How To Write A Distiller’s Process Description

What is a distillers process description?

This is a written document that clearly describes every step of the process that is involved with making your product. From delivery methods through bottling, it details each step so that someone who may be unfamiliar with the distilling industry (i.e. a fire or building code official) can quickly understand what is happening at your facility, in order to ensure that everything is code compliant. It is also incredibly important as a tool for a distiller to use to formalize the process that at the beginning might just be some scribbled ideas on a napkin. 

Distiller’s Process Description: Tips and tricks

  1. Understand the scope of the document you will be writing.
    The Distillers Process Description should describe the process of producing your product from beginning to end and all steps in between. For many distilleries, you will be writing several smaller individual process documents — 1 for each of the products/processes in a complex operation. Some parts or the process may be remarkably the same (mashing for instance), feel free to copy and paste or just reference a frequently used section.
  2.  Sketch notes on the key components of the process you will document.
    This could include a process flow diagram, an outline of the positions responsible for each task, and/or a description of what the process looks like when successfully completed.

Sample Sketch for a Rum:
Granulated Sugar (50# sacks) and Molasses (50 gal barrels)delivered….. Mashing …..Fermenting ….. First Distillation ….. Collection….. Second Distillation ….. Collection….. Proofing ….. Bottle ….. Shipping

3.Identify the separate functions or steps that will be involved in the process.
Define each function’s individual role in your big picture. 

From our Sample Sketch for a Rum we see some specific areas needed:
Shipping & Receiving – receive raw goods, ship finished products
Mashing Area – measuring and mixing raw goods with water heating it to X temperature
Fermentation Area – pitch yeast, allow to ferment for X hours, separate yeast from wash
Distillation Area – X gallons of wash goes into still 1st distillation, X gallons of low wines go into 2nd distillation.
Collection Point – all products off of still separated and collected in X gallon containers. Heads, tails, hearts. X gallons of low wines are collected for  a 2nd distillation.
Proofing/Bottling Area – after 2nd distillation X gallons of high wines (X% abv) are proofed down using R.O. Water, bottled, labeled and packaged for shipment.

We also know we want a gift shop and tasting room at our facility:
Tasting Room & Gift shop
– Provide visitors a sample of our product, starting point for tours of our facility, sell t-shirts and related distillery swag to visitors

4. Identify the materials.
Specify the type and quantity materials used in each stage of your process. List the expected alcohol by volume involved at the beginning of the step and at the end.

Mashing 0% abv at start 0% abv at end
Fermentation – 0% abv at start 9% at end
1st Distillation – 9% abv at start 20-30% abv at end
2nd Distillation – 20-30% abv at start 95% abv at end
Collection Point – Foreshots (X% Methanol) discarded, Heads (Acetone, Acetaldehyde and Acetate) collecting in 50 gallon drum for redistillation, Hearts (up to 95% Ethanol) collected separately in 50 gallon drum, Tails (1% abv water, proteins, carbohydrates and less volatile alcohols)
Proofing/Bottling – 95% abv at start 48% abv at end

5. Outline the technical tools and equipment for the process.
This can include computers, software, technology, vehicles and even simple gear like a broom and dustpan. If appropriate, you can also include ideas of where that equipment will be located or where to return it when the process is finished. See our Equipment Spreadsheet for a starter list to edit and adapt for your facility.

6. Use your notes and outlines to write a step-by-step guide to how the process is completed.
This is the meat of the business process document. Proof and re-read for clarity

Our Distillery plans to use a combination of granulated sugar and molasses to create a rum distillate. The sugar is an evaporated cane juice sugar from Hawaii and delivered in 50 pound bags, 50 bags per pallet. The molasses is sourced locally from Big Sweetener Dealer delivered and stored in 50 gallon drums. It will be transferred into the 100gal mash cooker by means of another chain disc assembly. In the 1000gal cooker DHD starts by adding desired gallons of purified water and slowly adds the mixture of cereal grains. Our Distillery will use a high shear mixer to convert the solids to a liquefied form at this point heat is introduced in the tank by low pressure steam-jacket, to a temperature of X degrees Fahrenheit and held at that temperature for approximately X minutes. Once the desired mash has been reached Our Distillery will then begin cooling the mash to the X degrees Fahrenheit and once again held at this temp for approx. 30 minutes. Our Distillery will then begin cooling until the mash reaches X degrees Fahrenheit and will then be transferred to a 100 gal fermentation tank and yeast will be pitched. Fermentation will sit and process for about X days. Once the fermentation is ready it is transferred to the still. The heart of the distillation run will be collected in a 50 gallon stainless holding tank, while the heads are sent to a separate collection tank. Part of the distillation run will be processed, briefly aged in used 53 gallon bourbon barrels, and then bottled for an aged rum, while the rest will be proofed down and bottled for a white rum.

Written by Dalkita:
Colleen Moore
Scott Moore
Matthew Taylor-Rennert

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