That’s the spirit: chemical engineer develops flexible micro-distillery

Article by Adam Duckett

Bell's distillery performs the same function as four dedicated stills

A CHEMICAL engineer from the University of Queensland has created a new type of micro distillery capable of producing a range of spirits including rum, brandy and gin.

The distillery operates out of the The Malecón Bar in Brisbane and is the invention of Alex Bell, an IChemE member whose design offers flexibility not seen in traditional stills that are often limited to producing a single product.

“The distillery consists of a single still that performs the same function as four dedicated stills and is capable of producing several thousand bottles a year of a variety of marques and spirits,” Bell said.

The distillery has been designed with versatility in mind, while minimising its size.

“It’s essentially four-stills-in-one: a dual retort Jamaican rum still for producing heavy rums; a column still for producing light rums; a regular pot still for brandies and traditional rums, and a gin still that we will be using to create a range of spiced rums and aperitifs.”

He added that the system allows each product to be designed from scratch and reproduced.

“This is achieved by directing the flow of vapour via several valves.

“Each fermenter is temperature controlled, allowing full precision of fermentation temperatures to allow for consistency between batches, but also to encourage the microorganisms to produce the desired compounds at the right time.”

Furthermore, the system allows Bell to produce ginger beer without affecting production volumes of the spirits.

"All the design work and problem solving involved in the distillery was a direct result of the toolset the engineering degree provided me with," he said. Bell credited UQ Idea Hub – the university’s startup pre-incubator – for helping to nurture and develop his invention.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.