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How to become a distiller

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-02-14      Origin: Site

What does your job actually involve?

Winemaking is often seen as an exciting and glamorous job. Between sweat, intense self-discipline, and mountains of paperwork, there are few moments of real glamour, but it's a mix, for sure.

What does a distiller do?

The day to day work of a distiller is a blend of science and style and is physically demanding work. A distiller applies the principles of chemistry, yeast physiology, and a vision of their house style to make detailed choices that inform the distillation process.

Typically, you are taking a raw base material (grapes for brandy, cane for rum, grains for whiskey, etc.) and preparing them for fermentation by creating a wash from the source material’s sugar. As the distiller, you will need to choose which base material you are working with, ensure it complies with any local regulations, and consider how it will impact the end character of the product you are producing. In the case of brandy, the process is similar to making wine, and in the case of whiskey, the steps are very similar to creating beer.

For the actual distillation, the fermented wash, in which sugar has been converted to alcohol, is warmed in a still to coax the alcohol vapour out and then over a condenser where it is recondensed into spirit while leaving behind excess water, source material, and yeast in the main body of the still which can then be disposed of. Not all spirits produced across the distillation process is of the same quality, and the distiller will make what are known as cuts to select the different parts of the distilled spirit known as foreshots/heads, hearts and feints/tails.

Once the spirit is collected, the distiller is responsible for further determining the style and character of the end product. One of the key ways this is achieved is through ageing, which may occur in a cask or neutral vessel. Depending on the end product, and much like with wine, the distiller may also decide to blend different lots of casks or tanks to create the end product. Once the blend is finalised, the batch may be filtered, coloured or even sweetened if desired and then bottled.


Choose high-quality distillation equipment

What does it take to become a distiller?

Patience is not a virtue, but a necessity. A successful winemaker must be a patient person. Good wine is never made in a hurry or according to a tight schedule.

Even after discussing it again and again, you can never really master it until you do it day in and day out. You have to be 100% in tune with the world of the distiller and not care about the outside world.

Spirits are very tightly regulated in most regions - far more than wine and beer production - and a willingness to work with regulators and a commitment to completing paperwork in a timely manner is one of the less glamorous characteristics of the job. If you hate bureaucracy, then you may need to put those feelings aside to make your dreams come true. Laws in many countries require completing daily reports, registering equipment and products, and reporting the use of any raw materials. If filling out forms and completing piles of paperwork is not what you can afford, you may not be in the right industry.

A well-developed sense of taste is essential. What an essential talent for a new winemaker. They must be able to 100% fully set entry points for forward shots and feints using only the nose without electronics. A single wrong or misjudged sample could contaminate an entire batch of spirits. As a result, the batch may end up being classified as a smaller label (requesting less profit) for lack of quality, or worse, the batch may be sold or disposed of! Such mistakes are not only frustrating, but also costly.

A safety first mentality and a positive safety attitude are obvious requirements for entering and succeeding in the distilling field.

How do I get into this industry?

Every distiller I know has a unique story and path into the world of distilling. You can dive headfirst into the abyss of the distilling world, learn hard, learn fast, and continue to learn as you become a distiller.

You can have the opportunity to visit local brewers and meet friends. Build your own winemaking knowledge, from fermentation temperature to barrel selection; marketing and branding. Having professional training to support you can make the transition to your spirits career easier.

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