Thursday, August 27, 2009

Essay for MyBizCounts Contest

Becky and I have entered into a contest on to win $20,000 to help us start our business. As part of the contest, we had to write an essay saying what we'd do with the money.

Here is our submission. I hope you like it.

Catoctin Creek Distilling Company

Essay for the Sage MyBizCounts Contest

It was long past dark when I checked my watch—Sunday morning, three AM. I had two hours left on this batch, and I couldn’t leave the still, not even for a minute. Many things could happen if I did, some of them really bad.

I had to monitor the propane burners constantly to keep the rye mash inside from scorching. Should it scorch, an acrid burnt flavor would taint the whiskey.

If I nodded off, my receiving vessel would overflow, and flammable alcohol might head straight for my propane burners.

So it was no sleep for me this night.

Monday at eight AM, the distributor was scheduled to receive 200 cases of rye spirits. Here I was, seven hours into a ten hour run, with another ten hour run to go to complete this batch. Without spirits ready at eight AM, I wouldn’t get paid. The business would be in big trouble.

That’s when it dawned on me. My business could never grow with this still. Sure, I had saved a ton of money on the cheaper still—a handmade copper kettle still. It was a pretty still, not unlike those that moonshiners have been using since ages past. But when it came to running a business, this still was never going to cut it. It takes over twenty hours per batch before the spirits are ready for bottling. We’d never have any serious volume with this still. And in the alcohol business, volume is key.

We were doomed before we got started. As I sat there, minding the last hours of my batch, the words of my friend Jonathan, a master distiller in Maine, rang through my ears.

“I can’t recommend that still. If there is any way you can scrape together $20,000, you should do it.”

I should have listened to him. The one piece of equipment that is crucial to my business is my still, and I decided to scrimp and save money. And now, it is impossible to change course.


This is a scenario that might have been. But with the help of the Sage MyBizCounts contest and the $20,000 prize money, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company will be able to purchase a top-of-the-line artisan still from Kothe Destillationstechnik in Germany.

The German still is remarkably efficient, reducing the total batch time from 20 hours to three, and allowing us to produce more volume. The still also includes standard safety features not found on most handmade stills: items like anti-collapse valves, pressure control valves, and of course, the largest safety feature of all: direct electrical heating, removing the need for open propane flames.

It is our wish to bring the artistry and efficiency of German spirit production to America with the purchase of a Kothe copper still. And the Sage MyBizCounts contest winnings will be just the amount needed to make the difference.

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Please do not reproduce or copy without the permission of the author.