Hello everyone, I am a graduate student at the University of Louisville studying Chemical Engineering. I am on track to graduate in May of 2018 with a master's degree in Chemical Engineering and would like to continue my work in the distilled spirits industry after graduation. I have about a year and a half of work experience, with six months working in two different distilleries.
This summer, I worked at Moonshine University in Louisville, KY as a distillery assistant. I was in charge of operating and cleaning small scale distillery equipment to prepare for classes. The distillery at Moonshine University was a ~250 gallon batch system which included a small rolling mill, cooker, 3 fermenters, hybrid pot/column copper still, vodka column still, and a small 50 gallon gin still. My main responsibility was to ensure that everything was set up and ready for a class before it began. This would include buying grain and supplies, cooking and fermenting mashes, distilling fermented mashes, and a lot of cleaning. During my time there I had made batches of bourbon, whiskey, rum, scotch, gin, and vodka on the three different stills in the distillery.
In addition to operating the distillery equipment, I assisted in a product development project. This large product development project was developing 5 different gin recipes using different base distillates for a large client. I was responsible for distilling the gin prototypes using lab-sized glass stills with botanical baskets. I would distill two fifths of gin for each gin recipe, and sit in on the tasting meetings where we would tweak each botanical recipe to perfect each gin. There were many iterations of each recipe, so there was a lot of gin that I had to distill. After about a month, we had five delicious gin recipes, one of which was for a barrel aged gin.
I was also able to sit on a few of the classes offered at Moonshine University. I sat in on and learned from many different courses such as 5 Day Distiller Course, Advanced Sensory Analysis, Distilling Operations 201, Route to Market, Botanicals Workshop, and Bourbon Making Workshop. At these classes I got to meet and learn from many experienced engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists, accountants, lawyers, and master distillers.
After my summer internship ended at Moonshine University, I started a full course load of master's chemical engineering classes while also working part time at Michter's Distillery. At Michter's, I am an engineering intern doing small projects and work in different parts of the distillery. While I've been working part time at Michter's I've worked on updating SOP's for the processing department and assisting QA with GC/MS work. In addition to my small projects, I will also fill in for absent operators on the bottling line or in the warehouse. I've worked on the bottling line, filled barrels with distillate, and pulled barrel samples from the warehouse.
Outside of the distilled spirits industry, I worked as a production engineer co-op for three semesters (about a year) at Ashland Specialty Chemicals in Calvert City, KY. At Ashland, I worked under two extremely talented production engineers who gave me projects that would improve production, quality, and safety in our department. I was in charge of managing out of spec material and implementing rework or removal of the OOS product. I was also responsible for creating weekly production reports for our most valuable process units and scheduling continuous improvement meetings to review my reports. I was able to learn from talented engineers, foremen, operators, managers, and other employees who taught me how to be an efficient engineer and a valuable asset to the company.
As I said earlier, I am looking to continue working in the distilled spirits industry as a chemical engineer. I will graduate in May of 2018 with my master's degree in Chemical Engineering and would like to begin work soon after that. I believe my experience sets me apart from most college graduates looking to enter this field. I currently live in Louisville, KY, however I am willing to relocate to another state.
I actually met Bill Owens while I was at Moonshine University, and he said that these forums are a great way to get connected in the industry and find work. If you have an opportunity for me or any leads on a job, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , reply below, or PM on here. I appreciate any help anyone has to offer me!