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View Full Version : So you want to become a master distiller



JMac72
06-05-2009, 15:25
I Googled this subject with very little response.

If someone wanted to become a master distiller, what would be the process? Would somebody have to go to culinary school for example or is it something where one has to be born into the family?

OscarV
06-05-2009, 15:43
Considering that there are only 9 bourbon/TN distilleries,...
Brown-Forman, Louisville & Versailles, also that one in Lynchburg TN
Jim Beam, Clearmont
Buffalo Trace, Frankfort
Four Roses, Lawrenceburg
Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg
Maker's Mark, Loretto
Tom Moore, Bardstown
Heaven Hill, Louisville
That's 10 but Chris Morris does B-F in L'ville & Ver.
I'd suggest going to college for a chemist degree, and getting a job at a distillery for whatever is available and befriending and networking, and still you'll probably lose out to a current family member.
But I could be wrong.

Josh
06-05-2009, 16:25
Considering that there are only 9 bourbon/TN distilleries,...
Brown-Forman, Louisville & Versailles, also that one in Lynchburg TN
Jim Beam, Clearmont
Buffalo Trace, Frankfort
Four Roses, Lawrenceburg
Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg
Maker's Mark, Loretto
Tom Moore, Bardstown
Heaven Hill, Louisville
That's 10 but Chris Morris does B-F in L'ville & Ver.
I'd suggest going to college for a chemist degree, and getting a job at a distillery for whatever is available and befriending and networking, and still you'll probably lose out to a current family member.
But I could be wrong.

You forgot about JB Boston, KY. So it's back to ten, but seriously, if you want to be a master distiller, I would suggest you open your own or buy somebody else's.

Bourbon Geek
06-05-2009, 16:32
A Chemistry, Biology or Chemical Engineering degree is a big help ... preferrable two of these ... then, get hired in to any production job available ... make your desires known and ask for training whenever possible ... work hard and play well with others ... and maybe... just maybe you can get the gig after about 15 or so years of apprenticeship ...

However, the best answer is to either be born into the right family or start your own distillery ... a name like Beam, Samuels, or Russell would be nice, too ...

barturtle
06-05-2009, 18:50
Heck anyone can be a master distiller...it's just that doing so without the proper paperwork is illegal.

sailor22
06-05-2009, 19:06
Does Master Distiller refer only to Bourbon distilleries? I'm thinking of all the Rum, Liquer, Vodka, Whiskey, Ethanol and Solvent Distilleries world wide.
I know Rum companies seem to differentiate between Master Distiller and Master Blender. I'm not sure there is a similar distinction on the Bourbon side.

cowdery
06-05-2009, 22:13
I swear that some of these new micro-distillers, the first thing they do is get business cards printed calling themselves master distillers. So, after the business cards, you need a still. That's about it, the way a lot of those guys do it.

There is no set definition of Master Distiller. Almost all of them now spend a significant amount of their time on promotion, some more than others.

I notice rum makers usually tout their master blender more than their master distiller. Every distillery has a plant manager and somebody responsible for quality control, even if neither of them is actually called Master Distiller. So in that sense, yes, every distillery has a Master Distiller.

As Dave said, most of the younger guys at the big distilleries, and even some of the not-so-young ones, have chemical engineering degrees or something along those lines.

Another complaint I have about the micro guys is that lots of them think being a distiller is only about distilling, when arguably working with yeast and fermentation is more important, and you can learn a lot about that by making beer.

JMac72
06-06-2009, 00:16
chemical engineering degree?...crap...not so good with math.

Moreover from what little I found...it seems that distillers are usually born into it due to family tradition ie Beam.

Special Reserve
06-06-2009, 07:59
A Chemistry, Biology or Chemical Engineering degree is a big help ...

As a chemist, I could easily buy into this idea.


I swear that some of these new micro-distillers, the first thing they do is get business cards printed calling themselves master distillers. So, after the business cards, you need a still. That's about it, the way a lot of those guys do it...

Now your talking. For quality control, production, and safety management, a chemist or chemical engineer would be a good fit. However what matters most to us is taste. Thus the ability to determine which barrels when combined will deliver the taste desired by customers, and how to develop that taste given the product in the warehouses requires no BFOQ.

Being a "master distiller" is one thing, being a successful one is a different matter.

Will

JMac72
06-06-2009, 18:48
As a chemist, I could easily buy into this idea.



Now your talking. For quality control, production, and safety management, a chemist or chemical engineer would be a good fit. However what matters most to us is taste. Thus the ability to determine which barrels when combined will deliver the taste desired by customers, and how to develop that taste given the product in the warehouses requires no BFOQ.

Being a "master distiller" is one thing, being a successful one is a different matter.

Will

When you mention taste, does a distillery pre-plan what taste they want a product line to have then engineer the mashbill to suit?

Bourbon Geek
06-07-2009, 06:25
When you mention taste, does a distillery pre-plan what taste they want a product line to have then engineer the mashbill to suit?

Generally speaking ... yes ... and there are TONS of ways to get there.

However, sometimes the distillery aims at a marketing idea other than taste ... like WR Sonoma Cutrer finish ... I think this was much more of a marketing idea than a taste goal ... to give people the feel that WR is trendy, upscale ... etc.

JMac72
06-07-2009, 11:13
Generally speaking ... yes ... and there are TONS of ways to get there.

However, sometimes the distillery aims at a marketing idea other than taste ... like WR Sonoma Cutrer finish ... I think this was much more of a marketing idea than a taste goal ... to give people the feel that WR is trendy, upscale ... etc.

I have seen those bottles around but have never tried them. I can't reconcile bourbon with a wine finish. I wonder how that marketing ploy worked for WR....

pepcycle
06-08-2009, 15:25
Ask Beakerboy!!!

He's the only guy I know right now on the Fast Track to Master Distiller.

Two years ago he was training yeast to make plastic for a biotech company.

Now he's hanging with Harlan in Frankfort.

Do I sound jealous? That's cause I am!!!

cowdery
06-09-2009, 12:17
Yeah, since Harlen's only about 30 years shy of retirement.

pepcycle
06-10-2009, 11:31
In an industry that waits 23 years for product, 30 years is a nano second.

The Fast Track may have been a little optimistic.

I'm still jealous, since I'm back testing for viral markers and kidney function and he's in Frankfort.