A visit to Industry City
Here we go…..
Welcome to Industry City Distillery in … Brooklyn.
Zachary Bruner, co-founder, distiller and a great mechanics is the person to know if you want to learn about distillation beyond textbooks.
What will you find at Industry City Distillery and why?
The purest fruit of the distillation process : vodka. When you are interested in making the best distilled spirit, pure expression of what alcohol can be, you kind of look in the direction of vodka. It is the neutral spirit per see.
Read this quote from David Kyrejko I found in “Brooklyn Spirits” that expresses their approach and philosophy.
“The majority of vodka on the market are all from the same source, an industrial ethanol that you buy and mix with water. They’re not distilleries at all they’re rectifiers, which means they don’t actually make their product other that adding water to the alcohol.”
What is the vodka made from?
Industry City Distillery’s vodka is a (beet) sugar based vodka.
Why sugar? Because anything that contains sugar can potentially become alcohol, why not going to sugar directly. Another reason : there is no waste with sugar. Everything is fermented. A big perk if zero waste is one of your concerns. And actually it is for them.
Why is Industry City Distillery so special?
And now, discover what makes Industry City Distillery, Industry City Distillery: yes it is their spirit, in every sense of the term, but also their home made stills! (they are also famous for the way they deal with indigenous yeast, but we didn’t have time to get into that).
Look at them, have you ever seen such a series of stills ? They are made on premisses, in the room photographed below. Isn’t it a dream workshop (not only because you can see the East river and it is full of sun) ?
After this magical room come the room of stills and more. Magical because this is not so often that one can see old stills one next to each other, both hand-made and in-house made. Nothing fancy or unnecessary chic. Those stills are made to Not being satisfied with anything commercially available, and having had some experiences with fish tanks (long story I won’t explain now) they decided to build their own still. You could call it a batch fractional reflux still.
They name batch the quantity of mash/wort that fits the still. I do feel my pictures are not able to illustrate how unique those stills are. Those stills adapt to one’s needs, and not the other way around. They are easily scalable too (they are building a third one. Not pictured.)
Why fractional and why reflux ?
Look at those pieces of perforated metal inside. It provokes myriads of micro flux/reflux like in the separation columns of a column still. They accelerate and multiply the distillation. Steam stems from the bottom of the column while the mash/wash is pumped to the top. The perforated pieces of metal allow the alcohol to get higher and push the water back down. They are doing two distillations. In one still, they stripped the alcohol so to say. The second distillation is happening in the still / separation column, controlled by computer. Their distillation system is very efficient and allows a more precise process of cutting, up to 40 within the heart (not even mentioning heads and tails).
A facility dedicated to understanding distillation
You are not going to find much information about this type of distillation in any book. It seems no one want to see young people making great vodka with their own equipment instead of investing in costly ready to work stills? What is also a surprise at Industry City Distillery is the absence of copper, absence of most of the tools you see usually in distilleries, the ones you think you can’t make vodka without. No big grain fermenters. No copper pot stills. No old barrels resting somewhere (but glass jar). No fancy filtration system, but only small filters hanging on a wall.
The no waste philosophy
There is no waste as per the base material, as we wrote earlier but the heads are used as cleaning detergent, the tails are re distilled. Once all the different cuts are collected into those glass jar see below, they are tasted, and only the best got blended and make the vodka (after being filtered and diluted with purified Brooklyn city water).
What could come next when you’re a purity perfectionist?
Last thing about their products, and why that was absolutely refreshing to meet them. They’re into pure expression of alcohol, hence vodka. We said that. But then what could come next. Of course I ask provocatively that i bet they didn’t go into flavored vodka. Doing it right would take ages for perfectionist like them. So as we’re in america, you need novelties, what can they come up with now? And this is why I want to introduce you to the product below. What do you need to make you own limoncello? Your own bitter?
In their words:To get the best results, you need the strongest, purest alcohol possible. To make that we distill Technical Reserve to its 191.2 proof (96.5% ABV) azeotrope , the physical maximum for natural ethyl alcohol distillation.
What Spiritsfully liked about that tour:
It is definitely the tour during which you gonna learn more than you will ever imagine about the act of distilling.