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  1. 9 points
    It has been requested that ADI implement a reputation system for the forum. Previously, members would receive the title of Newbie, Member and Advanced Members solely based on the number of topics they posted or replied to however, this system does not accurately quantify the quality of the information posted. These titles have been changed to Newbie, Contributor and Active Contributor. We are also enabling a reputation system in which members can “like” posts that they think represents quality information worth highlighting to others. This system is adaptable so if it needs to be tweaked, it can be modified in some aspects to meet the needs of the community.
  2. 7 points
    We have a forklift. Cant imagine life with out it. We move barrels with it. And smoke cigarettes at the same time, and run with scissors.
  3. 7 points
    "Most customers aren't easily deceived for long don't care in an open market place." There, fixed it for you.
  4. 5 points
    Introduction Over the last decade I have had the opportunity to help dozens and dozens of craft distillers with developing and designing their gins. I want to use this thread to help lay out some of the basic guidelines I learned, that make the production of great gin quite easy and straight forward. Over the coming days (and depending on comments and my time in the factory) or weeks, I want to get most of the information (if not all) that we give on our gin making courses across. Now, gin making has a wide set of variables. And a lot of people adhere to certain approaches. If ever you feel my approaches or opinions to be contrary to yours, let's turn this thread into a discussion, not a battle ground. I for one will not. Just sharing info, not trying to convince anyone. Use the info or not. It's here (or it will be) and I will share it so you can use it. A few things on gin. Basically, let's dive into procedures, herbs bills, distillation techniques. But I want to start with a general outline on taste. Just to make or introduce a starting point. When I make whiskey, I find the late heads, smearing into hearts, to be fruity. Front of mouth oriented. You taste them first and you taste them on your lips and the front of your tongue. The body, the grain, comes over after that. Hearts. Middle mouth feeling. Early tails, that smear into the last portion of hearts, have a nutty, root-like taste (if you give them time to develop) and are tasted at the back of your mouth towards the throat. Now, in my experience, the same holds true for a gin: it's the fruity bits that come over first, then the body, then the root-like, nutty flavors. So if you want to make a floral gin ... don't add root-like, nutty things to your gin recipe. And cut a bit earlier. If you want a full-bodied gin that lingers in your mouth and can be consumed neat ... do add those nutty, root-like components. And cut a bit later, since these tastes come over during the last part of the run. Okay, that was the introductionary post. More on herbs bills and aging gin and procedures in future posts! Regards, Odin.
  5. 5 points
    Good idea bull, I'll post a few. I'll preface the pics with a very brief backstory behind our brand. Being located in Washington, PA, we're at the center of many of the events of the Whiskey Rebellion (I could hit the restored home and now national historic site of David Bradford, the leader of the rebellion, with a 9 iron from my front door). We went with a very colonial theme in our tasting room including a colonial fireplace back bar, the portrait of Alexander Hamilton (hanging upside down) above the fireplace, 1790's themed lighting fixtures, tables we made out of reclaimed barn wood and a separate dining room for private tastings and events.
  6. 4 points
    To Louch or not to Louch, that's the question! Thanks tbagnulo! Onwards with louched gins! I visited a distillery once that had a wide array of products. Most of them bottled at 40%. Only their gin was bottled at higher strength. I asked the master distiller why? He said - and taking a look I could see it - that even at the higher ABV of 45%, his gin was on the verge of becoming cloudy (or "louchy" as the word seems to be). Would he go any lower in ABV, the gin would turn almost white. I asked him what he thought the solution was. He told me that he had talked to two gin experts. One advised him to cut his herbs bill in half. Use like only 50% of the total herbs bill he had used before. The second one told him to buy a chill filter and filter the haze out. The second solution I really don't like, because it takes away essential oils AKA taste. And anyone who tells you that chill filtering doesn't ... well, let them chill filter their whiskey for 10 times only to find out it starts to taste pretty much like a vodka! The first solution of using less herbs, isn't good either. It relies on the assumption that a louched gin is bad. I feel it isn't. A louched gin is a great indication you got over huge amounts of tasty oils. And that was the goal right? To create a big tasting gin. So how do we solve the louch? Easy, dilute some neutral / gns to the same percentage as the louched gin, and add a portion. There will be a moment (75:25, 66:34, 50:50, etc.) when all of a sudden the louch lifts. In a second, maybe two. You now have the gin with the most taste possible. And if you think it is too big in taste? Dilute it. Bottom line? A louched gin gives you a balpark. A starting point that makes it easy to create great tasting gin with the same flavor profile over and over again. And you can always dilute a big taste gin to a lighter one, but not the other way around. Next post: on boiler vs. vapor infused gins. Regards, Odin. PS: Here's a movie on me making gin. With lots of info on how to do it! Here it is:
  7. 4 points
    Taste Development during the Run So, let's follow up on the first post. Taste, in a gin, pretty much follows in the footsteps of making brandy, whiskey or rum. Fruity notes at the beginning, body in the middle, root-like, nutty tastes at the end of the run. Weird, because we normally work with GNS, when making gin, so there shouldn't be "real" heads and tails, right? Right, but the molecules, associated with certain tastes, still follow the same rules. Fruity at the beginning, root-like at the end. Lime, lemon, orange peel come over early. Rooty and nutty herbs come over near the end. And if you want multi-dimensionality, a complex gin, you need both. It even gets more funny. Or interesting. Not only does the gin develop in taste as a whiskey or rum or brandy would ... even though you may use GNS to make your gin, you still need cuts. Cuts on a gin? Yes! A sorta Fores/Heads cut and a sorta Tails cut. Tails cut is easy. It is when you stop the run, because the later parts of the run just bring too much root-like tastes over (and they easily overpower the fruitiness of the beginning of the run). But a "Fores/Heads cut"? Yes, you need it. A small one. Only like 0.5 liters on a 250 liter charge. Maybe a liter in a 500 liter boiler charge of gin. The first (half a) liter. Why? This contains the very oily, excessive and harsh first juniper oils. You want to cut them out. I'll try to find a picture and add it to this thread. So you can see how these first juniper oils, that you want to cut out, look like. Really remarkable. A bubble of haze in a pint of alcohol. Not nice. Toss it. I can't find pics right now, but I'll dive in later. Important that you see it, so you can recognize it. All right, so how can we use cuts to perfect our gin? Well, if you are not satisfied with the amount of back of throat taste / root-like tastes ... you could cut a bit later, allowing for more nutty flavors to come over. Or if you feel you need a little less fruity notes ... well, you can dial the amount of fruit peel back ... or you can take a slightly larger "Fores/Heads cut". I am not saying one solution is better than the other, I am just informing you that by "gin cutting" you have an additional tool to perfect your gin runs. Something else you can use. If you make rum or brandy or whiskey, you can do a swift stripping run. Fast, low alcohol purity, lots of tastes blending in all over the place. Just so you get the picture: faster strips make for dirtier smearing of heads and tails into hearts. Same technique you can use with gin making. You don't strip, but you can vary power inputs on your distilling machine. If you go for higher energy inputs and higher output figures per liter, you will increase vapor speeds inside your column. High vapor speeds translate to more of the Tails oriented tastes to come over earlier. And they may be overpowering. The solution? Just throttle down and you will find the outcome less root-like, less nutty oriented. More florals coming over. Play with it: power settings. If you go too fast, taste becomes flat, one dimensional. Tune it down (by power management) and within just a few seconds, you may find the taste appealing again. Multi-faceted, interesting, complex. Playing with energy input, speed of run, and vapor speeds does not only allow you to make better tasting gin (lower speeds for better gin), it also allows you to go deeper into the Tails oriented department without the associated tastes becoming too overpowering. In other words: you can use more of the GNS to actually make more great tasting gin. End temperature based on gas temperature entering the column? Between 94.5 and 96 degrees C. The slower you go, on the last part of the run, the deeper you can go, without compromising on overal taste. Next? Lets dive into louched gins in the next post. Are they a failure ... or maybe a sign of actual distilling success? I'll try to find some time and dive in tomorrow or the day after. For after the weekend? A take on boiler vs. vapor infused gins! I know there's lots of opinions. I won't try to take sides, I will try to explain the pro's and con's. Regards, Odin
  8. 4 points
    How the hell does one boil at 256 deg?
  9. 3 points
    The first thing I want to lay out is that in no way, shape or form do I consider myself a know it all. But due to some recent postings on this forum, and just people who have approached me in my local area about opening a distillery, I figure I'll do us all a favor and throw down some info based on my experiences over the past few years. Take them for what they are. If you disagree, feel free to post. If you want to open your own distillery, this is what I suggest. In my case, I don't come from money and didn't have the opportunity/ability to get a bunch of well-endowed folks to throw down a shipload of cash. I got a bank loan and used my personal funds that I had set aside during my time in the military. I won't go very far into how much I had, but the total allowed me to do some work on our site to set it up (those figures will obviously vary based on your individual circumstances), get some bargain equipment (total was about 20K) and then make it all work with almost daily trips to LOWE's (not being paid by them) over several months. So, if you have 500,000 dollars or more and don't need to start seeing a return for quite a while, then more power to you. But if you're on a limited budget and enjoy working 18 hour days, here's what I did: ***IMPORTANT STARTING NOTE: In 2007 (when I started to work on our business plan) there were very few options out there as far as educational opportunities for those interested in smaller scale distilling aside from books, the internet, and visiting working operations. However, there are now many, many options ranging from 1 or 2-day courses that may cost a few hundred dollars all the way up to full blown internships that are in the thousands. Case in point, I personally hold a 1-day workshop a few times a year (Camp Distillery, info on our website at www.mbrdistillery.com, and we fill up several weeks in advance). We specifically do this to help those seriously thinking about getting into the business that don't have a full week to spend on a course. I don't do it for the money, I do it because I literally have individuals wanting to stop by and meet with me on the matter at least every 2 weeks and I just honestly don't have time to entertain that many people for free. I can obviously vouch for our course that I teach, as I have had nothing but positive responses on the quality of instruction from those that have attended. Before you do get knee deep in a business plan, look into AT LEAST a one or two day workshop and attend it. The few hundred dollars you'll spend will save you either 1. At least tens of thousands of dollars in avoided mistakes or 2. You'll learn that getting into this business may not be for you BEFORE you start spending too much time and money. The longer I'm in this business, the more I honestly believe that there's really nothing quite like it, even beer and wine are usually very different from the spirits business both on the production and marketing sides. Plus, the amount of regulation and taxes we, as small-scale operations, pay is like the NFL compared to college or high school football. 1. Make yourself a REALISTIC business plan, then make several alternates in case you can't do it the way you want. I had plans A, B and C. I ended up going with plan C due to lack of funding. If you don't know accounting, teach yourself or find someone that can produce good financials for you if you're going to present things to either the bank or investors (or even just yourself). However, even if you have someone else produce them, you or they need to be able to explain them in detail if you're going to ask anyone for cash. Those two items (business plan and financials) are your foundation. You need to live and breath them and know them left, right, up and down. Working on those were pretty much my only hobby while I still had a day job, I spent the better part of 18 months on mine and it paid off because my numbers were almost dead on, and that was quite impressive when the bank or investors were trying to take me seriously about the business. 2. Start researching the art of distilling. Get books, go on sites, talk to other distillers, but don't expect to learn how to distill by reading. If getting hands on experience means visiting several distilleries, see below. Go to TTB.GOV and start reading, the regs are there. You can't know the regs well enough. I'm not lying when I say that I go on that site probably once a week or more to lookup info or just to go over things to ensure that they're fresh in my mind. When you get licensed and you produce a product, you are swearing under law that you are making that specific product according to the federal (and your state) regs. Your state may have some additional regs (mine does) that add to the federal regs, look them up as well. In essence, you are getting into a socialized business. It doesn't matter how much money you make (even if it isn't enough to keep the lights on), if you sell product, you pay the man. In most cases you have to "ask" the fed govt for permission to do certain things and, even if they're wrong, they're right. You can argue with them all you want, but you could be heading down a slippery slope to do so. IMHO, the only way that I would ever challenge the feds is if they were TRULY mistaken about something and (hopefully) I really won't upset anyone. In most businesses you don't have to ask the govt permission to make a product a certain way, to increase your production amount, or to change the setup of your facilities. In this business you do. 3. Go visit SEVERAL distilleries in different states. When you do so, call ahead and make an appointment to meet with the actual distiller and/or manager. Take into account my initial statement about time with regards to those individuals. If they're busy, just take note of their setup during your visit. But, in general, get in and get out and realize that they're not there to be your personal consultant for 2 hours or more. In total, I toured about 20 craft distilleries prior to making the first move to get ours going. Different states have different licensing requirements and different distilleries will have different techniques. During those visits I also met several people that I can call (or they can call me) if I have a question about something. I won't mention some of the guys that have helped me out and probably will still call (maybe they don't want the publicity cause I'm sure they're as busy as me), but they have helped make our business to some degree (FYI, I still owe most of them a free bottle or two and a whole lot of appreciation). I would also add that it helps to go talk to folks that aren't across the street (and preferably are a state or two away) because common sense will tell you that they won't really see you as a direct threat to their business. I'm not saying not to tour any nearby locations, but I didn't spend too much time questioning them about too many things because they may see me as direct competition, particularly for their local distribution business. My biggest trip included a tour of 9 craft distilleries, lasted 5 days, was several thousand miles of driving, went from KY to NY and cost me a grand total of 500 dollars in gas, budget hotels, and food (pack an ice chest to really save). That being said, I do have a Honda Civic that gets 40 mpg on the highway. Also, there are the distilling workshops and the ADI conferences, but I still recommend you hit as many small-scale craft distilleries as possible to broaden your understanding of the business and to get as many points of view as possible. Even if you go to a workshop with several distillers there, it's not the same as seeing them at their location with their equipment and in full business mode. The small-scale distilling industry isn't near as well-developed as the wine-making or brewing business, you'll see some very interesting things at different operations. 4. Get your site (and if you don't know yet, YOU CAN'T HAVE A FEDERALLY LICENSED DISTILLERY AT YOUR HOUSE without a property subdivision of some sort, this ain't a winery or brewery kids, the law is gonna tax you and tax you again, they don't want you makin stuff in your basement), refer to CFR Title 27, Part 19, Subpart F, 19.131. And, just for some fun, go lookup the federal tax rate on spirits compared to wine and beer, it's about three times as much, and that's not even taking into account that small-scale wineries & brewers pay a fraction of that 1/3. Now, back to the whole distilling at home thing, you can subdivide property, put up a fence, or tell the feds that you have a "force field" separating the "house" from the "distillery" to get around that. But, BOTTOM LINE, you MUST GET FEDERAL APPROVAL FROM THE TTB, go talk to them because they only give that appproval on a case by case basis and don't expect them to snap to and give you an answer overnight. Furthermore, you have to deal with local zoning first and foremost because the feds WILL ask you about that. For all planning, I recommend you start locally, then go state-level, then federal. The feds EXPECT that you are in complete compliance with all local and state regs and will ask you about it when they interview you. Bare in mind that your location is one of your biggest factors that will allow your business to be successful. First thing is that the environment (city vs. country) will make a huge difference in the local requirements that can add tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars difference to your startup cost. Second, state (and even local) laws will determine if you can sell your products from your gift shop/tasting room. You make up to three times the profit when you sell a bottle from your gift shop vs. to a distributor. Finally, if you are off the beaten path, how many folks will venture to come and see you? All of those factors are important to consider for your location, so setting up shop in one state that may allow tastings and product sale out of your facility vs. another state where you can only sell t-shirts can make the difference between needing to sell 500 cases or 2500 cases your first year. 5. Once you have a place that you can legally set up and is zoned appropriately and the townsfolk won't come at you with pitchforks and torches, set it up for distilling. What does that mean? Well, either you can hire a consultant (there are many out there) or you can do it yourself. We have started with some pretty bare bones stuff and when we are able to move along, we'll buy (or make) the "nice" equipment. Cost is up to you on all of this, but you are going to need at least SOME money, more power to you if you can make your own equipment. 6. Once your equipment is in place and your site is ready, send in your federal paperwork (the feds require that your equipment is in place prior to licensing). Again, if you have money, you can hire someone to do this part for you. The paperwork itself isn't rocket surgery. But, if you mess it up, it very likely can slow things down. For example, I had something on our permit changed, it took 3 months to add two words on our already existing permit. Plan for a 3-6 month wait, hope for less of course. I can't tell you about your state requirements, that's up to you to figure out cause each state does it their own way. 7. Once you're licensed, make some hooch and sell it (probably to a distributor, or the state if you're in a "control state"), and start beating feet to get it on shelves. If you're not a natural or can't play the part of salesman/diplomat, find someone who can do a good job for you. Even if you can start up your operation on a very, very slim budget, you're going to need a few bucks for this part. I would plan for at least six months of not selling jack through distributors. These distributors manage many, many products and you are just one piece of their usually very large pie. You're going to have to make an effort to build a quality relationship with these guys and work around their schedules. Anything that seems like it should be easy with them WILL NOT BE. If you happen to be setting up on a location that will garner loads of tourist traffic, that's always a plus. But, even then, you're going to have do some sort of marketing (may not cost you a bunch of money, but some of it will) to get the word out that "there's a local distill'ry here" (so come and visit so we can keep the lights on). During this entire process you also need to keep your lights on at home on. In my case I have a wife that kept her day job for our first 4 years of business, so we were able to support ourselves with her income alone until the business could afford to pay us. When you start producing product, you need enough cash to run your business and your home expenses for six months or more. Basic business expenses will include but are not limited to the following: lease/rent, insurance, utilities, payroll (if applicable), raw material costs (grain, molasses/sugar, yeast/nutrients, packaging, etc.), MARKETING (everything from signs and ads to travel brochures for nearby locations), EXCISE TAXES for product that you sell, items for your gift shop (if you have one), and some buffer for the honorable Mr. Murphy (he WILL pay you a visit at least once in your first few months, so be ready to throw some cash down for when he comes). A very realistic rule of thumb is to take your budget and cut it in half. Use half for your facility and equipment, then the other half for your initial production costs and unappropriated costs. But I'd say that advice is still marginal at best. Finally, another important thing to think about is your workforce. I was the only full-time employee for our operation for our first 2 years. I served as distiller, bottler, tasting bartender, cashier, tour guide, sales rep (on the road to stores/on premises accts), accountant, handyman, groundskeeper, and whatever else needs to get done. Until we were able to begin hiring full-time employees, we had friends and family help us out with many different things. I'm sure that this experience is somewhat normal for many small businesses, but it seemed to take a while before we were able to truly afford standard employees. Again, this is just my experience, but that's something to think about. NOTE: This forum has a wealth of information, so do other forums when it comes to techniques (homedistiller.org). I recommend that you read through it and others extensively prior to posting and, when you post, attack a single issue at a time. Don't ask something like, "How do you distill???" or "how do I start a distillery?" Look through the postings, get Bill's book (not being paid for that either), and any other references prior to posting. But, bottom line, be specific when you post so people don't have to write a book IF they do decide to respond. If you don't get much feedback, bank on the fact that you asked a question that already has an answer on the forum. If you really, really don't know anything about distilling or setting up a distillery, refer to steps 1-3. But, just because you can make a product, does not mean you can run a business that profits from that product. I know quite a few folks who can do some good things that they could turn into a business, but they don't want to or can't start a new business for whatever reason. Even when I was the only employee, I spent 75% of my work time NOT MAKING HOOCH. In most cases you are going to have to work at it to make some cash. But, know this, no matter what, the feds (and your state) WILL PROFIT IMMEDIATELY, but that does not mean that you will. From idea to an actual working distillery making hooch, my timeline lasted about 3 years. We're now beginning our 5th year in business and we have 6 full-time employees (including myself), and 6 part-time employees. I still drive a Honda Civic, but I work for MB Roland (consequently that's my wife's maiden name ). Good luck and I hope this serves as a good reference and starting point for those who need guidance on this topic.
  10. 3 points
    Yes. But... We must always guard against the danger of getting lost in the romanticism of nostalgia. We can respect the old ways and be thankful that we have the ability to stand on the shoulders of giants, but that doesn't mean that we should not push the limits, leveraging new technologies and new techniques, to create new, unique, and better products than our elders had before us. Just because they are the old ways, do not mean that they are the best ways. Don't mistake my words, I'm not saying that a new way is better because it's new, or that an old way isn't the best way. Just like our elders had the responsibility of growing and enriching their craft, so do we. If it means an old way must go, it must go. I believe the old artisans would approve. I'm sure I'm not the only one who reads this article as being condescending. I'm sure it wasn't written to come off as condescending, but it is nonetheless. I admit, it's nice to look back on the good old days. Everything was better back then, wasn't it? Men were men, honesty was a virtue, and someone's word actually meant something. Having studied neuroscience and cognitive psychology for many years, with a focus on emotion, memory, and cognitive bias, I can't help but read these kinds of nostalgic pieces and imagine how much of that retrospection was clouded by biases and flaws (or omissions) in our memories. There is a well known cognitive bias called Rosy Retrospection. Despite the cute name, it's the basis for those feelings of romantic nostalgia we have for the past. However, it also means that perhaps the past was not how we remember. I still remember the taste of the champagne that I sipped after toasting with my wife at our wedding reception, or the taste of that whiskey me and the boys sipped when getting the news that there was a little one on the way, god it was so good. The reality of it is, the good old days weren't. I'm not complaining that our brains have a propensity to fade unpleasant memories, and retain (and even embellish) the good ones. Life would be awful otherwise, wouldn't it? But, the old stories come together, and history is written with these biases. So when we look back, we need to understand that the negatives were probably omitted, and the positives are certainly more positive than they were. So, now we get to the truth, let's be realistic here. Commercial producers, even small ones, have been producing awful spirits for as long as people have been drinking them. You would be remiss to simply assume just because some producer produced something seventy five years ago, it was absolutely fantastic, magical, unparalleled in quality and without compare. Because, you know what, most of it was probably pretty bad. Craft was probably the last thing in many of their minds. Losing a batch to a raging bacterial infection meant your kids going hungry, so they produced it anyway. I've tasted lots of very old product, you know, the kind with fancy scores and reviews, when people fawn over names, and was amazed that after dozens of years your could still taste the fact that they didn't bother to take much of a heads cut, hell, any cut at all. The raw distillate was probably so god awful that it needed 25 years on oak just to be remotely drinkable. What I don't understand is, why make these overly broad, sweeping assumptions about the new breed of craft producers? Yet at the same time paying some kind of religious homage to those who came before? Frankly, neither deserve it.
  11. 3 points
    I've professionally used home-built 55-gal drum electric stills, 3 different simple pot stills (800L, 1500L, 2500L) built by inexperienced US fabricators, a steam-heated CARL with brandy & vodka columns, and a 4-plate electric water-bath KOTHE. While it is possible to make good spirits on all of them, the carl and kothe both dramatically expand the options of the types of things you can distill and the different methods you can do it by. They are also significantly safer, faster to heat, and easier to clean. Knowing what you plan to produce is the biggest factor in what type of still you should look for. If you plan to make gin from redistilled GNS, you don't need much. If you want to make pear brandy from whole fruit, you need either something more sophisticated or the hands-on experience you'll only gain from ruining a batch I've heard of several people finding deals on used german stills, both in the US as people outgrow them or go out of business (how we got the CARL) and abroad as the brandy market continues to shrivel. That is the path I would take, as I think there will be a pretty regular clip of closures in the next few years.
  12. 3 points
    Ingredients, fermentation, still operation and aging all go hand in hand. I think anyone currently making a great drink would still make a great drink if you gave him a beer keg on a gas burner for a still. Better equipment may ease or speed production, but better equipment will not necessarily produce a better drink.
  13. 3 points
    A nice hammer does not a carpenter make.
  14. 3 points
    You are killing your malt/enzymes by adding it over 150. Also, you can't use a refractometer on your beer, once it has alcohol in it. Fine for the initial info, but worthless once the fermentation starts.
  15. 3 points
    No one has a license to dictate how the word "craft" is used. "Craft" connotes more than it denotes. That means that craft is what you say it is, not what some "they" say it is. Various organizations, ADI included, want to give private definition of the term, but they have no ability to enforce their notion of what "craft" should be. That statement is not meant as a value judgment; it is a statement of fact as I see it. Here are my value judgments. You talk about buying bulk spirits to make infusions. When you infuse, you alter the character of the base product. Arguably, and I'm ready to take the flack on this from the craft community, neutral spirits produced in large, industrial stills and then used to produce small lot gins by distillation or maceration, are probably better to use as a gin base than neutral spirits produced by small distillers in stills that strain to make 190 proof. A neutral pallet on which to paint provides you the opportunity to create an imaginative products by, say, multiple fractional distillations, that take time and attention, and to blend those products in imaginative and even "artistic" ways, which requires a sensory pallet. Those with good sensory pallets can certainly "craft" better products than a those, like me, who have no taste at all. Speaking of pallet, let me argue by analogy, which is always dangerous, because analogies always will fail in some regard. But, does anyone worry about whether Picasso or Cezanne or Monet or .... whoever, you name the artist ....made their own paints and wove their own canvases. Of course not. It is how they applied the paint to the canvas that matters. It is their vision, their skill, their ingenuity, their energy that add up to "genius." Their work transcends that of producers of craft art, and a person who blends or infuses spirits or wine skillfully, can transcend craft distillers and winemakers who do so with a heavy hand. So why worry about tags. . Worry about what gets into the bottle. Consumers can then decide if you are an artist that transcends or a small distiller calls itself craft, for no other reason than it is small. Just be honest in the story you tell. And, for the record, as far as US regulation is concerned, you will be making liqueurs only if the product you put into the bottle meets the US standard of identity for liqueurs. they are " products obtained by mixing or redistilling distilled spirits with or over fruits, flowers, plants, or pure juices therefrom, or other natural flavoring materials, or with extracts derived from infusions, percolation, or maceration of such materials, and containing sugar, dextrose, or levulose, or a combination thereof, in an amount not less than 21/2percent by weight of the finished product." That definition matters, but it does not change the quality of the product either.
  16. 3 points
    and there we go, the first PM trying to sell me monthly cost software comes in promising a 'big discount'... when it is a $9.95 app (ok, a $99.95 app) with no recurring charges, let me know...
  17. 3 points
    First, he said he does not have the capital for that software, and I understand where he came from... I am not sure I agree with using the costly software for small folks starting out, a couple hundred dollars a month is great if it does everything and you have ten thousand a month coming in, but they don't do everything, they can't... You still have to do all the measuring, all the data entry, and you have to do it their way, they just do math and database recording... sure they fill out the reports, but in my opinion, you really need to do the reports yourself for at least a little bit, your name is still on them!... Oh, and from what I hear, don't try to go back and correct a mistake you found you made in one of those programs... worse than trying to correct something in your Retail POS system... I spend maybe an hour a week filling out basic daily log forms I created in excel for each kind of tracked activity: received fermentables, fermentations, transfers, stripping runs, whiskey runs, neutral runs, botanical runs, dilution, gauging and bottling runs, barreling and entry to storage, and removal from bond... In the beginning, it was well more than an hour, but you get good at it... those forms have no math, they are simple daily records that I print out a bunch of each type and keep in the distillery area, I do something on the list above, I fill it out by hand... (it is also a great thing to show people on tours to show the detail of records you keep to appease the government and why they should buy a bottle of something that is truly 'hand crafted!) Monthly, tonight, actually, I will take all those daily record sheets in my binder and last month's forms, and tally up totals.... I will go through my distillation records and total up any 'finished spirits' and open the 5110.40 "production", I will go through it and triple check everything.. I will go through my dilution, gauging, and bottling records and my 'removed from bond records and tally them up and I will fill out 5110.28 "processing".. I didn't fill any new barrels this month, so my 5110.10 'Storage' will have the same values that I ended with last month... I literally spent more time typing this than I probably will doing the reports tonight.... I have looked at putting my data into one of the lower cost systems like distillitrak. I probably will go with them eventually, but the startup is too time intensive at the moment, as the setup of vendors, every container, every ingredient, etc... are one thing, but every time you turn around to do something different, you have to go add this or that to your ingredients or vendors or items or whatever before proceeding, it really seems to hurt the artistic workflow of a small shop.... you should do it in excel sheets of your own making for a year or so, specifically so you know what the software you will likely eventually purchase is doing... The biggest reason I will eventually get a system is for more than 10 products and products at multiple proofs, that is where spreadsheets fail and a database shines... but even then, it will do things the operator does not understand, especially if the operator does not have an intimate understanding of how the daily records and monthly TTB forms relate to each other... OK, I spent an hour and a half writing this... time to do reports..
  18. 3 points
    The guy below tweeted about my distillery recently 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.)
  19. 3 points
    It all looks big, until you try to turn the forklift around.
  20. 3 points
    If you are using flaked corn, you should able to do the whole batch at aprox 148 degrees. Shouldn't ned to take it any higher as flaked means it's already been gelatinized.
  21. 3 points
    My opinion is time in the barrel really means nothing. Barrels are a part of COGS. So if your equating time to value of the spirit your missing the point of pricing. Pricing is a function of one simple/complex principle VALUE, Value = taste+presentation+story+the emotional attachment and willingness to purchase. What does your market testing indicate? Do you have a tasting room? During development did you ask potential customers what they would be willing to pay? I have a spirit that was three years aging, it sold from $35 to $125 per bottle, the mean price point is $69 to $79. The second batch sold at the same price points but was better received by the consumer, they liked it better. (it was less than 6 months old.) All this was the result of a hands on market testing. We have customers that are requesting it in an un-aged version, at the same price points. So, here is what you do, test, taste, compare to other products, compare price points and make money. Not to be too blunt, but there is a lot of craft and mainstream whisky/spirits that taste like crap. I've been to every conference for the past 5 years, and tried them. How some stuff stays on the market is beyond me, but it all goes back to the Value equation. A market test showed the three largest bourbon whiskys where the first choice of loyal consumers but in a blind taste test they all came in last. Which proves the Value equation is more than just taste, but they still purchased the stuff they like the least. (emotional attachment).
  22. 3 points
    Agree with most of what is said above. The big issue I see killing many distilleries now is simply the sheer number of us out there. Differentiating is tough when there are so many "craft" options now. The problem is compounded as I think the new players coming in are much better capitalized than the early adopters who bootstrapped to success. I think the days of the successful bootstrap distillery have passed. My DSP completed in August 2012. I worked at my business plan for a good two years before that, and had to start a farm to grow cane concurrently. We are only now approaching a positive cash flow. Marketing is also much more important than most startups know. I said to myself when I started that my marketing budget should be at least 5x my capital expenses in the first 3 years. Looking back, I would say that is accurate on the low end. It is so easy to buy shiny machines and cool equipment, but most distilleries have a "if I build it, they will come" mentality and those days are just over, in my opinion. Make something awesome and market the heck out of it. Put in the crazy hours, and forgo any salary for the foreseeable future. Only quit your day job if you can do this with no income. That is another big killer to distilleries. On a positive note, I truly believe all the work that went into starting my business will pay off well. If I had it to do over again, I would still do it, but I would do it much differently. I would say I started both undercapitalized and over-expensed. Don't do it that way
  23. 3 points
    Don, This is a great question for a post...and you're probably correct, in that the distilleries which have closed, probably aren't sharing their stories, with good and fair reasons. Here are a few from my experience: "If I build it they will come", not coming true. I've seen a few distilleries just believe in the coolness so much that they ignored all of the other reasons for attracting customers. Lack of Operating Capital: You should have a minimum of 1.5 years of operating capital ready before you commit...better 3 years. Carrying cash is a huge issue for startup distilleries and can get to a "zinger" stage when buying containers of bottles, not getting good terms on the AR side or worst yet, poor terms on the AP side. If you have an AR/AP cycle of greater than 90 days for typical products sold, you're really stretching your ability to survive. You read the ADI Book that said, "make vodka, gin, and white whiskey and sell that while you wait for your brown stocks to age".....That worked great for distilleries about 5 years ago. But as mentioned above, if you show up to a liquor store or bar with a "vodka, gin, and white whiskey", they're going to point to the mass of those products already on the shelves and send you packing. Company organization and structure....especially as it relates to investors. If they're ready to make their call and you aren't ready to pay, then you're done. "You only run out of cash, once". Every small business conference will reinforce this message....why once? Because when you're out of cash, the business is done. Marketing....."you are opening a marketing company that happens to make hooch". If you don't understand this from day one, you're probably not going to make it in the long run. This does not detract in any way from making great spirits in a craft fashion, it just means that if your message doesn't resonate with the customer, they're not going to buy it. Concentrate on selling the 2nd bottle: That first bottle sold hits every bar and then collects dust (as mentioned above). Its easy to sell the first bottle, concentrate on your plan to sell the 2nd to that same customer....build repeat customers or you're done. Understand the commitment to man-hours on your equipment. Batch distillation is hugely inefficient, especially in stills smaller than 250g. Make sure you have man-hours planned in your budget to allow for production and marketing/sales, with the split 30/70 respectively. Of the 7 (or so) distilleries that I've heard of failure or unwilling sales: Ran out of money Had no effort put to marketing Didn't sell well Made poor product Cheers, McKee
  24. 3 points
    I like this...or Liked It...I checked the box.
  25. 2 points
    *Chanting* IN THE STILL! IN THE STILL!
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