Why get into distilling? For many of our students it is the excitement of producing and marketing their own brand of popular spirits.  For some it is the physical challenge of managing the equipment and for others the complex development of flavours to match or exceed the wide variety now present on the shelves.  All of these can be achieved using basic distilling equipment using fairly standard chemical techniques based on pure alcohol.

In a few, but increasing number of cases the interest includes more technical challenges to convert agricultural materials into a high value product.  In particular to ferment grain, root crop or fruit and distil the alcohol produced. This would be considered traditional distilling such as producing whisky from barley malt or rum from molasses.

Many gins, vodkas and rums sold today are produced by simple techniques and use a wealth of marketing opportunities to promote their brands.  This has raised awareness and increased sales as well as opening the market for new entrants. While the market is expanding there is still potential for imaginative brands and a high value return for specialist spirits.

There are still opportunities but also challenges, both in production and in gaining sales.  One major worry is taxation requirements by HM Revenue and Customs and fear of repercussions if mistakes are made.  There are certainly examples of this, particular in past years.  Today HMRC are more aware of small scale production and more accommodating to assist start ups.  You still need a sound business plan, evidence of reliability and financial support but application procedures are well supported.  You can even conduct trial distilling at home without a licence if you inform HMRC that you are doing so as long as you don’t sell any.

Equipment is readily available from many different suppliers and need not be as extensive as a brewery’s since production volumes of 250 litres can bring in a good revenue.  Pot stills are a typical start but columns can enhance the purity of your spirit and allow greater flexibility with your botanics.

Knowledge is essential both in technology and recipes. A good distilled spirit depends on managing the boil correctly to obtain the correct reflux of vapours along with judging the correct collection of the condensate.  This needs both understanding and experience.

Brewlab courses provide these with detailed theory content in our on line Discover Distilling and on site Start Up Distilling sessions.  Practical Workshops put theory into practice with opportunity to test recipes and gain skills in operation of small scale distilling units.

Our tutors have practical and commercial distilling experience to develop your understanding and skills and provide valuable insight into operations and recipe development.  Testing your ideas in our trial brew room allows you to use laboratory analysis to determine quality and obtain feedback on production efficiencies which you can apply to your commercial applications.

Brewlab expertise is used by distilling providers in trials and research.  We have a bank of yeasts for specialist applications and a fully equipped laboratory routinely conducting analysis of beverages and distilled products. Our projects investigate standard spirits as well as specialist applications including novel feedstocks and biofuel production.

From start to finish Brewlab can support your ideas and provide well respected training and skill development to achieve your commercial production.

   Return to Brewlab blog

Acquire the skills and knowledge you need to succeed

From a one-day taster session to a nine-week intensive residential course. Whatever your brewing aspirations, Brewlab training is internationally recognised as one of the best ways to acquire the skills and knowledge you need.

Find your course