Learning to distill in a new distillery

When new distillery owners start out, they often ask how do I learn the skills to be a distiller?

There is no single or simple path and Australia's new distillers often start out in a number of different ways.

What IS important to remember is that in Australia, you need to have licence to manufacture and store distilled products. So make sure you check your requirements for your business and to make alcohol with the ATO before you do anything.

The paths available to you will also depend on whether you are making gin, whisky or something else.

Lets have a look at the sort of paths you can take to learn how to distill:

  1. Spend time with a distiller
    You might be lucky enough to find a friendly distiller who is prepared to show you the ropes on how to distil. In some cases, this might cost their time, but if you can learn from a professional it might help. Just make sure their own practices are sound and they are focused on quality and explaining the value of cuts.
  2. Do a course
    Doing a course will start you out on a technical footing that can be really useful down the track. Understanding why cutting your spirit is important, when and how to do this and how to do testing of your spirit are all things that are valuable to understand. And the knowledge growth starts from there.
  3. Experiment
    Some gin distillers have started to understand flavours and the nuances of botanicals by infusing flavours into high quality neutral spirit. While this is an imperfect art and wont necessarily give you the same flavours as distilling your own, but it can be a useful learning experience.
  4. Research and go
    It is important to learn some fundamental learning blocks before you start, but if you are the sort of person who can research, then apply your learning and know that you are creating a quality spirit, then this approach might be for you.
  5. Just start
    Some people, once they have organised their licence, just start distilling and take some time in their new distillery before they are producing something they are happy with.  This is a costly way to learn but some choose this path. In some cases, distillers will ask an experienced distiller to join them for a period of time to commission their still and teach them the ropes.  This cold be a good option if you are planning to just start out yourself.
  6. A combination
    Like any new enterprise, getting your ducks lined up first is important and the best results will be a combination of research, course work, learning from experts and applying knowledge.

Get it right. Either way making sure you understand what quality looks like, that your spirit is safe and that you are producing something that is going to be unique and desirable for your market are all important elements.

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