Getting your head around buying a still

Aug 25, 2020

If you have ever thought of distilling you have probably also thought quite a bit about what sort of still to buy. Or potentially you want to get into distilling, but you have no idea what still to buy.

Either way, starting to think about your shiny piece of spirit producing gear is a critical one once you also start thinking seriously about getting into distilling.

The sorts of questions that will pop up for you are thinking like:

  1. What type? What type of still you should be considering is really determined by the type of spirit you want to make and how flexible you want to be if you are thinking about making more than one type of spirit. As a rule of thumb, if you are planning to make a brown spirit like whisky you probably want to explore still that have a good amount of copper available which will help produce the flavours you associate with whisky. This is usually in the pot still area, but a combination still that has both a column and pot or something similar may well be suitable.
    If you are planning on a white spirit you will probably lean more towards a column still, but that said if you are making a fruit based spirit or you want lots of flavours coming through in your spirit then a pot might be suitable. Our advice – ask people what they have done, or do some study with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and get your head around the chemical reactions that are occurring in the still. This will help you make good informed decisions about the sorts of thing you should be looking for.
  2. What size still? This question should actually be – what size will my business be? The reality is that making a decision on still size should be informed by what production volumes you are hoping to reach in your successful distilling business. How much you produce will be equally determined by: how frequently you run your still; how much you have to spend on raw ingredients; how much you think you can sell at maturation, as it is about the size of the still.
    Because purchasing a still is a capital cost a lot of people focus on this as the major expenditure – it instead needs to be looked at as part of a whole business planning picture. We go into detail in all these aspects in the Planning your Successful Distilling Business course and can guarantee that this will be a critical investment for anyone planning to open a distilling business.
  3. I need a still for my paperwork, I need paperwork for my still. We love the chicken and egg conundrum that is found in the paperwork the Australian Tax Office (ATO). The paperwork asks you for details of your still, but most people want the paperwork signed off before they buy their still, either that of they have ordered a still but are waiting for it to turn up. We have a few suggestions here which are similar to above. The first is do your complete business plan first so that you know exactly what you want your business to look like. This will help you work out some of the aspects about the still size. Then talk to the ATO Excise people and find out how to navigate the still or paperwork first issue. They are incredibly helpful people.

Other things to think about when you’re considering stills are things like: Does the still play a role in the aesthetics of my business? What sort of power do I need for the still and can I get this where I’m based? Can my still grow with my business?

Good luck with your research. The folks at The Distillers Institute can help you navigate these challenges through our Planning your Successful Distilling Business course. We’d love to have you join us.

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