How do you become a professional distiller?

Answered by Vince Keith

To become a professional distiller, there are several paths you can take, depending on your interests and educational background. Here, I will outline a few possible routes you can pursue to achieve your goal of becoming a professional distiller.

1. Entry-level positions: One way to start your journey in the distilling industry is by seeking out entry-level positions in a distillery. These positions could include roles in production, bottling, or even sales and marketing. While these positions may not directly involve distilling, they provide valuable exposure to the industry and can help you develop a solid foundation of knowledge and skills.

2. Apprenticeship: Another option is to seek out apprenticeship opportunities with established distilleries. Many distilleries offer apprenticeship programs where you can learn the craft of distilling firsthand from experienced professionals. This hands-on experience allows you to gain practical knowledge and skills, while also building connections within the industry.

3. Technical college: If you prefer a more structured educational approach, you may consider studying and distilling at a technical college. These programs often provide a comprehensive curriculum covering various aspects of distilling, including fermentation science, brewing processes, quality control, and business management. This formal education can give you a solid theoretical foundation to complement your practical skills.

4. Degree programs: For those looking to delve deeper into the science behind distilling, pursuing a degree in food or fermentation science can be an excellent choice. These programs typically offer more in-depth coursework in areas such as microbiology, chemistry, sensory evaluation, and process optimization. A degree in these fields can open doors to higher-level positions in distilleries and provide a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the distilling process.

5. Networking and professional organizations: Regardless of your educational background, it is crucial to network and connect with professionals in the distilling industry. Attending industry events, joining professional organizations such as the American Distilling Institute or the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, and participating in online forums can help you establish relationships and stay up-to-date with industry trends and advancements.

6. Continuous learning and experimentation: Becoming a professional distiller is not just about acquiring a specific set of skills or knowledge; it is also about continuously learning and experimenting. The distilling industry is constantly evolving, and keeping up with new techniques, ingredients, and trends is essential. Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement and seek out opportunities to expand your knowledge and refine your craft.

Personal Experience: In my own journey to become a professional distiller, I started by working in an entry-level position at a local distillery. This experience allowed me to learn the basics of the production process and gain exposure to different aspects of the industry. I also attended brewing and distilling courses at a technical college, which provided me with a solid theoretical foundation. However, it was through an apprenticeship with a renowned distillery that I truly honed my skills and learned the intricacies of distilling from experts in the field. This hands-on experience was invaluable in shaping my career as a professional distiller.

Becoming a professional distiller requires a combination of practical experience, theoretical knowledge, and a passion for the craft. By exploring different avenues such as entry-level positions, apprenticeships, formal education, networking, and continuous learning, you can pave the way for a rewarding career in the distilling industry.