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Grainger Everyday Heroes: Whiskey Distiller

Grainger Editorial Staff

My name is Mike Hoffman and I'm a distiller here at Koval. It's a craft whiskey distillery. We make whiskey, vodka, soon gin of course. we're a grain to bottle distillery. So we mill all our own grain and go through the whole process to bottling right here. So right when we come in, we will start up our hammer mills and then load the grain into the hammer mills. So we can get the grain into our mash tank where it is heated and basically cooked. Enzymes are added to break down the starches and fermentable sugars.

This is where all the fermenters are. We have eight fermenters currently. We may be looking to get more. Basically, they're just big stainless steel tubes where the mash is allowed to just sit with an airlock and let off CO2 and not get contaminated by anything. Most of the fermentation is done in first three days or so, but we usually leave them in there about a week. Once you are through the fermentation process, you will have a low alcohol, beer or what have you. And then the distillation part of it is taking that lower alcohol percentage and distilling it. Distilling the alcohol off to get a distillate that is of a higher alcohol percentage. So this is the pot. This is where we load the mash into. So that low alcohol percentage mash and then basically all that happens is that it's heated. So when it heats the alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water. So it's just extracting the alcohol off and then condensing it. But since ours is a hybrid, it then comes to the columns where it travels up one column down the other and out the other. So all the spirits, every single spirit that comes out of steel is clear. So all the color you see in whiskey is from the barrel. And a lot of the flavor as well. There's so many different, temperature gauges, and steam pressure and all that sort of stuff that if you're doing everything by hand, you would just wouldn't get a consistent product. So we try and control as many things as possible with automation, while still not losing that personal touch of still tasting everything.

So here is our bottling. Everything we have is hand bottled, which sometimes takes a very long time. So we'll pull the whiskey from a barrel into one of these containers and cut it down with filtered water to bottling strength from barrel strength. Yeah, we're in tons of locations around the Chicagoland area. I think 30 states now, and I want to say seven countries. So we're certainly trying to get our name out there and we've increased production so, hopefully we're getting our name out. I love this job. It's not easy. It's never the same. It's different every day. But it's fun.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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