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    How to design a craft distillery

    This guide will give you the guidelines for the important aspects when starting a craft distillery.

    Distillery Design

    This is a very, very wide topic. So many things influence what the best lay-out actually will be. Experience, your location, the size of the hall you rent or own, the products you want to bring to the market, if a bar or tasting room is allowed, or if your distillery comes with a full swing restaurant and/or brewery attached.


    In short, the comprehensive blog post on how to set-up your distillery … well, that’s not what this post will be about. The maximum we can do here is give you some general assumptions and considerations. For the distillery, not the bar or restaurant or tasting room.


    Having explained the limits to this post, there are a few things I want you to consider, when planning the lay-out of your distillery:

    1. Flow
    2. Flexibility
    3. Points of entry and exit
    4. Goal
    5. Zoning and Safety
    6. Growth
    7. Bonus!
    Flow

    Create a flow. From left to right or the other way around. Start with a masher on the left, then put the fermenters to the right of that masher, and the still to the right of the fermenters. Collection and aging vessels could be positioned to the right of the still. Bottling and labelling stations would – again – be to the right side of these spirits collection and aging vessels.


    Packaging and dispatching to the right of the bottling and labelling machines. If you organize your workflow from left to right, or the other way around, you create oversight and prevent lots of additional handling, moving, pumping, tubing, and piping.


    Even if you “just” use one iStill for mashing, fermenting, and distilling, the “go-with-the-flow”-approach is still important. Maybe put the iStill to the left, and the collection and aging vessels to the right of the still/distillery, and the bottling and labelling stations to the right of that, etc. It still makes sense to choose to work in a certain direction.



    This flow doesn’t have to be a straight line. It can be U-shaped, with the units and work stations situated against the walls of your distilling hall.

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    Flexibility

    If there is one thing you’ll learn from setting up a distillery, it is that whatever you plan out ahead, and whatever makes perfect sense now, reality will catch up with you. So make sure to plan for flexibility. Understand that what seems logical now, will, over time, change.


    If you understand and accept the above, here’s our advise: go for a soft set-up instead of a hard wired one. Put your label-machine on a movable table. Connect your iStill and pumps with temporary tubing, so that you can easily and quickly adapt your lay-out according to new insights. New insights that can only come with the actual experience of operating your distillery for some time.

    Points of entry and exit

    Some goods enter your distillery in bulk. Think grain, molasses, bottles. Other goods leave your distillery in bulk. Think spent grain and cases of the spirits you produced. As a general rule of thumb, we advise to carefully consider those points of entry and exit, as they need bigger doors, easy access, and maybe a ramp.

    Goal

    Please consider if your goal is to optimize production or to make your distillery part of the customer experience. If the first one is the case, then the considerations elaborated on above stand firm. But that changes if you want to use your distillery for tours or as a showpiece that can be seen from your bar or tasting room.


    If you have a bar or tasting room, you might want to put the iStill center stage, so that all who visit can admire it. This might compromise the perfect lay-out for production, but if it helps create more sales, maybe that’s worth it? the question-mark is there because it is a question you – not us – need to answer.


    Tours complicate matters even more, since you now need to create a clear and safe path for your visitors to follow. For sure, that path will intervene with what otherwise would have been the perfect set-up for production. Again, there is no best choice or one solution that fits all. It is a trade-off and only time and experience can tell what’s the best solution for you, catering to your public, in your area.

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    Zoning and Safety

    Zoning and safety regulations are different per country, state, or even city. Maybe down to the level of the inspector you have to deal with.


    Always make sure you incorporate zoning and safety criteria into your distillery set-up. Reach out to the inspecting bodies and make sure they sign-off on your plans. Invest in standard operating protocols, in alcohol and CO2 detection equipment, in safety protocol training for your staff, maybe even in sprinklers, and fire-proof doors, and the correct electrical coding.


    Designing a distillery without taking compliancy into account is futile. Inspectors will only allow you to open your distillery if they find you have ticked all the boxes zoning and safety-wise.


    If you have a bar or tasting room, you might want to put the iStill center stage, so that all who visit can admire it. This might compromise the perfect lay-out for production, but if it helps create more sales, maybe that’s worth it? the question-mark is there because it is a question you – not us – need to answer.


    Tours complicate matters even more, since you now need to create a clear and safe path for your visitors to follow. For sure, that path will intervene with what otherwise would have been the perfect set-up for production. Again, there is no best choice or one solution that fits all. It is a trade-off and only time and experience can tell what’s the best solution for you, catering to your public, in your area.

    Bonus: add more drains!

    Simple yet essential. Add more drains! Discharging, spilling, and cleaning are all side-effects of any distilling operation. Since they don’t make you money, make sure you can handle them as efficiently as possible. Adding more drains is the answer to many of the questions that are easiest to forget about.

    ISTILL EQUIPMENT
    SELECT THE STILL THAT SUITS YOUR NEEDS
    Potstill cb4958c 1 579x1024
    Tradition
    PotStill Column
    The potstill is well suited for flavor rich spirits and for those that love the extra labor of double or even triple distillation runs. Whisky, Cognac, heavy rums.
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    EVOLUTION
    PLATED COLUMN
    The plates in this type of column function as tails traps. This makes the iStill Plated Column a good alternative for those spirit categories that can do without tails smearing, such as fruit brandy, and some families of Irish whiskey and Bourbon.
    Hybrid 7af2338 579x1024
    REVOLUTION
    HYBRID COLUMN
    The iStill Hybrid column can be operated as a potstill, giving you all the flavor a more traditional potstill would give you, but with the benefit of doing so in just a single distillation run. All the benefits, none of the drawbacks. It excels at whisky, cognac, gin, rum, and vodka.
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