Testing, Testing

It has been far too long since I last updated this – for which I can only lay the blame at taking up a new role which is taking up the vast majority of my waking days at the minute, leaving only evenings and weekends to drive the distillery forward, whilst also finding time for our 18m old! So, busy times to say the least.

Where did we leave off with the last blog? Oh yeh – we’d just got power! Man that seems like ages ago! Since then we’ve hit some pretty bloody big milestones like:

Commissioning the distillery! Which happened at the start of August. We really can’t thank Phil and the guys at AEI in Leicester enough for their advice and professionalism when carrying out these works. They not only advised on how best to wire and commission the distillery, but also went above and beyond in helping us build our control module from scratch!

Test fermentations. We ran a few test batches to check whether we were proceeding with the correct yeasts and microbiota for the products we are trying to make. Turns out this was a really good idea as some of these were better suited for our aged rums that will come along later on down the line, than the silver that we are delivering at the start!

Cleaning runs on the still. As the still is brand new and has never been used in anger, there’s a fair chance that a lot of the manufacturing residues were still on the copper and the stainless parts of the still that are exposed to the vapour path. So we threw our test batches in there, so the alcohol produced would clean out and oils or greases left over and give us a good start for when we started using it. Don’t worry though – the alcohol that came out the business end of the still was retained for cleaning purposes only and hasn’t found its way into any of our final product!

Running our first batch. This was a momentous occasion. The culmination of a couple of years of dreaming, and almost 12 months of hard graft but we finally got there and ran our first batch which also raised a few issues too. Our throttle valves for instance didn’t restrict the flow of water to the product condenser or the dephlegmator which although we tried to work around this by using the restrictive gate valves that we’d installed for isolating water to the coolant circuit for maintenance purposes, it didn’t give us anywhere near enough control to be worthwhile. This meant that we had to run it in pot still mode, which wasn’t the end of the world – just part of the shakedown process I suppose! Since then we’ve procured some incredibly expensive custom made needle valves that now allow us to dial in the still to a much higher degree of accuracy. This has meant that our further runs have been steadier on output – staying at north of 92% for the vast majority of the run – result!

This first month gave us a nice introduction to the operations of the distillery and resulted in us producing almost 500 bottles of rum resting in various different vessels in September alone – not a bad starting month we don’t think!

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