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    Tucson, AZ
  • Interests
    Viticulture, winemaking, hiking, caving.

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  1. I use these in winemaking and have been very happy with them. They're a little expensive, but they have the best flavor of any of the add-in oak products I've tried. I'm sure barrels are better, but spirals and staves are good for small-timers. Brett
  2. Berle (Rusty); I sent you a PM. Check it out. Brett
  3. Right; I could tell that only heat was exchanged between the chauffe-vin and the distillate. When I first looked at it, I thought maybe it there for continuous distillation. Further reading revealed that it is used in batch mode though. We have no "methode Charentais" distillers in AZ, an only one running distillery as far as I know, so I would have to take a little trip somewhere to actually see a Charentais still in action. Maybe next year. Who makes good quality American brandy in the cognac style. Can the bottle say it was made in the Cognac style, or méthode-Charentais (similar to méthode champenoise)? This year, I'm learning wine-making from a local vitner and learning viticulture from a local grower as we have no surplusses of grapes in AZ and I may have to grow my own if I want to get serious with this. My wife is already resigned to the fact that a corner of our lot will soon have grapes growing in it :-). She's assured me, she's NOT taking care of them however :-). Anyway, I got side-tracked there a bit. Thanks for the response and I understand that no formula can be followed; I just want to learn as much as I can with the resources I have. Brett
  4. Hi; Does anyone understand how Cognac is made? I've been looking at Cognac stills, and have found very little that describes the operation. It looks like the distillate is fed through a smaller pot (not quite a thumper) that pre-heats the next batch of wine. The middle pot (not quite a thumper) is then drained into the boiler and distillation resumes. What is going on?
  5. Sherman; The figure most growers I've talked to use is 150 gal of wine per ton of grapes. This works out to closer to 167 tons of grapes to give 25000 gal of wine at about 13% ABV (depending on Brix). I don't know the average yield per acre in KY, but 4 tons/acre would require a bit over 40 acres of vines. This may make your figures look a bit more attractive to farmers. Again, I don't know the cost of lower quality grapes there, but at $800-$1200/ton, the total value in grapes is about $132,800-$199,200. That works out to be $5-$8/gallon of wine (cost of goods). The winery also needs to make a profit, so buying wine would cost a bit more. The most recent study in CA (2008, UC Davis) suggest that the profitability per acre is poor right now, something like $1-2K/acre if I remember correctly (for average yield and price). This is roughly half the value of the grapes. Not sure what it's like in your area, or if that's enough to get anyone excited. I'm still trying to figure out the total costs in my area, but the rule-of thumb I've heard here is also half the sales price (after the initial investment), or about $2K/acre plus a bit. At $1200/ton and 4tons/acre = $4800/acre, you can see how this works out close to the $2K/acre given by the recent UC Davis analysis. Vineyards smaller than 40 acres better be making wine (or brandy) to sell at 5x the cost if they want to make a profit! As you can see, lower cost grapes would make the profitability even worse for the grower. These are just some quick figures, your mileage may vary. :-) Brett
  6. You mean we don't need more lighter fluid? ;-) I'm always a bit leery when someone makes it sound too easy. Talking to someone who's selling something (such as equipment or a vineyard) is likely to get you a rosy picture. Talking to someone who's busy trying to make it work will probably get you a dose of reality. I've been looking at the store shelves lately and see several new brands out - in everything from Absinthe to Whisky. So, I know that competition is strong. My next task is to try to get an idea how big the local market is. Maybe I should have started there. I have an idea for the wine business here in AZ, and it looks pretty rosy. It looks like AZ wines only account for about 3% of the total volume sold in the state and the local wineries are selling just about every drop. So, we haven't hit saturation yet. But, what's a reasonable number, 10%? Even at that, the numbers are huge (something like $50M). So far, I know of only one distillery in the state, and none of the wine-makers I've talked to are interested. They look at distilling as a very complicated process they don't want to bother with. I guess this is a long way of saying I think there's a market here, but I need to check what the demand is.
  7. This is definitely an advantage to brewing beer alright. Whisky's and brandy's need to be aged. I suppose vodka can be sold right away. How about Grappa or Eau de Vie? Maybe a small percentage of the product could be sold each year while the rest ages. I've seen this done with wine until the aged stuff is ready. Agreed. It's the only way I'll have actual figures to plug into my spreadsheet (that's growing every day). I'm leaning towards Brandy. I suppose I could start with a vineyard, then a winery, then add a distillery (if I'm not overwhelmed by operating a vineyard and winery by that time). I may need to rethink this, but I think that going through the exercise on paper will help me figure out what I should have done in the first place. :-) This is the exact type of help I was looking for guys. I appreciate the comments and thanks for taking an interest in a newbie. Brett
  8. Ya got me there! :-) I was being a little loose with the terminology to make a point, but I guess I exaggerated too much. How about within 10^-1? ;-) Brett
  9. I believe AZ also allows direct sales. I don't think I could consider it otherwise due to the margins I'm calculating. I would like to make brandy, but the cost of even bulk wine (plus shipping) doesn't leave much room and I haven't figured in all the costs yet. I could grow my own grapes, but I'm worried about being spread too thin. I'm a technical person, so I want to do a good analysis and make a plan I'm confident has a good chance of success. But it's easy to over-analyze too, so I'm trying to find the salient points. and make sure I cover some of the business/marketing aspects instead of just focusing on learning distillation on a larger scale. That'll be the fun part I think :-). There's also a ton of equipment/supplies that needs to be bought and I'll need to factor that in to work out a timeline. I know this is all kind of fuzzy, and I'm not expecting to nail it down to the penny, I'd just like to get an order of magnitude. I read some of the reviews on the Brewers Association book that Sensei mentioned and it sounds like one of the things missing from the book is a list of equipment (even a partial would be better than nothing). Do you (or anyone else) know a source that might give even a basic list? I know fermenters, casks and still and can probably get prices for those. Brett
  10. Thanks for the response! One year to get a salary is less time than I was expecting, so I think you must be doing something right. How did you get the experience/training you needed to get started? I don't have a local distillery around (where I could volunteer), but I think there may be a market for the products. I'm signed up for the ADI distilling course this year and have also looked at Heriot-Watt's distance learning program. This looks like it would teach me about brewing/distilling, but there's only a couple of courses in business and that concerns me a bit. Any thoughts? Brett
  11. Hi; I'm looking for information about how long it may take to become profitable after starting up a distillery, equipment costs, licensing, etc. Has anyone seen a sample business plan for distilleries? I've seen sample plans for winery startups and most of them give a period of 5-10 years before the business actually has decent positive cash flow. Is the same true for distilleries? I'd like to be able to compare the cost and profit on making whisky to that for brandy. Does anyone have any experience or advice? Brett
  12. I did try sending a note to my representative, but one voice probably doesn't do much. I think it's a great way to experiment and learn. Even if you take one of the workshops, it would be nice to be able to practice and work out some of the "bugs" on your own. Brett
  13. Hello; I just joined the forum. I'm an amateur homebrewer and winemaker and have an additional interest in distilling something with flavor. I'm an engineer by trade (electrical), so I have a lot to learn. I have been reading and perusing other web forums, so am familiar with the basic terms, process and procedures, even if I can't say I have experience with distilling. I'm here because I want to learn and participate. Brett Tucson, AZ
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