Friday, December 04, 2009

Distiller's Conference

This weekend, Becky is away. In fact, she's been gone since Wednesday night, and not returning home until Sunday night. She's attending the Kothe Distilling Workshop in Chicago. I am SO jealous! This is an expanded version of the workshop I attended last May, except this one includes a full day of advance distillery management (including chemical properties of distillation and proper cleaning of the equipment) and a full day sensory seminar, where Becky sampled over 70 different spirits, fruity ones, grainy ones, good ones, bad ones, etc. They even put a six sample fractional distillation in front of the attendees, and had them sort them into head cuts, tail cuts, and heart cuts. Cool stuff. I wish I were there. (But it's good that we're spreading out the knowledge a little... it'll make our business stronger.)

So, Becky is away, and I'm home with the boys playing Mr. Mom. Taking the boys to the bus stop this morning, our neighbor, Joy, the lesbian jock from across the street, remarked that I was possibly the coolest husband ever. "Sending my wife to a liquor conference??" She told me, "Hell, I might even marry you!" I was flattered, but Joy is WAY more woman than I can handle! She'd break me in half!

We've stayed busy while Becky is away. I finally got our bottling machine cleared out of customs in Atlanta. It should be here next week sometime. And the still is supposed to have shipped yesterday. Our first ton (and a quarter) of organic rye grain arrived from Marienthal, Kansas. I also got in our box samples for our cases. We got a really good price by going with a local manufacturer, which is good for business in the area, but also saves me on transportation costs. The price for boxes was about half what I budgeted, as was the price of the grain we got--about half what I budgeted. That's a good place to be as we try to conserve money before any sales start coming in.

We're still pressing hard to get something made and officially label-approved by January 31. That is the deadline for getting reviewed by Virginia ABC. Because Virginia is a government-run system, we only have two opportunities to get on the shelves. January's review will get us on the shelves in May, and if we miss that, August's review will get us on the shelves in November. From a cash flow perspective, we really, REALLY need to get on the shelves in May.

In the meantime, Becky's been working on a gin recipe for one of our first products. She's got a nice herb blend picked out that really comes out as a subtle and very complex gin--strong notes of citrus, hay, and back-of-the-throat aftertastes of cinnamon, anise and cloves. It's lovely stuff. I think it's production ready, so we ordered a year's supply of the organic herbs needed.

And speaking of organic, I'm going to have to spend some weekend time getting our organic application submitted. We're all squared away on the kosher paperwork, but the organic stuff still needs some attention. Just four or five hours, and I can get that completed.

Finally, the boys have been a big help at the distillery. The thing I love most about this business is that Becky and I own it. We OWN it. We can do damn-well whatever we want to. Frank comes up to the plant most days and sits in his sunny spot near the window (or barks at the endless cars in the parking lot). But the boys can come up and work on homework, play on the computer, or help out at the plant. Just today, I got Luke to help me install a cold water line to the refrigerator. It only took about an hour, but I really enjoy and appreciate it when my sons can help out. Eddie helps out in his own way--he did up our "first advertising concept." He drew a model drinking a glass of our fine whisky, tossing the "other" whiskies aside like yesterday's trash, with a slogan that read, "Catoctin Creek. Like it. Love it. Live it." Nice!

We're still pretty empty up at the plant. If you came to see us, you'd see a big empty warehouse waiting for equipment. Soon enough, we'll be overflowing with stuff, but for now, we're still just waiting for stuff to arrive. If the still arrives on time, we'll be ready to go before the year ends. We'll get "kosherized" (as they call it... the act of cleaning for kosher certification) on December 30, and December 31st will have us producing our first rye mash run.

January will be a very busy month.

© Copyright 2005-2014, Scott E. Harris. All Rights Reserved.
Please do not reproduce or copy without the permission of the author.