The distilling business is not for the faint-hearted. Still, the distilling industry has witnessed unprecedented growth over the years with more than 2,000 new distillers joining in the race. From artisans, craft distillers, to budding start-ups, the playing field has opened up and is accommodating even more players.
Yes, big brands like Patron Tequila, Captain Morgan Rum, Smirnoff Vodka, Bourbon, and Tito’s have been there and are well known not only in the U.S but also across the globe. However, the newer breed of distillers is already causing a huge shift in this industry. They may not have succeeded at having funky labels and shining brands but they are offering what consumers never had uniqueness, and personalized experience in terms of flavors and blends. Like it has been said before, “good things really do come in small packages”.
Distilling is not as easy or straightforward as brewing. It is not something you would experiment at home plus distilling at home for personal consumption is illegal in the United States and many other countries. But you can start from somewhere if you are truly passionate. Whether they intended to go it solo or get employed, most if not all distillers started by learning the art.
There are plenty of online training providers offering distilling courses.
Top online distilling training providers
Siebel Institute in Chicago is a renowned training institution for brewing and distilling. It offers a number of programs and courses at all levels from entry-level, intermediate, and advance including a 5-day introductory craft distilling and operations technology course for beginners which lays a foundation on various brewing, fermentation, and distillation techniques as well as sensory analysis. In addition, learners are taught about running a small distillery successfully.
Distillery university is an affordable online resource that gives you access to distillery resources covering the distillery operations management, distilling process, fermentation, and other business operation topics like marketing and regulations. This is done through recorded lecture sessions, workshops, expert interviews, and webinars. You are required to pay a monthly, 6-month, or annual subscription fee to access the resources.
5 Things to consider when choosing your distilling learning partner
There are many study opportunities for those who are interested in distilling whether in a technical or non-technical capacity like marketing and distribution. Compared to classroom learning, the online study requires strict discipline. Courses are usually shorter, typically a few days to a month. For some, however, it is the start of advancement in their career as they will go-ahead to the master’s level and become specialists. As you choose your learning institution, here are some tips to bear in mind:
- Even at the top level with experience, there is never an end to learning and creativity in this industry. This explains why craft distilling is a rapidly growing industry. A lot of self-practice counts a great deal in your learning path. Mastering distilling has and never will be achieved only through grasping the theory.
- Go for comprehensive courses especially for those who intend to go it alone. While the practical distilling lessons are at the core of these courses, a course that offers modules on operations management and government regulations, in addition, will equip you better for the trade.
- Courses that are delivered by industry experts offer the best learning experience. Before selecting a course, consider the tutors.
- On the other hand, if you intend to be employed in the industry, certifications will come in handy. Look out for courses with recognized certifications which will be a great addition to your CV.
- There is value in history. Learning about history helps you appreciate how far the industry has come and how far it is going.
In addition to learning, it is important to build the skill set required to work in or run a distillery. These include
- An ability to taste and smell spirits and tell the difference in flavors
- Mechanical know-how to troubleshoot issues in distilling systems
- Thorough cleanliness and hygiene
- Curiosity and openness to learning and trying new things
- Bookkeeping and documentation
- Leadership skills
- Client relationship
Ultimately, distilleries are looking for experience and expertise. These are gained over time in a number of ways through studying, interacting with industry experts in webinars, seminars, workshops, and conferences like the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and the American Distilling Institute (ADI) conferences that take place annually. Behind the scenes, one has to engage in personal learning, practice, and experimenting. Vendors and fellow distillers are also a great resource.