Artisan Spirit: Summer 2014

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Page 33


he growth of the craft distilling industry and the increasing I tried every type of still out there. For 12 months and $15,000 number of hobby distillers has forged a booming market I did R&D. I then settled on what I call ‘The Alchemist’ still.”

for smaller, more affordable stills. In the past the selection was

It is important to check the craftsmanship of any still or

poor, but now a handful of talented still builders are supplying still product you are buying, explains Mike Haney of Hillbilly that demand, using their skills and creativity to engineer a wide Stills in Barlow, KY. While there are several quality small array of efficient and dynamic stills and still products capable of still manufacturers, there are some bad eggs, as well. Haney producing excellent spirits.

recommends checking the thickness of the material and

Howard Wallace of Hammered Kopper Works, LLC in Boulder, researching the company’s reputation. Most important, Haney CO says still builders need to know how to weld and braze copper says, is checking into their customer service policies and their and stainless steel, understand thermo and flow dynamics, how willingness to help. “All we do is build stills and our customer different metals react together and why copper is so desirable for support is second to none out there,” says Haney. “You can call distilling. He says still builders also need to understand brewing us anytime and we will either take care of you then or return your and distillation as a process and an art. “I build everything right now out of my two car garage with a

call with the information you need.” Many still builders help startup distillers with logistics and

sheet roller, a nipper, TIG welder, and an oxy-acetylene torch,” planning, and are available to help set up the stills and controls. said Wallace. “I was originally interested in building only Zaca says he provides hands-on training, custom video manuals, advanced home brewing equipment until I was approached by and often helps distillers with permits and paperwork, investor my business partner who had an interesting plan for building relations and expectations, finding local farmers, municipal affordable copper pot stills.” Anthony Zaca of Rainier Distillers in Rainier, WA, said he

compliance and solving a wide range of problems. Joe Dehner of Redboot Stills in West Des Moines, IA provides a

became interested in building stills when his friend bought one full range of products and services, as well. A distributor for race online. The still did not work, so Zaca helped him fix it. Soon labelers and express fill bottle fillers, Dehner says they offer parts after, Zaca bought his own still online and it was also junk, so and components, full turn-key operations, complete custom he bought another, more expensive still, which was just as bad. products, consulting services, and paperwork help services, as “I said to myself ‘I am going to design a still, I am going to buy well as a two-day, one-on-one distillery training class. them all and cut them open and learn for myself,’” he explains.

Helping distillers get started is fundamental to Hillbilly

“I bought books on this online, the ‘How to Build Your Own Still’ Stills, as well, who also provides setup and full on-site training type and studied. I said ‘I am going to take the best of everything.’ when requested, and can help the customer secure the proper