in combination. If the pH is unusually high one day, then it can be noted as abnormal and an attempt can be made to solve this problem. The tools that worked to solve the issue are included in the data and if this problem arises again, it can be solved in the most effective and consistent manner. Having a great deal of data collected and analyzed for production means that when problems arise they are solved using data, not just gut feelings. Analyzing data allows for the visualization of results. It's not just staring at numbers or words; it's putting meaning behind them. This is how problems are spotted and solved.
ENVIRONMENT OF ACCOUNTABILITY Once a distilling team expands beyond a team of one, there needs to be an environment of accountability. Having studied in numerous chemistry labs, human error was not a viable excuse for determining why an assignment went wrong. This is not the case in the distilling world. Human error is unavoidable. Every distiller has, at one point, left a valve open when it should have been closed or forgotten to turn on the still when starting a run. If you haven't, it's only a matter of time. Mistakes happen, but the difference between the people who learn from their mistakes and those that don't is largely due to documentation. Writing things down allows a distiller to process mistakes, to track them, and to see what mistakes actually cost. This isn’t necessarily monetary mistakes, at least not initially.
These mistakes affect consistency and documenting these mistakes allows for proper procedural adjustments to be made and also documented. Continued documentation leads to the creation of a chain of response.
CHAIN OF RESPONSE A chain of response can only be created in a system where data is analyzed. Once data is analyzed, improvements are developed and problems are solved. The next step is making a guide. This guide is the chain of response, and it is thick with the knowledge that can only be gained by doing. As distillers know, there is only so much that can be learned from brewing and distilling books. They can give great background knowledge and a lot of helpful information, but they cannot teach you the very special way to optimize still running time or the best way to prep a barrel for filling. They cannot completely tell you how to run your distillery. Every chain of response will be unique, as it is tailored to each facility to create good processes. This document contains all the data information, tidbits, and tricks that have been gained while in production. It is a great refresher tool and training tool. It helps with creating good processes and training good employees. Good processes can only be developed with the information that is learned from consistent documentation and studying of data. Imagine you were unexpectedly incapacitated and there was a need to immediately hire someone to replace
you. Keeping up with documentation and recording all valuable information gives anyone operating your facility an incredible insight and a fighting chance to maintain a consistent product. Employees can only be trained to work to the best of their ability when they are presented with a well-informed guide. Even having previous experience running a distillery does not completely translate to another facility.
CONCLUSION Distilling is a beautiful blend of art and science. The art is generally the fun part, while the science often involves paperwork. As most chemistry professors would say, it’s just messing around in a lab unless you are writing it down. Paperwork and documentation is important and more is needed than what the TTB requires for the distillery to stay in compliance. Good production documentation is required in the fight for consistency, and it can be easily accomplished with a small production team or a single person. An effective QM program is made up of good production documentation which, in turn, will lead to good processes and well trained employees.
Molly Troupe is currently the master distiller at Freeland Spirits, located in Portland, Oregon. Her previous experience includes both Oregon Spirit Distillers as the production manager and lead distiller and at Hood River Distillers, Inc, as a quality control assistant. Along with her experience, Molly has an M.S.c in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University and a B.S. in chemistry from Southeast Oregon University.
P R O V I D I N G R Y E to the distilling industry for over 50 years.
Brooks Grain Improving the quality of life with grain.