What is the Biggest Difference Between a Rum Still and a Vodka Still?

Theoretically, Vodka is a pretty easy spirit to produce in the sense that it is the least artful because you are just stripping down to the cleanest possible end result. However, making vodka requires the most amount of resources, therefore vodka is the hardest of all with respect to expenditures. You can run your vodka through the same still that produces a flavorful rum, but in order to achieve that clean, neutral spirit that is vodka, you will have to run it through the pot multiple times.

This may not seem like that big of a deal, but have you factored in the man-hours it takes to run the still, plus the cost for the power to run the still X number of times. As you start to factor in the costs, you can see the profit margins on the vodka start to decrease. Whereas for Rum, a theoretically easy spirit to make as well, probably only needs to be run through your pot still once or twice to make a pretty good spirit, keeping your profit margins on rum more steady.

In order to keep your planned profit margins, you would need to reduce your labor costs and try to decrease the cost of power, which is most easily done with a system that doesn’t need multiple runs to produce a neutral spirit. This decrease in expenditures can be achieved by using a taller column with more plates. The initial investment may be higher, but the variable costs will be lower allowing for a better profit margin and quicker return on investment.

Let’s look at this example to demonstrate the differences:

We already know that every phase change cycle is a distillation run, so once through the pot still is one distillation run. To get a 4 times distilled vodka, you would need to run your product through a pot still 4 times. That’s 4 heat-ups and 4 full runs.

If you have a 4 plate column, you are getting 4 distillation cycles in one run. (Although according to the TTB, you can’t put 4x distilled on your bottle. See this article for more on what the TTB considers a distillation cycle) With the 4 plate column, instead of heating up your kettle 4 times, you are only heating it once- if it takes you 2 hours to heat your kettle each time, you are saving 6 hours of heat up time right there. You’re also cutting back on how long you are running your still overall. Let’s say it takes you 4 hours to run your wash through the pot still each time, that’s 16 hours of run time to produce your vodka. If you were to add 4 plates to your column, it could still take 4 hours to run your wash through the still, but instead of having to do it 3 more times, you have achieved the same result in a quarter of the time. Look more labor hours saved! In this example, you’ve saved a total of 18 hours of labor. That’s 18 hours that can be spent bottling, labeling, or marketing.

Please note: this example is just using easy numbers here, if you are looking for more exact information, give us a call at 561-845-8009, or click the chat button and we will be happy to get you the correct information for your specific situation.

The main takeaway here is one of the biggest differences of a rum still versus a vodka still is the profitability. While a true vodka column may cost more upfront, it allows for lower variable expenses per run, and better profit margins on the end product. Who doesn’t want to spend less time running and more time selling?