(Part 1 of an ongoing series of articles on a newbie trying to learn how to start a distillery)
On a recent cross-country road-trip, I decided that I was going to try my hand at distilling neutral spirits, you know…vodka. That was a month ago, yet the question of how to start a distillery is still somewhat elusive.
While down in Austin, Texas I gained inspiration from stories of Tito’s Vodka and the Deep Eddy brand success. Not that I think I could grow a competing vodka brand, but I certainly will aspire to make quality vodka. So, the first thing I did was starting talking to people in the distribution business. Immediately, I got that disapproving, sideways glare that said, “Do you really want my opinion?”
After some reassurance that I would not get insulted by an honest opinion, the truth came out. “Why the hell would you want to do that?” snapped an acquaintance who works as an industry salesperson. I said that I wanted to try my hand at a nano distillery. “Not that, why vodka?” they replied. Apparently, vodka is not as cool as gin or whiskey. That said, I am sticking to my guns and going with the vodka.
I had a budget of about $3,000 to buy some distilling equipment. So I set out calling around and doing some research and a lot of reading. It appears that there is a bit of a difference in quality and pricing. The local boys of Tennessee, Kentucky and Colorado will hand-craft you a 26-gallon (100 liter) reflux plate, column still made of copper for about $3,500 dollars. Now, depending on whom you speak with, that comes with a few different variables such as heat sources and controllers (they can add a considerable amount to the bill), as well as how many plates you want in your tower.
One thing I have learned in calling around is that the more exciting the legend the salesman tells you about their custom still, the more it’s gonna cost you…that is a life lesson in general I would imagine. Most of the manufacturers gave me some free ear-time and all were very knowledgeable. I guess I just fell for the romance of the Hillbilly Stills story. Aside from the walk down Hillbilly Still-makin’ lore, these guys answered questions and were professional. So I made-up my mind that I would own a genuine, handmade “Turn Key Gen 2 Distillery with HS5500” for $3,450.00.
I had my credit card out to place my order and like a little school kid I could already picture the delivery truck pulling up to my driveway to deliver it. In an excited voice I asked, “So how long for delivery?” The voice on the other line just fired a dart into my happiness with a monotone, “’bout eight months”. I paused and asked, “Did you say eight weeks or eight months?” Indeed, it was eight months. My heart dropped, but there is no way I can hold out that long.
I guess I could have gone into hibernation for a while, because waiting eight months for anything besides a baby is just not something us guys do well. And even the baby-thing is a long time. So, I am going to continue my search and see what turns up. There are some other interesting choices out there, including some inexpensive Chinese models. Stay tuned, I will come back again to update this search.
In a prior life, Tim held a Series 3 and Series 34 CFTC registration and formerly was a Commodities Trading Advisor (CTA). He is also an expert and specialist in Ichimoku technical analysis. Tim was licensed Property & Casualty; Life, Accident & Health Insurance Producer in New York State. Clearly, Tim had some time on his hands and could not decide what he wanted to be when he grew up...so he stopped trying and started BoozeHunters.
In addition to writing about the Artful Pursuit of Libation, TK writes commentary on Politics and Social issues. This really pisses-off some family members and friends...but TK does not really care.
In the early days TK was a Bartender at a few of the Iconic, Long IslandMega-Clubs such as Spit and Sprat's on the Water. Growing up, his family owned and operated 5 liquor stores throughout the five boroughs of New York City...so as a kid he got free booze.
TK attended Boston College where he studied English Literature and Economics, and also attended the University of Siena, Italy where he studied studio art.
Mr. Kelly has been a decades-long community volunteer in his hometown of Long Island where he Established the community assistance foundation, Kelly's Heroes, he has also been a coach of Youth Lacrosse for over 10 years, Prior to volunteering in youth sports, Mr. Kelly was involved in the Inner City Scholarship program administered by the Archdiocese of New York.
Prior to creating BoozeHunters, TK was a team leader at Bloomberg Financial Markets, where he created Bloomberg Personal Magazine with an initial circulation of over 7 million copies monthly.
Latest posts by Timothy Kelly (see all)
- Interview with Dragon Distillery Owner, Mark Lambert - April 2, 2017
- The Classic Tito’s Vodka Dry Martini in Austin, Texas - March 31, 2017
- A St. Patrick’s Day Wish - March 17, 2017