese factory, there we had to wear hair nets, clean overalls and walk through sanitizers, but in the distillery I am after a certain amount of wild ferment and at the end I am bottling a very efficient sterilizer.

I explain all the equipment, how it works and where it came from. I often say " there are many distilleries that are built with "no expense spared". I built my distillery "no expense", it usually gets a laugh.

When I built the still I estimate that half the time was spent grinding off welds to hide them and then polishing the whole thing. It really was a waste of time as I have now let it age gracefully.

The malting drum is getting black on the outside from the peat smoke, I often say I am going to clean and paint it but the general feedback is they love the rustic nature of it. It is clean stainless inside.

I get very regular emails and phone calls from people who have heard about my setup and want to come and see for themselves and have a real experience. There are no roped off areas or glass walls, in fact there are no glass panes in the distillery, not even in the windows, just bars and shade cloth. (good ventilation prevents flammable vapor buildup)

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We have sold equipment built from re-purposed tanks and used stainless pipe to over 30 distilleries here in the US. We call this our Backwoods series equipment. People love it and they really love the price. We are building a 1000 gallon Backwoods stripping still right now, for a customer who sourced the used jacketed tanks himself. His 1,000 gallon stripping still will cost less than 1/10th what it would have cost if he purchased it from Vendome or one of the German manufacturers. This same customer sent us an all copper still made in Germany that we are modifying for him. If you want to save allot of money, equipment built from used tanks and pipe etc. is the way to go. Here is a link to one of our backwoods stills. https://distillery-equipment.com/beehive_dist_O_13593.jpeg Note, the used beer keg welded to the bottom of the jacket. The beer keg holds the heat transfer medium, which is cooking oil. We have stills for all budgets. Here is a pic of one of our 300 gallon Ultra Pro Series Stills

http://distillery-equipment.com/MISC/300%20gallon%20copper%20top%20Ultra%20Pro%20Whiskey%20Still.jpg My pro Series stills are the same or better quality than our big name competitors at 25% of their price.

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@PeteB, I've been wanting to try your spirits, a friend of mine was showing pics of you setup. Very impressed.

it's not a bad idea to get up and running with minimal cost and go shiny and expensive when you need it or can afford it.

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@PeteB I had the privilege of visiting your distillery 18 months ago and after visiting 55 distilleries across the USA since then, Belgrove is by far the most original and most impressive that I've ever seen. You also make the best rye I have ever come across. Congratulations on your 94.5 - it was well deserved!
I am now in the process of building my own distillery and am always wishing that I was half as handy as you!

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