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Life of a Distiller

edited April 2018 in General

I am writing this after working a 30 hour shift at the distillery. I was just wondering if any of you other guys worked as much as I do? I came in yesterday and had to clean my boiler which took several hours. After that I was informed we needed vodka ASAP so I threw in my low wines and started my spirit run. Here we are 14 hours after I started it and I think its almost done. Any of yall do the same?


  • Nope, typical schedule:

    • (day 1: 2hrs max) prepare boiler by adding water, GNS and certain botanicals
    • (day 2: 7-10hrs) distillation day which immediately starts with heating up the still, add last botanicals in the first hour (before boiling starts)
    • (day 3: 1-2hrs) clean still; dilution of hearts with osmosis water to just above botteling strength
    • (week later/2-5hrs): botteling and packaging

    Do remember I make white spirits, not rum or whisky.

  • Sorry to say @localgoat ... automate the still and be done with it. Press the button and walk away..... (Yes I know that I am likely to be slaughtered for this comment).

    Once started, you can attend to other matters :-$

    Build into still operation ... intelligent operation as well as sufficient fail safe scenarios e.g. low level monitoring, over temperature on cooling water, over pressure on kettle, over temperature on distillate outflow etc. etc.

    Not many people can afford to be shackled to the plant and you need to think beyond.

  • 14 hour vodka run seems quick lol.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Yep, no the drill.... Owner of the plant on the phone: We need to deliver this high end customer with this high end beverage yesterday!

  • @Smaug said: 14 hour vodka run seems quick lol.

    Don't you need a wider column? Or a smaller boiler?

  • @squeakyclean said: Don't you need a wider column? Or a smaller boiler?

    Not up to me to decide usually.

    We try and recommend sizes based on the results we get from the Run Speed Calculator we use.

    Its' all predicated upon (not withstanding each interpretation of quality separation) the amount of available input to the kettle, the knock down power of their PC as well as their cooling medium capacity.

    All of that is really just code for "how much can you afford".

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • The 90 gallon stills we use work out to a pretty good 8 hour day workflow. Strips take about 3 hours each, with the extra time for setting up the transfer and cleaning things up. Spirit run takes about 7 hours and vodka no more than 9. We use an 8 inch column and steam jacketed stills. I've pulled some double shifts when something was needed yesterday, but things are generally pretty calm.

  • @Smaug said: 14 hour vodka run seems quick lol. It may have been longer. I finally fixed the still to be able to get to 190 so it was only my second time producing vodka on it. Once I get a bulk of product I will be more on a schedule for sure, but for now I'm getting for our grand opening.

  • Pretty sure the boys at Jackson Hole have spirit runs of 18-20 hrs. Have to say that their vodka is the best scratch made vodka I've ever tasted. I feel like that's saying something as there are a lot of bad vodkas out there.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • All that and scrub the toilets and floor drains.

    Living the dream baby.

  • I really dont know how anybody does this without floor drains. They are truly a godsend.

  • We do it without floor drains and spirit runs are 17 hours. Painful. Is a flowrate of 14 LPH (3.6 GPH) usual for 8 inches? Running 6 plates and 500mm of copper mesh packing.

  • 380L boiler, 22kw of immersion elements

  • The 8" diameter is capable of more speed than that. But there are also other variables like heat input to kettle, cooling to the dephlegmator, cooling to the product condenser, and ABV of kettle charge.

    Are you making vodka with that set up? That sounds like a normal vodka speed based other people's feedback running all kinds of equipment,,,not just SD gear.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • @HighSpirits said: 380L boiler, 22kw of immersion elements

    Can't you add more power? I also have the 380L boiler, with 6x 5500W = 33kW. Saves half an hour for heating up I think? Don't know if it will also speed up the actual distilling with more power and more water to the dephlegmator.

  • @squeakyclean sure. More power= more vapor, more vapor= faster running speed. Similarly, more vapor = more reflux, more reflux=more purity.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited April 2018

    You put your finger on the point for me in your OP @LocalGoat. I gave distilling as a living serious thought. Several opportunities have presented themselves. The realities of being a professional made me realize that it is a whole lot of long hours and dirty work. And the actual distilling and fermenting parts that I enjoy are just a fraction of the business. To date I have decided that I do not want to ruin a perfectly good hobby.

    I have huge respect for those who do. Following your passions to find a way to make a living is the road to happiness, no doubt. Just go into it with your eyes wide open, and an understanding of what you are signing up for.

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

  • I’ve trained a villager to do the grind work for $3/hr. I just have to do the fun/technical work.


    Also I sized my fermenters and boiler based on 8-9 hour shifts. I’m not overly excited about sitting there watching the still drip for 18 hours. If I was I’d put a bed and a tv and a kitchen in there too.

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