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consistent quality questions...


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I'd like to describe an experience I had recently and see if anyone had any thoughts...

Without naming any names, I recently visited a very nice craft distillery and had a lovely experience. The people were friendly, very encouraging to someone considering getting into this industry, and didn't make me feel rushed at all. This is something of an accomplishment with me because I am hyper-aware of anything I might do "hold up production" or "get in the way of a working man" or whichever cliche you prefer.

At the end of my visit, my host took me into the tasting room and let me taste a couple things. One item in particular completely blew me away. I was very impressed with what I perceived as the very high quality of the item. Based on the strength of that tasting I immediately went to the nearest ABC store and bought a bottle for myself.

However, when I got home and opened my bottle, I was somewhat disappointed. I'm no professional taster, but I got the distinct impression that the bottle I purchased did not live up to the quality of what I was given to sample on site. I did not feel that it fell within an acceptable range of normal variation from one batch to another. Honestly I felt like I had paid top dollar for what turned out to be an inferior product.

Is this common? Am I nuts? I have considered that perhaps I was in awe of the production facility and this may have put me in a particularly appreciative mood...

At any rate, I thought it was worth mentioning....

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Well there are two schools of thought. Quality not being one of them, the quality should always be there. The other schools of thoughts are consistency and uniqueness. With some craft distillers each batch is unique and slightly different and that's what they want. I'm of the other school and show my pride by my consistency. Consistency shows skill. That being said I've had one batch that tasted a little different because I had changed one of my processes. It didn't taste bad, by any means, it was still high quality just not the signature taste my consumers expect. It wasn't far off, but I noticed. After changing the process I modified my recipe to account for that new process so each batch after that one off one was the same as people expect. These days I always taste from a bottle of the latest batch, no exception. If I'm sending out samples or tasting a customer I use a bottle from the new batch.

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Well there are two schools of thought. Quality not being one of them, the quality should always be there. The other schools of thoughts are consistency and uniqueness. With some craft distillers each batch is unique and slightly different and that's what they want. I'm of the other school and show my pride by my consistency. Consistency shows skill. That being said I've had one batch that tasted a little different because I had changed one of my processes. It didn't taste bad, by any means, it was still high quality just not the signature taste my consumers expect. It wasn't far off, but I noticed. After changing the process I modified my recipe to account for that new process so each batch after that one off one was the same as people expect. These days I always taste from a bottle of the latest batch, no exception. If I'm sending out samples or tasting a customer I use a bottle from the new batch.

Thanks for your insight. I keep trying to "like" posts that I appreciate and the forum tells me I have reached my limit, though as far as I know I haven't successfully "liked" anything yet. But I digress; sorry.

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As a young 'n I thought that consistent meant identical: same old thing day in and day out. Back then, and to this day, I admire consistency. But as I worked more and more at my craft, I started to realize that "consistent" qua identical did not describe what I admire about consistency. It took a brilliant sushi chef to come up with the words for me to recognize my understanding of consistency:

"I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is."

What I strive for, and what I admire about consistency most, is consistent improvement. Consistent improvement is consistency: it is consistency of the best kind.

Consider: the bottle that you bought at the ABC store is likely older than the fresh samples that you had at the plant. Therefore, their product is improving. Keep an open mind and hope that you, in your own endeavors, can achieve that same sort of consistency.

Nick

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As a young 'n I thought that consistent meant identical: same old thing day in and day out. Back then, and to this day, I admire consistency. But as I worked more and more at my craft, I started to realize that "consistent" qua identical did not describe what I admire about consistency. It took a brilliant sushi chef to come up with the words for me to recognize my understanding of consistency:

"I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is."

What I strive for, and what I admire about consistency most, is consistent improvement. Consistent improvement is consistency: it is consistency of the best kind.

Consider: the bottle that you bought at the ABC store is likely older than the fresh samples that you had at the plant. Therefore, their product is improving. Keep an open mind and hope that you, in your own endeavors, can achieve that same sort of consistency.

Nick

Perfectly said.

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As a young 'n I thought that consistent meant identical: same old thing day in and day out. Back then, and to this day, I admire consistency. But as I worked more and more at my craft, I started to realize that "consistent" qua identical did not describe what I admire about consistency. It took a brilliant sushi chef to come up with the words for me to recognize my understanding of consistency:

"I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is."

What I strive for, and what I admire about consistency most, is consistent improvement. Consistent improvement is consistency: it is consistency of the best kind.

Consider: the bottle that you bought at the ABC store is likely older than the fresh samples that you had at the plant. Therefore, their product is improving. Keep an open mind and hope that you, in your own endeavors, can achieve that same sort of consistency.

Nick

Thanks,

"Jiro dreams of Whiskey?"

That's funny; sushi is just about my favorite thing on this planet. Good analogy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There's a fine line here... I totally agree with what is being said, and I believe that each year my product should be 100% better than it was last year, and that the consumer shouldn't have noticed a change...unless they're doing a vertical tasting.

As a craftsman, I think it's important to be TASTING everything...your grains and fruit, your low wines, your fermenting mash...always. And when you detect a discrepancy, you can adjust. The danger of finding "the perfect recipe" or SOP is that you lose the ability to adapt to change, which is when a product stagnates and ultimately loses quality. I have a hard time teaching this concept to younger brewers and distillers, who are obsessed with "hitting the numbers."

And I'm also of the school that values unique accidents. In ceramics, many potters do a little offering to the "Kiln god" such that a small inconsistency in the kiln will make a nice flash or reduction on their piece. I think that maybe there is a distillery deity that makes things go awry...sometimes in a good way. I love single barrel batches, and I also love a well blended consistent product. Both of these things are marks of master distillers.

But I think it's important to make sure that your consistency doesn't lead to complacency. Just be consistently GOOD!

I'd contact the distillery and tell them exactly what you posted here. They should be appropriately concerned, and if it's my place you're talking about, I really really want to know about it :mellow:

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