The Booming Distillery Industry
Bourbon is a multi-billion-dollar industry. There are thousands of distilleries in operation throughout the US.
Declared as “America’s native spirit”, the popularity of bourbon has risen and declined over the past century. However, in the last few years, the distilled liquor has experienced an impressive resurgence like never before in history.
As a result, the number of distilleries in Kentucky, where the largest percentage of the world’s bourbon is made, have more than tripled. In addition, the number of counties with a distillery has quadrupled.
This can be largely attributed to the worldwide whisky boom which has seen an upsurge in interest in bourbon whisky and strong sales growth to back that up. In addition, an increased appreciation of craft cocktails has also resulted in the number of distilleries growing substantially.
What’s Driving the Worldwide Whisky Boom?
The whisky boom is largely being driven by millennials, who have a growing appreciation of dark liquors as opposed to beer and similar type beverages. According to research, while the younger demographic are generally drinking less alcohol, a shift in their tastes towards whisky and hard liquors is boosting the sales of bourbon distillers.
Likewise, the widespread increasing consumer interest in premium brands in the beverage market is also contributing to the major upsurge in interest in the bourbon category.
Even during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales of bourbon continued to rise, which may indicate that it’s a trend that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
As the demand for bourbon and other spirits accelerates throughout the world, some distilleries are turning to high-tech operations and equipment that improve the production process, boost efficiency, and help them to keep up with customer demand.
How Bourbon Whisky is Made
Bourbon distillation is a process that’s been done (and done successfully) for hundreds of years. To create what becomes bottled spirits, even on the scale that larger distillers or multinationals with thousands of barrels a year, is something that takes time and uses well-established production processes, steeped in tradition.
As a matter of fact, some parts of the production process haven’t changed in years. For instance, Wild Turkey Bourbon production involves the use of water from the nearby river that’s naturally filtered through limestone rocks. This gives the whisky a softer, sweeter taste.
However, in recent years, changes have come (and are still coming) to the bourbon and other alcoholic spirits industry.
Due to the ongoing whisky boom, there’s increasing pressure on manufacturers to make improvements and optimise the production process to compete against demand. Therefore, bourbon producers are leveraging modern technology in an attempt to refine their centuries-old craft.
Using Technology to Improve Processes
To improve the process of making bourbon, distilleries are doing everything from adding Internet of Things (IOT) sensors to equipment for collecting data to implementing specialist RFID tags to bourbon barrels.
An increasing number of distilleries are also incorporating technologies such as liquid product recovery (pigging) into their processing operations.
Pigging systems recover residual liquid product from pipelines that would otherwise go to waste. They’re an incredibly effective way for manufacturers of bourbon and other alcoholic beverages to increase yields, reduce waste, streamline production, and ensure product quality.
Pigging and product recovery systems deliver a wide range of benefits and offer a rapid return on investment and fast payback for bourbon producers.
Pigging Systems and Bourbon Production
Pigging use a specialist projectile (the “pig”) which recovers every last drop of liquid from a piping system. The pig fits extremely compactly to the pipeline walls which enables it to clean the pipeline and reclaim the liquid product remaining in the pipe after transfer.
HPS pigs have extremely high recovery rates. In most cases, they can reclaim up to 99.5% of product from full pipelines.
Importantly, instead of sending product to waste, pigging systems save it. And due to the whisky boom, manufacturers of bourbon will have lots of transfer pipelines which are left full of residual product at the end of transfer batches. Therefore, there’s lots of product for the HPS pig to recover, which increases yields considerably.
And let’s face it, no one wants to see good drinks wasted!
In this way, pigging systems improve the effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, and profitability of bourbon and alcoholic beverages processing and production.
Automated Pigging Systems
The vast majority of pigging and product recovery solutions provided by HPS are fully automated. This helps manufacturers of bourbon eliminate inconsistencies and ensure product quality.
Because they are fully automated, this also means faster changeovers, less downtime, quicker cleaning times as well as improvements in efficiency and productivity. Automated pigging solutions also enhance safety by reducing the opportunity for human error.
Improving Capacity by Incorporating Pigging
As bourbon continues to grow in popularity, manufacturers may need to ramp up production to meet the worldwide demand. That’s where pigging comes in. That’s because pigging technology enhances production capacity and enables manufacturers to react quickly to changes in consumer demand.
With a pigging process, the same line can be used for different configurations and formulations of product with reduced production downtime for changeovers and cleaning. This improves production flexibility, capacity, agility and eliminates the need for expensive investments in processing equipment (here’s more on how pigging systems increase production capacity).
Other benefits of pigging for bourbon production include reduced cross-contamination risks, decreased wastewater load, reduced water usage, improved environmental sustainability plus much more.
From Campari to Heaven Hill, HPS Product Recovery Solutions has installed thousands of pigging systems throughout the world.
It’s quite clear why manufacturers are bourbon are implementing pigging systems into their processes. They have a lot to gain from increasing yields and reducing waste, to boosting efficiency and improving quality.
You can find out even more information about the beverage companies that have incorporated product recovery systems in our beverage pigging system case studies.
If you would like to speak to one of our experts about transforming your liquid processes through pigging and product recovery solutions, then please get in touch. Our friendly and knowledgeable experts will be more than happy to help!