The word distillery conjures up images of a bustling workplace filled with fumes and barrels, stills and casks. We owe such enticing visions to distillers who skillfully combine a desire to create unique spirits with desirable experience, knowledge, focus, and patience to create a recipe for success.
Also Known As
- Certified Distiller
- Certified Scotch Professional
- Certified Whiskey Specialist
Typical Job Responsibilities
What do Distillers do?
A Distiller would typically need to:
- Under the supervision of a Master Distiller, monitor the malting, mashing, fermentation, and distillation processes.
- Be in charge of the design and quality management of an entire line of manufactured spirits, or a portion of one.
- Choose, measure, weigh, and mix high-quality ingredients while keeping in mind local regulations and how they will affect the finished product.
- Ferment and distil the alcohol; make cuts to select the various parts of the distilled spirit – the foreshots/heads and feints/tails.
- Age the finished product in a cask or neutral vessel to determine its style and character.
- To perfect the taste, ensure quality control through product inspections; filter, color, and sweeten the batch before bottling it.
- Label and package spirits; box bottles manually, if necessary
- Collaborate with the production manager to meet production targets and evaluate specialty flavours.
- Market and sell the finished product; assist with shipping and receiving; and greet and sell/serve tourists and guests who come to the distillery.
- Consistently duplicate the product to satisfy customers who return for more.
- Develop unique tastes and flavours for potential market distribution using a highly trained nose, patience, and strict adherence to safety and hygiene.
- Keep recipe logs for all products and distillation process logs.
- As needed, record, manage, and report data for stock production and raw material usage.
- Move raw materials, fill/empty casks, and correctly store/position casks in the warehouse.
- Maintain a high level of housekeeping within the distillery building; monitor mash tun, still, and washback cleaning and maintenance to ensure a smooth operation.
- Address operational budget issues; notify the production manager if they exceed budget allotments or require special attention.
Standard Work Environment
The size of the distillery you work in can range from a simple tasting room similar to a neighborhood tavern to massive enterprises that serve customers all over the world. All distilleries, regardless of size, must be temperature-controlled, clean, and sanitary enough to meet state regulations.
Because of the fumes produced at various stages of distillation, certain areas will be hot and humid. It’s possible that the warehouse is cold and damp.
The majority of distillers work eight-hour shifts that may include early mornings, evenings, and weekends. Part-time jobs are an option if you need to work another job to pay your bills.
Finding a new job may appear difficult. Distillers can improve their job search by soliciting referrals from their network, contacting employers directly, using job search platforms, attending job fairs, leveraging social media, and contacting staffing agencies.
Distillers are generally employed by:
- Government Distilleries
- Corporate Distilleries
- Craft Distilleries
Unions / Professional Organizations
Professional associations and organizations, such as The World Wide Distillers, are essential for Distillers who want to further their professional development or connect with other professionals in their industry or occupation.
Membership in one or more of these organizations adds value to your resume while strengthening your credentials and qualifications.
- The work environment may be hot and humid or cold and damp
- Exposure to fumes and steam may cause injuries
- Distraction due to a noisy work setting
- Irregular work schedules defined by production targets and the distilling process
- Physical strain due to significant bending, stretching and occasional lifting of heavy items
- An excessive amount of patience is required to ensure the process runs smoothly and results in an award-worthy product
- Stricts and often confusing government regulations that need to be understood and adhered to totally
Suggested Work Experience
Distillers have carved out their own paths into the world of distilling despite the lack of a formal education programme. Learning from a mentor, internships, and volunteer work experience are just a few of the many resources Distillers use to expand their distilling knowledge.
Apprenticeship or mentoring with a master distiller is by far the most effective way to learn the trade. Some distilleries offer internal education opportunities for aspiring distillers, allowing them to train alongside Master Distillers.
Employers seek candidates who are eager to learn about a wide range of spirits categories, are familiar with various distilleries, and are aware of which practises appeal to their style and sensibility and which do not.
Workshops ranging from two to six days in length on topics ranging from basic distillation and maturation to spirit-specific classes on whisky, rum, and gin production will get you started on the path of hands-on training.
Because home distillation is illegal in most countries, those without access to legitimate internship/mentorship programmes should gain experience by simply walking into a distillery and asking if they are hiring. It’s the best way to get your feet wet and work your way up to Distiller, though you shouldn’t expect anything more than minimum wage at first. The job will almost certainly involve a lot of tank scrubbing, sweeping, and routine tasks.
People with bartending or serving experience may volunteer in the distillery’s tasting room. Because of your proximity to the distillery, you may be asked to assist with other tasks such as packaging and cleaning. Take the initiative and offer to assist in the backroom whenever possible.
Prospective distillers may also benefit from joining the distillery’s packaging team. Although the packaging is quite monotonous, your enthusiasm and proficiency may lead you to other parts of the distillery operations and eventually to your dream role.
Keep an eye out for open requests to participate in bottling events posted by distilleries on social media. Such events, which are mostly voluntary, provide a valuable opportunity to tour the distillery and meet the people in charge of hiring.
Because brewing coffee and distilling have some sensory overlap, baristas with significant expertise may catch the attention of those who do the hiring.
There have been reports of people with experience in boutique wine retail befriending local distillers and jumping into the currently booming distilling market. They could expand their wine knowledge by learning about spirits. A resume that includes such a combination, as well as an application to a local distillery or brewery, could work wonders.
To demonstrate your commitment to course providers and prospective employers, read about the profession and interview/job shadow experts working in the distillery industry. Attend industry events whenever possible. Travel to different parts of the world to learn the practical distilling skills that are prevalent in each region.
Distilling is rarely offered as a career option to high school graduates. With a scarcity of internationally recognised study programmes or certifications, it can be difficult to put together a tried-and-tested study plan to enter the spirits industry.
People with degrees in law, manufacturing, chemical engineering, management, or psychology are frequently drawn to the unique distilling programmes combined with brewing or winemaking offered by a number of universities around the world.
A small amount of trade education can go a long way towards increasing your chances of landing a desirable job as a Distiller. Spirit-specific courses offered by reputable universities that hold industry gold standards for trade education will teach you the most up-to-date and best techniques for milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling, ageing, blending, marketing, and selling spirits.
For those who want to test the waters before making a firm decision, week-long distiller courses and shorter classes on how to get products to market are ideal.
Look for accredited beginner- and advanced-level certificates/diplomas that will improve and test your knowledge of the principles of spirit production, the different types of spirits, how to serve spirits, and the factors that influence the flavour of spirits. Understanding the science of fermentation, as well as cleaning procedures and packaging, will go a long way towards assisting you in producing award-winning spirits.
Look for high-quality, fact-based educational resources provided by your local craft spirits association to gather all of the necessary information and connect with other distillers.
High school science, math, English, and speech classes will help you improve your research, writing, and oral communication skills.
Certifications, Licenses, and Registration
Certification in distilling and the business of spirits from a reputable and objective organisation can help you stand out in a competitive job market and allow you to work independently as a consultant.
By incorporating a Code of Ethics, successful certification programmes protect the public welfare. Certification generally requires a combination of education, experience, and testing, though requirements vary by region.
Working with alcohol necessitates a thorough understanding of the rules and regulations governing marketing, production, distribution, and zoning. An application, processing fees, an examination, and relevant education and experience are typically required for licensure. Check with local or national distillery organisations to see if you’ll need a licence.
Projected Career Map
Distillers’ careers are driven by performance, experience, and the acquisition of professional qualifications.
Employees who consistently achieve high levels of performance may be promoted to Master Distiller. You could also aim for positions in management, such as Production Manager.
Distillers with a wealth of distillation expertise and a small amount of capital can start boutique spirit companies and craft distilleries.
Candidates with extensive work experience, patience, and a willingness to learn will have the best job prospects.
Beneficial Professional Development
CPD will assist an active Distiller in developing personal skills and proficiency through work-based learning, a professional activity, formal education, or self-directed learning. It enables you to constantly improve your skills, regardless of your age or level of knowledge.
On-the-job training for distilleries’ production processes and regulations is typically provided. They encourage their Distillers to expand their knowledge by enrolling in accredited distilling, bottling, and packaging programmes. Maintain your understanding of current product or distillation trends by continuing to research them.
Professionals who want to start their own business should be aware that the process can be lengthy. Permits and licences from central/federal, state, and local authorities will be required, which will be difficult to obtain.
Distilling is a labor-intensive industry characterised by sweat, strict self-discipline, and mountains of paperwork. However, the joy they bring to many spirit fans motivates dedicated distillers to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of spirits.
Advice from the Wise
Be open to learning from others, regardless of your level of professional development in distilling.