If you've ever had that burning desire to start a distillery but don't know where to start, you've come to the right place and to your first answer. Right here.
Over the four tabs you'll find many of the next questions you need to ask yourself in order to start mapping out your project, as well as some useful links.
Ever thought about opening your own craft distillery? Have an unquenchable desire to make craft spirits from Gin, Rum or Whisky? You are not alone. The past decade have seen unprecedented amounts of small batch distilleries start.
From less than 100 distilleries of any kind in the UK in 2010 and fewer than 500 in the US, there are now comfortably over 600 and 2000 respectively. South Africa and Australia have also boomed into the hundreds and it’s now quite rare to have a country without a couple of Craft distillers.
We get emails on a daily basis with people asking us for more information and advice on how and where to begin. Let me just say this, it’s a long answer (which is why I send them to this article!). Having been on the front-line reporting on start-ups, new ventures, growing businesses and occasionally the odd financial implosion since 2008 – as a team we’ve seen these journeys up close and first-hand.
There’s no fixed template for success and no one size fits all, but there are commonalities between those who succeed in becoming sustainable, successful small to medium operations and those who plateau after 3 years and then merely endure rather than thrive.
I’ve even been lucky enough to be involved in helping hundreds of newbie distillers get started through our courses, created dozens of new releases with the best distillers in the world, as well as getting hands on rigging a few stills and setting up new distilleries from the foundations upwards. What is clear is that there are many pitfalls that have tripped up even the most talented distillers, marketers and owners in their first stages of getting a gin to market. You will not avoid all of them and the learning curve will cost you one way or another.
To help the next generation - we decided to write a simplified guide to starting a distillery in order to help minimise these costs and frustrations. It is not a complete compendium, more a field guide to give some ideas on the areas to focus on in the planning stages and our aim is simple – to help you save money and time, and to arm you with the right questions to ask yourself. That, and dozens of helpful links to suppliers…
I’ve written this from a UK Perspective, but the concepts apply anywhere in the world. I’ve also used Gin as the choice of spirit in examples as that’s my area of expertise, as well as what the majority of distillers make even if they are also maturing spirits like Whisky or Brandy.
Just use the tabs to navigate the various chapters, we’ve split in into four, with a ‘Getting Started and Funded’, followed by ‘Models and Routes to Market’, ‘Stills and other Apparatus’ and ‘Bottling and Branding’.
Begin with the fundamentals
The first thing to understand is that you are starting a business. Accept that it can be scary. If a mild sweat is induced at the very thought of this, just remember that it can also be extremely rewarding to create a company from scratch. Fundamentally however, it means you need to be an entrepreneur to make it work. You’ll need a diverse skill set and a willingness to work seven days a week for the foreseeable future.
Not all business require frequent seven day working weeks, but Drinks as an industry is different. Distilling in particular is different and to begin with, it will be all consuming. Even when you are further into your journey, expect consumer shows, fairs, events and more to happen in the evenings and on weekends.
So often the very idea of “innovation” belies the sheer graft and utter resolve involved in turning those burning, middle-of-the-night desires into a viable, profitable business.
When you look at the last dozen success stories in Gin, what underpins all of them is their ability to combine their talent for innovation and creating a new product with the sheer determination to make it happen. These are not two skill sets that combine frequently and almost all the distilleries who have are founded on a side hustle concept (taking up a little time here and there) have never broken through the three to four thousand bottle a year mark until they’ve gone full time. There are too many great products on the market for it just to “happen” because you think yours is a good idea, tastes balanced or has some nice branding. Craft distilleries need a substantial time investment.
Many people aren’t put off by the workload and the sacrifices that a new business will bring but grafting until you feel broken also means something else – you will need to love it. Yes, cheesy as it sounds, actual love.
If you don’t love the drinks industry, the spirits that are out there, the category you chose to be a part of, the challenge of being in the driving seat, the relentless pace, the pressure cooker moments - then you’re almost certainly toast. You’ll definitely become jaded too, which will then kill your momentum.
Starting a business, especially craft distilling – is much more of a lifestyle, not a job. Ask yourself: do you love this enough to survive the onslaught of late nights, tastings, trainings (which are all fun, but can become repetitive) let alone the early starts beneath the still or the additional hours squaring the books and dealing with taxes and permits?
Do better research.
It might sound like fun but by “research” we don’t mean going to the local bar and drinking a few gins. Okay, so we do a little, but it can’t just be about knocking back a few G&T’s. Read books, learn about the history of Gin, the origins of distilling, how alcohol was and is made, rectified and even imbibed.
Learn about cocktails, not just their history but how to make them and what bartenders are doing today. Understand the bar business and its economics. Visit distilleries. Talk to the makers.Network as much as you can. Do your homework as if your life depends on it.
Trust me on this – it will make a huge difference to the success of your venture. We’ve never met a single successful distillery whose owner or distiller wasn’t completely passionate about spirits. I’ve met many failing ones whose owners or distillers got into it as just a business opportunity.
It can be really fun too. Being around inspirational characters and learning about the heritage of a spirit that has so many unbelievable moments in history is a really inspiring part of the journey. Many have said that it was at this point that their interest turned into a complete obsession.
So many people launch products claiming to be the first, the only, “a unique blend” etc… Our inbox alone is littered with subject lines filled with ‘firsts’. The reality is that for 95% of products out there, it’s just not the case. In our area of expertise, there are over 3000 gins available in the UK, more in the US. It is so unlikely that you have a genuinely unique idea and the only advantage you have is to accept this, see what your predecessors did and build on that by doing it differently and hopefully – better.
If you can’t sit down and list at least 100 competitors in the same spirit category as you and don’t have a good idea of what they are about, who makes them and how - think again and get back to your homework. How do you differentiate your product from every other craft producer unless you truly know them?
Knowing the broader context of a category and where you stand in relation to others is imperative. If nothing else, it’s solid competitor analysis, but potentially it’ll inform you into making the right decisions FOR YOU. It will show you how to contribute to the respective categories like Gin, Rum or Whisky, rather than just clutter them with yet more ‘me too’ products. Adding another because there is space isn’t good enough anymore. What does yours fulfil that earns it a place on a shelf (be it at home, in bar or for a retailer) that has already curated 2000 offerings down to 10? What makes yours one of those elite offerings? Taste and price are only part of the answer as you will be beaten on price by the multinationals and taste is subjective – what are drinkers buying into that makes it irresistible?
Finding the funds to get started is one of the hardest parts of any start up venture.
Banks will be reluctant to lend to craft distillers because the profit margins are small, and the loans carry a lot of risk. It does get easier though, once you are a proven commodity, avenues such as venture capitalist funding and finance institutions can be good ways to expand your operation.
If you look to get money from a bank, you must know what you are willing to put up for collateral. If you own one - are you willing to put your house on the line to start this business? Is it good enough an idea for you to put all of that in a high-risk situation?
For those on a small scale, there are multiple ways of going about this so let’s look at two obvious solutions. First and foremost is crowdfunding. Getting all of the funds without giving up equity while also growing a solid fan base is the most attractive of solutions.
A quick look on crowd funding sites alike however will show a veritable debris of failed attempts at securing funding to start a new distillery. Most of the success stories are places looking for funds to expand, not those looking to go from scratch.
Kickstarter campaigns make ideas into reality. It’s where creators share new visions for creative work with the communities that will come together to fund them.
They don’t want art world elites and entertainment executives to define our culture; they want creative people—even those who’ve never made anything before—to take the wheel. In 2015 they became a Public Benefit Corporation—a for-profit company that prioritizes positive outcomes for society as much as their shareholders.
Indiegogo's crowdfunding campaigns are where new and groundbreaking products take flight, sometimes long before they hit mainstream availability.
More than a crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo offers services and resources from key partners to empower entrepreneurs throughout the life of their project. It's a great place to acquire starter capital and validate your idea by tapping into Indiegogo’s global network of early adopters.
LendingClub is an American peer-to-peer lending company, headquartered in San Francisco, California.
Since 2007, more than 3 million members have joined the Club to help reach their financial goals. As the only full-spectrum fintech marketplace bank at scale, our members can gain access to a broad range of financial products and services through a technology-driven platform, designed to help them pay less when borrowing and earn more when saving.
Funding Circle is a peer-to-peer lending marketplace that allows the public to lend money directly to small and medium-sized businesses.
By lending directly to businesses through Funding Circle, investors can now earn attractive returns to better provide for their future. Businesses get fast, easy access to funding to grow, create jobs, support local communities and drive the economy forward.
Second is to go via private investors, which is the most common route - many distillers raise money from friends, family or after some careful pitching, find an angel investor who wants to be part of a distillery.
There’s no easy number to say how much you’ll need as it’s entirely size and scale driven. Premises and licencing, build (especially if you are doing a tasting room, fitting in tour facilities and a shop), stills, equipment, bottles, closures, labels, packing are all calculable in advance, but the most critically under-funded part where distillers fail to truly comprehend the real cost, is when it comes to introducing your brand to a new marketplace. Rule of thumb, whatever the cost of your still, spend double on marketing and generating sales in the first year.
With the market is so saturated, it would be very, very unlikely for a new British gin distillery to make it to medium size (40-60K bottles sold per year) in 3 years on a total investment sum of £80k. Other markets offer bigger potential with less competition, but each has complications that can frustrate growth and demand far greater initial investment. For those looking to make Whisky in the US, there are many examples and interviews of craft distillers who openly state it takes around a million dollars to get a distillery up and running and their product onto shelves.
If you want to age products you need enough money to make it on a scale that is sustainable. You’ll need to carry an inventory for years which takes storage space to mature the liquid you can’t sell for 3-5 years, while also needing to continuously make more. Even on a white spirit like gin, when done at a medium scale, the sales revenue alone will barely cover operating costs for a couple of years (which is why so many have tours, schools and secondary income streams).
On average, it takes over five years for real profits to start materialising for a craft distillery, but if your goal is small profitability and to have a small operation – especially if you can have a tasting room and an effective direct to consumer online retail - you can be self-sustaining after three years.
Routes to Market
COST OF GOODS
There is no one-size-fits-all business strategies. The location, size and range of spirits a distillery makes will define each, so too will their starting funds. The commonality between all the distilleries we’ve seen succeed however, are true to any industry and can be broken down into two areas – Cost of Goods vs Revenue Streams.
Cost of Goods (COGS) refers to the amount it costs you to produce and pack a bottle and ship it to your customer. Margins will be tight, and it will come as no surprise that the more efficient and ruthless you are on honing your base cost, the bigger the margin and the more likely you to be able to survive.
Reducing overheads, spend, supplier demands and lowering the COGS does not mean having to compromise on quality or reliability. There is a trade-off, but seldom is there a situation where there is a commodity or service that is on the extreme end of this spectrum. Finding the right balance is key.
Luckily for you starting this process today, due to the proliferation of the craft distilling industry there has been a subsequent boom in specialist supplies, resources, consultants and more that provide new start-ups with both information and options to choose from.
We’ve gone through some of the more obvious ones like stills and core ingredients on the next tab along to help with early planning but it’s helpful to meet many of them and go to these conventions.
The best thing you can do at this stage is to become an expert in distillery operations and expand your knowledge about what to look for, what best practice looks like and where potential savings can be made through clever set ups, processes and economies of scale.
Here are a few conferences and conventions to consider:
The Leading Gin industry event where some of the world’s most respected personalities and experts from the drinks and gin trade come together to discuss the state of the gin industry and share their knowledge and expertise on all things gin at this Gin Guild organised event.
ProWein is the world’s leading trade fair for wines and spirits, the largest industry meeting for professionals from viticulture, production, trade and gastronomy. Every year ProWein provides three days of concentrated business and a highly promising ancillary programme.
It’s almost 40 years since the first conference in the series conceived by The Institute of Brewing. Since then the conference and its community has grown to become the world’s leading collective of scientific practitioners dedicated to the distilled spirits business.
The conference includes thought-provoking presentations, posters and an extensive trade exhibition in a world class, purpose -built venue fitting to showcase ‘the spirit of diversity, knowledge and innovation’.
In 2004 sixty brave souls travelled to Alameda CA for the first ADI Craft Spirits Conference and Vendor Expo. Since then the American Distilling Institute’s annual conference has been the event that launched two thousand craft distilleries around the world.
The World of Spirits Virtual Expo is a pioneering virtual Expo and symposium designed to replicate a real conference and exhibition event, complete with reception zone, press room, networking lounge, exhibition halls and auditorium within three key areas: the Exhibition Hall, Knowledge Hub and Experience Hub.
While it’s hard to comment for distilleries around the world, a good exercise for any prospective gin maker is to model out the cost of a bottle ready to be shipped duty paid before buying a single thing and committing to an idea.
Include botanicals, neutral spirit, time, wear and tear, wastage, overheads and services (water / power), bottle, closure, labels and alcohol duty (ex VAT). In the UK, if that number is higher than £19 do not continue. It will fail as a business as that’s too high.
Go back to suppliers, look at your process (single shot vs multi-shot), think about how to gain economies of scale (bigger stills, bigger bulk orders), look at your design and route to market strategy. Many micro-distilleries can make a bottle of gin for less than that price. Some achieve COGS of as little as £15, meaning that it’s eminently possible. To restate this point so that you fully understand it; If you can’t achieve under £20 cost price for a bottle of gin, you are nowhere near competitive enough even at the hobby end of the market.
Routes to Market.
An effective route to market should have at least five areas covered.
Distillery door and tasting events are a good place to start. In the US, repeated data and insight generated by alliances, guilds and organisations point to the fact that for the majority of micro-distilleries, a third of all income comes from sales generated at the distillery door. Gift shops, tours, tastings and an active open-door policy will help engage drinkers, build fans and generate valuable revenue.
“Direct to Consumer” shouldn’t stop there though. The pandemic dramatically shifted consumer expectations and shopping patterns. Unless there are state or country specific laws preventing you, each distillery should have an online retail platform to make their goods available to consumers. It’s not an easy task as licencing aside, there is procurement, order tracking, data protection, customer services and marketing to consider. It’s also vital to understand how your offering doesn’t undermine other retailer partners who sell your product. Don’t discount because the margin is there, add value for shoppers by doing something extra.
The US is set up slightly differently, but in Europe and Australia, wholesalers and distributors will provide the best way to get your product out there. They supply the trade and will be able to get your product on shelf. It’s key to understand their margins, and how they then pass on to trade who apply their margins… and therefore just how low the starting cost price needs to be, as well as what you will need to do in order to support them.
Wholesalers do not actively market your product; they merely facilitate orders from trade so without a demand from the trade it will just sit in a warehouse You will need to be the one creating that sell-through and it’s important to comprehend the need to meet ‘hurdle rates’ in order to remain listed. On the other side, most good distributors who have sales teams, marketing campaigns and who actively champion your brand and create sales on your behalf will demand monthly retainers. You will need to budget ahead for that.
It is possible to sell directly into the OFF-Trade, with many independent stores and retailers dealing with brands directly. You should be looking to create a dialogue with as many as possible.
Selling to the On-Trade is more difficult as most will have contracts with distributors and wholesalers who supply them. It’s not impossible though and even if they say no because they only get their spirits from a certain distributor or wholesaler, it will act as a good way to show that company that if they listed you, there is a demand from their own customers already in place and so will likely be quick to flow through their hands.
We live in an image driven era. PR, Social Media, websites, retail, event collateral, marketing materials all need images that convey your identity. Take the time to invest in good photography. Then take even more time to re-invest after 6 months as you will have evolved your proposition and extensively used most of the assets during that first phase, meaning a refresh isn’t just ideal, it’s imperative to maintain momentum.
A good website, with the ability for e-commerce as well as active social media is a good place to start. Be warned – badly executed social media is worse than no accounts at all. Have a think about which platforms will work for you and for your tone of voice as you do not need to be everywhere just because it is possible to open an account.
Look for events and how they can be leveraged to create PR opportunities and feed the content demands of social media. Many will allow you to sell during the event that help to cover costs, but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture – generating awareness and exposure.
Here are a few good consumer and bartender events to look into in Europe:
Junipalooza, now in its 8th year, is a meet the maker festival that occurs in London, Sydney and Melbourne.
Either the distiller or brand owner has to be there in person so that guests can meet the people that put everything they have into the gins they make.
Each guest is given their very own keepsake tasting glass to take around the show. There are usually over 60 different distillers sharing well over three hundred different gins between them and guest are able to stop by whichever ones that take their fancy and try their gins both neat and with tonic.
Bar Convent Berlin is the largest trade fair for the bar and beverage industry.
Bar owners, bartenders, distributors and manufacturers from around 80 countries come to BCB in Berlin every year to make new contacts, learn about product innovations and attend seminars. BCB has expanded its global network with further shows in the USA and Brazil.
From Shanghai to Johannesburg, via New York and Singapore, Whisky Live is the international tasting event that brings the world’s major capitals to life throughout the year!
Since 2004, Whisky Live Paris has grown and expanded every year, attracting more and more exhibitors from all over the world, as well as visitors with a passion for malt, rum, all types of fine spirits and mixology. Today Whisky Live Paris is unquestionably the largest whisky and spirits tasting event in Europe and many distilleries use the opportunity to reveal their new releases in world exclusives!
London Cocktail Week is an enormous celebration of our capital's fantastic cocktail scene and the biggest event of it’s kind in the world with signature cocktails and immersive experiences in hundreds of the best bars in the city!
A £15 festival wristband is valid for the entire month of October and unlocks access to the self-guided Cocktail Tours - £6 Signature Serves in hundreds of the best bars in London - each of which have been hand-picked by the organisers for excellence.
Like moths to a flame, glorious amber stills are what everyone love to focus their attention on, often at the detriment of the bigger picture and what will work best for their needs.
Question what your basic requirements are to start off with. Calculate your initial volumes beginning with how much you need in a year and how that breaks down into how many batches you will need to make. Factor in the distillery footprint and what the building is forcing you to do. This will help inform the initial considerations around size and shape.
Ask yourself how do you envisage scaling up production? So many buy small stills and then look to upscale, but in doing so take money away from creating new sales by diverting them into re-building infrastructure, while also creating some challenging moments upscaling a recipe. Futureproofing yourself isn’t just about size, but about all of the factors in a distillery from pipes and pluming, to recipe formulations to bottling, packing and dispatch – let alone the health and safety considerations and environmental impact you make when a hazardous or wasteful process is expanded.
Give yourself some flexibility in what you can make with your still. You might have a clear idea for your first product but what happens if you need to pivot and make another spirit, or distil in a different way in order to deliver different ideas?
Last and most paramount is matching the reality of your budget and making an honest assessment of your skill set. You may think that the lion’s share of your budget will be spent on stills as it’s a big-ticket item, but when seen as an overall cost in the full budget of a distillery starting up, it tends to only be a quarter of your investment. Infrastructure, goods, ingredients, bottles and introducing your brand to the market all add up.
If you do not think you will be the one distilling, think about how your set up will be able to attract a qualified distiller. A home-made, hacked together system will not suffice if you are looking to employ talented and qualified individual. Even if it does, it would be a false economy given the fact that it would be paying the salary of someone highly trained but not providing them the tools to be able to create your spirit consistently, safely and with efficiencies that will save money and be able to grow with demand.
Once you have considered all of the above, start shopping around to see what might suit.
Here are some of the better known still manufacturers for you, ranging from rustic and small hobby sized alembique systems, to traditional pot stills, hybrid high technology systems, build it yourself modular options, modern still with packed columns and vacuum stills.
Use the four areas mentioned above to question your decision making, but remember these little tips when you start talking to suppliers.
There’s a difference between fill heights and total capacity. Be sure to understand that otherwise it will throw all of your calculations out of sync.
Note that infrastructure around the still needs to be compliant with regulations and safe to use or be in proximity of highly volatile, highly flammable substances and before you purchase anything, make sure it is safe and legal (for example ATEX ratings).
It's easy to look at copper stills and be mesmerised by how they gleam in the light. What you should be perving over is just how organised the pipe work is, the drainage, the electrical rigging.
Know what your local laws before ordering as they are not the still makers problem to resolve. For example, can you place a boiler in the same room as a still? Do you need to install active air extraction / circulation in the still room? Can you pour effluent down the drain or do you need to treat it first?
Lastly, consider timings. Most still manufacturers require months of lead time, not weeks. Some of the best have six to nine months wait times. Factor that into the build and launch strategy.
Infrastructure and Ingredients
Before going into the details of the kind of things you might require, it’s worth re-stating the need to have a compliant and safe working environment. How you go about setting up the workflow, the systems, the checks and the processes will play a vital role in making your distillery a success.
Many ignore the repercussions that occur when you do not pay enough attention to safety, but several distilleries burn to the ground every year, and unfortunately all too frequently have also involved loss of life in the past decade. Perhaps even more concerning is how often insurers do not pay out as they find that systems and operations were not compliant one way or another and therefore in breach of their coverage agreements.
It may be boring, but you have to be rigorous in your approach to this part of distilling.
Furthermore, food allergies and nutritional information is a legal requirement in some countries. While rare, getting it wrong can involve serious harm to consumers. Frequently there are the lawsuits as a result. There are also fines sanctioned by trading standards and regulators around ABV and filling heights. Precision matters and the ramifications of a product recall or even a block on import due to this can cost thousands to fix.
It is far easier to get it right first time and give it due diligence from the beginning.
We can’t point to all suppliers for all spirits here, so we’ve focussed on some of the ones whom we know supply into the UK and Europe. Most will also be able to ship to elsewhere and we’ve included several in Australia.
Alcohols Limited is a chemical distribution company which was formed in 1955 as a subsidiary of The Palmer Group. It is a private family company founded in 1805 which is still family owned today. They supply many of the gin distilleries in the Uk with NGS.
HaymanKimia are specialists in the packing and distribution of high quality alcohols and solvents. For over 40 years they have been supplying premium grade products to UK and international customers. They supply in large bulk tankers, drums, cans and bottles as well as providing bespoke blending, bottling and packing services.
Ethimex is an independent UK-based company, with over 20 years of experience in the beverage alcohol and industrial ethanol industry.
They supply bulk neutral ethanol, bulk spirits for distilling and private labelling, botanicals and casks. Our products are widely used in the beverage alcohol, food, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and fragrance industries.
Sasma is a specialist in worldwide sourcing and distribution of premium quality alcohols. Their extensive global network, deep market knowledge and over 60 years' combined management experience in the industry ensure consistent customer satisfaction.
Manildra Group is Australia’s leading producer of ethanol – including a range of grades for food and beverages, pharmaceuticals and personal care, industrial applications and transport fuels – as part of an innovative, integrated production process at our Shoalhaven Starches site in Nowra, New South Wales.
Their ethanol facility is certified sustainable, by the internationally renowned Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials. Manildra Group manufactures an extensive range of ethanol grades to meet all domestic and international regulations and quality requirements.
One of the UK’s leading suppliers of organic herbs, spices and botanicals.
For over 35 years they have grown, sourced and supplied the UK's largest range of high quality ingredients for a diverse range of customers in the herbal tea, food, health & beauty and medicinal markets. Their customers, based in the UK and worldwide, range from herbalists with small scale practices to the most respected organic brands including Yeo Valley, Pukka Herbs, Neal’s Yard Remedies and Riverford Organic.
Healthy Supplies stock the widest range of organic and eco-friendly food, drink and lifestyle products online. Their selection includes free-from, vegan and gluten-free foods available in economy sized bulk packs.
Beacon Commodities have been at the forefront of the latest interest shown in the Gin spirit category, supplying gin distilleries in 6 continents with botanicals from across the globe. They are receiving new inquiries almost daily from all over the world and expect this trend to continue for the time being.
One of the big names in international botanical trading
Kräuter Mix is run by Christoph and Bernhard Mix, who are the third and fourth generation to lead the German family business with 475 employees. 650 products. They source from 70 countries around the globe and sell as an international supplier to industry.
Joseph founded the firm of Joseph Flach & Sons from an office in the City of London in 1882. JFS import, stock, wholesale and export botanical products from around the world. We also supply a range of pharmaceutical raw materials and related chemicals. They have a minimum order quantity of 10kgs.
Fermentis is dedicated to fermented beverages industries. It is a business unit of Lesaffre Group, global key player in yeast and all its applications for over 160 years. They work with everyone in the world of beer, wine, spirits and other fermented beverages. Its range of products and services covers almost all professional requirements: from safeguarding production to expressing sensory characteristics.
Since 1862, when James Parker Simpson founded his first maltings in Alnwick, Northumberland, Simpsons Malt has been a family business. Today, the 5th generation drives the brand forward, together with father, Simon Simpson OBE. From their heritage varieties, Golden Promise and Maris Otter, to the Red Rye Crystal and Golden Naked Oats, they know that to make better beer and better whisky, it’s all about taste and flavour.
Warminster's original and iconic Victorian Maltings is the only stand-alone Maltings of its type in the UK, if not the world. If you are looking for Malts with heritage, provenance, pronounced quality and character, only Warminster Malt can deliver that level of integrity.
Since 1947, Speyside Cooperage has produced the finest casks from the best American Oak. In 2008 the Cooperage was sold to the French firm Tonnellerie François Frères.
Today the cooperage continues to work and produce the age-old product, still using traditional methods and tools. Each year, it produces and repairs nearly 150,000 oak casks used by the surrounding Speyside Whisky distilleries, as well as distilleries throughout Scotland and the rest of the world.
Camlachie Cooperage Ltd is a family cooper and cask merchants formed in 1961. It was opened by J Reilly Snr, and is now run by his son and daughter team Jim Reilly and Elizabeth Fullerton.
Camlachie Cooperage has a good reputation for high quality work and customer service. Camlachie supply the trade with all types of casks and are also full members of the National Cooperage Federation of Great Britain.
Run by brothers Kevin McLaughlin and Paul McLaughlin, Kelvin Cooperage has been family run since it was founded in 1963 on the banks of the River Kelvin in Glasgow, Scotland. Kelvin has served the major distilleries in Scotland, Ireland and worldwide continuously since its formation and now also supplies new and used barrels to leading craft distilleries throughout the world.
Infrastructure and other items.
Ingredients aside, one of the big learning curves and decisions facing any new distillery is ensuring they have the right equipment for storing, moving, testing, bottling and shipping liquid.
Start with big bulky items such as storage solutions and tanks and consider their sizes, their use and how you will fill, measure, empty, clean and maintain them. You will need solutions for before and after distillation and often its storage containers (due to the sequence they are used in and what they are being used for) that define the layout of a distillery and the way the operations are run.
Machinery for bottling and filling bottles is an obvious part of a distillery build, but often overlooked are pumps to move liquid around from tank to tank or from barrel to still. There’s also air ventilation, cooling devices, filters to remove particulates, water filtration systems, scales to weigh and other tools to measure (let alone safety equipment) - all of which add up to a sizeable investment. Figure out what you need and budget ahead.
Once you have, the single most important part of your layout and build must resolve where those tools are kept. They cannot just be left around. They must not get in the way. Not only does that lead to rapid deterioration of your tools, it can create multiple hazards around a distillery.
It’s not just your tools that will need to be factored in, wastage and bulk buying causes daily problems. Where do pallets go? Where are you storing bottles if you are buying several thousand at a time? Where are you putting the cardboard for cases? etc.
Unfortunately, we’ve encountered dozens and dozens of distilleries who have otherwise state of the art operations that are frustrated and overburdened by items that get in the way of process. This often costs them repairs and leads them to deliver an inconsistent product at the end of it all. Hanging, sorting, packing, palletizing, racking should become your favourite verbs as you plan your distillery. Carefully choreographed operations are always the ones whose costs are lower, safety track record higher and products excellent.
Top tip – Ask yourself if you have factored in any steps and obstructions. Start from the point of delivery and eradicate any step in the way. Lifting a bag over something is ok, but how do you deal with IBC’s that weight thousands of kilos? Think about the width of doors (make them extra wide). Gravel and pebble stone look lovely… but try to get a pallet truck to roll over them and you’ll see the issue that will occur for each delivery. Eliminate that before it becomes a daily frustration.