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10 April 2024

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Interviews

A Look Into 9 Distillers and Their Day-to-Day Roles & Responsibilities

From handling & overseeing production, to delivering spirits & everything in between, a distiller has several duties & responsibilities to do. Let's explore the life and duties of 10 distiller professionals in the industry.

The distillation world is expanding and has witnessed a massive boom in spirits. So also, the role of distillers expands from being purely focused on the craft of distillery to artisanal production.

What is intriguing to many people is to know what a distiller does, to know their duties of being a distiller. Let's explore the life and duties of 10 distiller professionals in the industry.

Tim Mokes, the Head Distiller and Production Manager at Boardroom Spirits

Tim Mokes, the Head Distiller and Production Manager at Boardroom Spirits

My daily routine consists of maintaining an ever-evolving schedule for my employees and ensuring that the production and packaging teams have all they need to operate efficiently. I also have to keep track of the inventory of finished products, supplies, and materials, both physically and in our software.  

Jacob Wilson is the Founder and Master Distiller of The Henley Distillery

Jacob Wilson is the Founder and Master Distiller of The Henley Distillery

My day-to-day role has expanded since starting my distillery. It has expanded beyond just production. But at the moment, I do everything. A typical distilling day for me is around 12-13 hours, starting at 5 am! I fill the stills and weigh the botanicals the night before. So the first thing in the morning is to load the botanicals and fire up the stills. Due to the style of our stills, I deliberately run them for 12 hours on a slow burn, so it is 2 hours before the first alcohol comes off. 

7 am is my cue to start tasting off the still (at 85% ABV) to judge the Heads cut. Every cut we do for every batch is always purely on taste. Throughout the day, I will be looking after the distillation, cutting down batches from still strength to bottling, overseeing bottling (helping when needed), and working on NPD for our brands or clients. The Hearts cut finishes around 1-1:30 pm, and after that, it is a few hours to run out the Tails before turning the stills off at 5 pm. If we run the next day, I will empty, clean, and turn round the stills (2 hours), ready to come back in at 5 am again!

Devin Walden, Master Distiller of Tropical Distillers, judging at USA Spirits Ratings when she was a buyer at Total Wine and More.

Devin Walden, Master Distiller of Tropical Distillers, judging at USA Spirits Ratings when she was a buyer at Total Wine and More.

My role varies daily, which is why I love what I do. Some days my day is filled with formulating new products- other days, researching, production planning, putting SOPs together, and more. I love that my role is cross-functional, and I can involve myself in multiple areas of the business.

Co-Founder and Distiller of Kings County Distillery, Colin Spoleman

Co-Founder and Distiller of Kings County Distillery, Colin Spoleman

I work closely with Phil Morgan, our production manager, and Ryan Ciuchta, our head blender, to ensure that we make the best whiskeys and keep our standards high. But I also interact with sales and marketing, so I'm the bridge between the product and the sales sides.

Master Distiller and Distilling & Aging Operations Director, Brian Prewitt.

Master Distiller and Distilling & Aging Operations Director, Brian Prewitt.

Every day is different, but essentially it is ensuring that the distillery is running at top efficiency and quality, meeting our KPIs, and putting out the best products we can. 

Duties also include tasting the products off the still and in the warehouse and deciding where they are being allocated. 

Additionally, a part of the work is making blends and mostly planning, planning, planning! Add to that maintenance, cleaning, and keeping up on our shipments and depletions to develop our production schedules around the requirements. Of course, you also have to go out and sell the product. So I work with marketing firms to develop marketing campaigns and opportunities and drive sales.

Founder and Master Distiller of Liberty Tree Distillers, Andrew McCabe.

Founder and Master Distiller of Liberty Tree Distillers, Andrew McCabe.

I am not only the Head Distiller for Liberty Tree Distillers but also Accountant, Payroll Coordinator, HR Director, QA/QC Officer, R&D officer, Sales Rep, and Graphics Design Expert. It is not unique to our operation, but it would be nice to one day achieve a scale where I could focus 100% on distilling. I think having to perform all of these ancillary tasks makes me a better distiller.

As Head Distiller, my job is to monitor all stages of production, from sourcing and ordering materials, mashing, fermentation, distilling, barreling, blending, packaging, shipping, and receiving. I like to be involved in all facets of the operation. I like to tinker with the processes to get better results. 

But, the most important part of my job is to teach the younger distillers the proper skills and methodology to help them become good distillers themselves.

Kate Doerges, Distiller, at O'Shaughnessy Distilling Co. 

Kate Doerges, Distiller, at O'Shaughnessy Distilling Co. 

Oh gosh, it depends on what’s happening that day. We have a small production crew, so I am brewing our barley mash some days while working on our Forsyth stills. I can also be found crunching numbers on the computer or running tests in the lab. I also visit markets with our distributor or host tastings in various markets. Being on the ground floor of O’Shaughnessy means there is never a dull moment! 

Benjamin Heflin, Lead Distiller of Ole Smoky Distillery.

Benjamin Heflin, Lead Distiller of Ole Smoky Distillery.

Currently, I am approaching my 3rd anniversary with Ole Smoky Distillery in my role as Lead Distiller at our Nashville, Tennessee, location under our Plant Manager Garrett Beeler. We are one of our current four consumer-facing production facilities, with our main focus on production distilling to supply our on-site tasting room & bar. My role consists of leading all production phases and activities related to distilling Ole Smoky Distillery’s spirits portfolio at the Nashville location. My duties include raw material handling, milling, mashing, fermentation, distilling, proofing, barrel storage, and un-aged spirits warehousing processes, data entry, and record-keeping for inventory management and tax reporting. I also oversee preventive maintenance on boilers, stills, pumps, agitators, and all other utilized equipment. Every day is a new adventure, and we stay busy!

Michelle Piechowicz, Distiller at Great Wagon Road Distilling Co.

Michelle Piechowicz, Distiller at Great Wagon Road Distilling Co.

I wear many hats- anyone who works at a minor operation knows that all too well. Other than your typical daily mash, ferment, distill, barrel, or bottle! Lately, I am constantly problem-solving and trying to keep everything running smoothly. Having a solid core foundation and good communication is very important. Keeping things in stock has been a colossal obstacle lately since covid. If it's not bottled, it is corked, or we can not get barrels for 8 to 10 months. So it's always learning on your feet and rolling with the punches. Have to stay positive and calm and find ways to adapt and improve.

International and Domestic Submission deadline is February 22. If you are looking to grow your brand in 2024, looking for product feedback, or looking to get in front of real trade buyers. It's time to enter your brands in the London Competitions. Here's how to enter, costs and benefits.

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