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Craft gin - 5 questions, please don't beat me up

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Hey guys,

Still in the research phase to see if I want to jump into the craft gin business. I'm a long-time expat living in Asia, if you can believe it there's not one single gin manufacturer in this country - that's just wrong.. ;) I'd like to fix that.

I spent a few weeks learning more about about the history of gin, another week researching distilling NGA just so I'd have the background. Fascinating stuff, from technical point of view to the artisanal quality of the final product!

It's a bit overwhelming, like going back to school where there are 50 professors and each talks a little bit about the subject or related subjects and you have to put it all together on your own, and you can't ask questions.

I have a local source for NGA, so that simplifies things. As far as I understand I primarily need a pot still with a basket for the botanicals. If I could get a handle on what kind of equipment I need for steam infused Gin it would go a LONG way in me not ripping my hair out.

http://www.hillbillystills.com/product/3-pot-still-and-26-gallon-boiler-hs5500-combo-with-thermoport/

I saw this, but it doesn't seem exactly right. I'm sure there are better manufacturers. There are tons of tinsmiths, metal guys around me, but this is really technical equipment, I'd rather just buy a still to begin with and fabricate if I grow.

I read this excellent PDF: http://www.phillippdunn.com/liqour/MakingGinVodka.pdf

But the author promotes using a water heater as a still.. Not exactly what I was thinking.

If some empathetic soul could jump in and answer ANY of questions I would be grateful. I have a million, but have edited it down to 5.

1. Can you point me to a decent quality setup / still needed for taking NGA and turning it into a final product with botanicals?

2. Are online classes like distilleryuniversity.com worth the dosh? Or are they geared more towards making whisky and home stills.

3. I run a marketing / design business, I understand it takes awhile to market any brand / product - what sized operation / output should I shoot for? To start with I'll be selling locally, then (hopefully) regionally, along with international direct fulfillment. I'd rather scale up then grow up (due to initial costs).

4. I have some regional botanicals that I want to use in my recipe. I understand this business takes a long time to get up and running. How do most craft business start out testing their mixes? Buy a small home still kit and start testing?

5. I have a large amount of farmland here, and plenty of workers to farm it. However some of my botanicals just won't grow (11b) like Juniper (doh!) Is it even worth it to try to grow my own herbs organically - or do most craft shops just purchase in bulk and store them?

Thanks so much!

 

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I will take a shot.

1.  I would suggest looking through the vendors on this forum or the general ADI sponsors etc for still options.  I am sure you will get many people here who can push their own products.  I will gladly recommend you check out Artisan Still Designs as they are more than capable of this type of setup.

2. My personal opinion is not really if you are able to understand the technical aspects by reading the vast amount of info out there for free.

3. This I can't answer except to say that your throughput with a Gin from NGS is going to be very high and you don't need a huge still to make a lot of product.

4. I started by testing on a 5L still and scaling up the recipe from there. 

5. I think most buy and store (I do).  Making your own would be a good marketing story but be careful that you aren't sacrificing quality.  The botanicals are the essence of your gin.

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3 minutes ago, mheisz said:

2. My personal opinion is not really if you are able to understand the technical aspects by reading the vast amount of info out there for free

Cool, you just saved me some money ;)

3 minutes ago, mheisz said:

4. I started by testing on a 5L still and scaling up the recipe from there.

Do you have any links to what you started with and are currently using?

Thanks for the response!

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7 minutes ago, mheisz said:

I started on this:

https://milehidistilling.com/product/1-3-gallon-5-liter-alembic-copper-still/

And ended on a 300 gallon Artisan Still Designs Complete system,

thanks for the link.

nice looking taster still.

did you:

- macerate the botanicals in some kind of muslin bag

- find a way to suspend them in this pot to steam infuse

- do one botanical at a time and mix them later?

won't even ask what the Artisan cost you.

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We are using the 6-plate HBS still plus the gin basket:

http://www.hillbillystills.com/product/6-plate-vodka-turn-key-distillery/

http://www.hillbillystills.com/product/gin-basket-add-on-new-and-improved/

If I start with 15 proof gallons of our base alcohol I can make about 6 cases (~72 +/-) of gin, and I cut way before tasting any tails.  You might want to start with about half of that or less at the beginning and develop your particular blend.

The gin basket is very simple to use.  I just manually crush up about a total of 160 grams of botanicals and wrap them in a cheese cloth.  Pop that in the gin basket and run it real slow.  Place the gin basket right above the column but below the dephlegmator.

We purchase our juniper but then add locally sourced botanicals.  I would recommend make your non-juniper botanicals be your signature and source them as close to home as possible to make that part of your story.

Best of luck!

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If you are interested in gin, you may enjoy this thread:

As for gin making and using gns, a simple potstill is just awesome.

Regards, Odin.

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I agree that the quickest cheapest way to start for gin made with nga (ngs) is to use a copper alembic. For that matter, you can use a glass laboratory still, since you don't really need the copper to scrub. Start with just macerated pot-still gin, later look into using a gin basket, if you like. You can do some amazing stuff playing around with unusual local botanicals and juniper. Juniperus communis grows all around the northern hemisphere down to 30°N latitude in North America, Europe and Asia, so depending how far south you are, you can grow it. But it is slow growing, takes years. Don't know anything about legality of "home" distillation in your country, but if you can do that, you can do fine for gin by starting out with a 5-20 liter copper alembic or a 2-10 liter glass lab still. Macerated gin from ngs in one of those can actually scale up not so badly, with slight adjustments in proportions of botanicals.

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For us, the two biggest challenges have been:

  • Scaling up recipes
  • Botanical consistency

We started our recipe development on a small 2L glass lab still which was just too small. Even weighing botanicals to the picogram (OK not really) by the time we scaled up (100 liters) the organoleptic properties bore only a passing resemblance to that which we started.  We found vapor infused to be infinitely more difficult to scale up that macerated.

I don't know what to do about the consistency issues.  Resellers don't know or at least won't tell which producers provided their bots.  At one point we started buying in larger quantities but then the bontanicals (most noticeable in the juniper) started to dry out before we used them all.  

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We did tons of recipe development on a small 50 liter still using the Stilldragon Carter Head, it's a great little setup.

Lab still is a fun way to learn about botanical profiles by distilling single-botanical runs or making simple combinations without spending a large amount of money on alcohol and botanicals, but it's by far the hardest place to start recipe development, because of the scaling issues mentioned.  This is especially so if you are using vapor infusion, or a combination of maceration and vapor infusion.

Also keep in mind that botanical inconsistency is amplified with very small botanical amounts, I think this is a big part of the scaling problem.

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On 3/8/2017 at 4:19 PM, indyspirits said:

For us, the two biggest challenges have been:

  • Scaling up recipes
  • Botanical consistency

We started our recipe development on a small 2L glass lab still which was just too small. Even weighing botanicals to the picogram (OK not really) by the time we scaled up (100 liters) the organoleptic properties bore only a passing resemblance to that which we started.  We found vapor infused to be infinitely more difficult to scale up that macerated.

I don't know what to do about the consistency issues.  Resellers don't know or at least won't tell which producers provided their bots.  At one point we started buying in larger quantities but then the bontanicals (most noticeable in the juniper) started to dry out before we used them all.  

Hi Indy, 

I'm interested to know how you managed to scale up your recipe? We are using a 20L alembic still, but only running 1.5L trials each time.  I've mastered the botanicals in my last trial run, but now how do I scale up to a 600L(150ish gallon) still? Am I crazy to think that multiplying my 1.5L by 400 is a place to start? That sounds ridiculously insane to me as calculating botanical costs for a 600L seems to add up to $556/run in botanicals. This seems nuts, no? I used 107g of botanicals in my 1.5L batch.  

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71.3g per liter of boiler content is a lot! 20-35g/l seems to be what most people use. Example: 35g x 600 L = 21kg of botanicals. That would be $273 at your prices, maybe slightly over a dollar a bottle (at .7L). If you buy some botanicals in bulk volumes the price might go down significantly. I know I spend a bit less.

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1 hour ago, paulNL said:

71.3g per liter of boiler content is a lot! 20-35g/l seems to be what most people use. Example: 35g x 600 L = 21kg of botanicals. That would be $273 at your prices, maybe slightly over a dollar a bottle (at .7L). If you buy some botanicals in bulk volumes the price might go down significantly. I know I spend a bit less.

Oh boy...does that mean I've been wasting botanicals during each run? I took a gin course a few months a ago and that was the quantity we had used. Yeesh. 

So now, if I adjust my quantity (71.3g/L) to about half of what it was, will I still get the same result flavor wise? 

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Just learning about gin myself. I find if I use less juniper (I average 25g/L) but macerate a bit longer, it gives a nice flavor although I'm still sorting out how each botanical affects the taste, so you can take that with advisement :) 

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Reviewing my post, I see I have my measurements wrong. The juniper component would represent about 10 - 12 g/L. The rest is made up of the other botanicals, coriander, orris etc..

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10-15g/l of Juniper seems about right, enough room for the other botanicals. You can macerate both juniper and coriander for one or more days in 60% before you dilute everything to get to a safe ABV to start distilling, and add your other botanicals.

jenschmunk: yes, 71.3g/l is excessive.

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18 hours ago, Glenlyon said:

I find if I use less juniper (I average 25g/L) but macerate a bit longer,

Do you not have a louching problem? That seems like quite a bit of juniper.

 

 

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Check out my follow up post where I parse out the juniper to about 10 - 12 g/L. So far I have not had any louching, but no doubt I'll eventually encounter it. I am currently proofing to 40%. Making gin is a lot like cooking, you can give the same ingredients to a group of chefs (distillers) and they'll all make something completely different. I really like that about gin.

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I only do vapor infusion for my gin. You really tend to need more g/l of certain botanicals, particularly juniper, if you're not macerating. IMO 25g/l of juniper is quite a lot, particularly if you're macerating it. But if that works for you that's great.

My gin is a bit on the lighter side, and it ends up being about 15g/l of juniper. I proof mine down to 43% and the way it ends up it's just on the verge of louching. But I also have a lot of citrus in there too.

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2 hours ago, Sator Square Distillery said:

I proof mine down to 43% and the way it ends up it's just on the verge of louching

You get louching with vapor infused?  

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1 hour ago, indyspirits said:

You get louching with vapor infused?  

Not at bottle strength, no. But 50ml of my gin to about 200ml of tonic on a G&T will cause a slight louche. I do put that more to citrus oils than my juniper though, of which I use grapefruit and tangelo.

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I am down to about 10g/l of Juniper but this is with the latest batch of Juniper which seems to be a lot stronger with higher Juniper oil content than my last batch. I bought 20kg of Juniper and the first run at 15 tasted like 30 of my previous supply of Juniper.  No louching for me on the citrus but I am using a herb called Pitanga which is like lemon myrtle.  And on can only get it in South America.  I do vapor masceration with a gin basket.  

Anyway if you want to learn about making Gin search on everything that was written by Odin. He is a god when it comes to how to make Gin, in my opinion.  

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Thanks for the kudo's, DonMateo. If anyone needs some help, please reach out to me either personally or via my "Odin on Gin" thread here on this ADI forum. Not sure I can provide all the answers, but for sure I will try.

Regards, Odin.

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Odin, when I read somewhere that you wrote about actually doing cuts on a gin run I didnt understand but I did it anyway.  Everything I have read that you have written about making gin has been great and spot on. I am just a beginner as I am just in the process of recipe testing but at decent volumes. But all your material has been great. If I wasnt in Argentina I would send you a bottle or two.   

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