You have been browsing various moonshine stills for sale and distilling accessories on the market, and you have made the decision to start a distillery. It’s a significant step, and we have written several blog posts about starting distilleries and how to get things going. However, it never hurts to ask yourself a few questions before diving in headfirst. This can help you overcome analysis paralysis and give you more confidence in your vision for the project and where you want to take it.
The first question to ask yourself is: why am I starting a distillery? This may seem basic, but it is an essential question, and there are no wrong answers. Understanding your reasons for doing this will help guide how you make it happen.
Do you want to be the next big player, or are you looking to create something more unique and niche? Is this solely a money-making venture, or are you willing to accept lower profits in order to stick to your vision of the product and/or production process? The answers to these questions will help you make decisions and determine how to turn your vision into a reality. And don’t be afraid to adapt! Your plans should be flexible based on the reality you face. If something isn’t working as expected, it’s okay to make adjustments.
You’ll also want to ask: what is the market for the spirits I plan to make? How much volume do I want to contribute to that market? This ties in with the previous question and will help you determine the size and production capabilities of the facility you will need. There are many excellent products on the market that people may not be aware of, and if you aim to be as big as a spirit with a 50% market share, you will need to invest in customer education and market development to reach that level.
However, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious about your growth potential. If we weren’t ambitious and driven, we wouldn’t be starting a company and trying to establish a name for ourselves. Knowing the size of the market you aim to capture will also help answer the next question.
Copper Distillation Column
More Questions to Ask Yourself
How am I going to make my spirits? This question delves deeper into the technical details compared to the previous ones, but it is equally, if not more, important. Are you planning to use a traditional pot still, reflux column, or continuous system? Each of these technologies has its place, strengths, and weaknesses, and they are all different.
The amount of work required to produce vodka using a pot still is significantly higher compared to using a reflux column or continuous system. On the other hand, to my knowledge, you can’t produce a super funky Jamaican-style rum using a taller reflux column. These are general guidelines, though, and at the end of the day, the systems are tools you use to create your product, although high-quality equipment can help you produce a high-quality spirit.
Once you know how you’re going to make your spirit, you’ll need to determine: how big of a system do I really need? This is an important question, and answering it can be deceptively difficult. If your system is too small, you will quickly outgrow it and need to invest in a larger system to meet demand. On the other hand, if you go too big too soon, you may tie up your operating capital in equipment that exceeds your immediate production needs. A good approach to sizing your equipment is to think of it as buying shoes for your kids – you need room for growth, but not something so big that it outpaces your initial production needs. If you plan to produce aged spirits, remember to factor that into your production calculations as well. It is wise to start aging barrels as early as possible because you cannot cheat time (except for rapid aging, which is a whole separate topic). Additionally, don’t forget to consider fermenting and potentially mashing equipment. Your system needs to be well-coordinated and efficient.
Now that you know the type of equipment you want to use, you should consider whether your equipment needs to focus on form, function, or both. Is it strictly for production purposes, or will it also be the centerpiece of tours and/or your tasting room? This can significantly impact the final cost, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Even industrial equipment not designed for aesthetics can be incorporated into the right design scheme, while a beautifully decorated system may be too ornamental for its surroundings. Everything needs to work together to achieve the right layout for your model.
Lastly, ask yourself: am I going to build my space around the equipment and process, or am I going to fit the process into my existing space? Similar to the design considerations mentioned above, your operational process needs to be feasible within the space you have. It may not always be possible to construct a brand-new building to house your facility, and sometimes the location that meets your needs may not be ideal for your plans. Just like the question of why you’re starting a distillery, this aspect should be a flexible plan that allows for adjustments as needed.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should serve as a starting point. When starting a new company, the to-do list seems never-ending. However, with a solid roadmap in place, you can make decisions more efficiently and make the most of your time. What questions do you have or wish you had asked when starting out? Let us know, and if you have any questions for us, we’d love to hear them!