If you’ve ever walked around any of the distilleries in the United States, chances are you’ve seen equipment made by Vendome Copper and Brass Works, Inc. I know this because 95% of American whiskey is made in Vendome stills. Think about it. That is A LOT of equipment. And did you know Vendome is located right here in Louisville, Kentucky? It has been fabricating copper stills on the banks of the Ohio River for 113 years, making it one of the oldest copper fabricators in the world. This family-owned, fourth-generation business and its many years of superior work have gone a long way in this industry. In fact, I’ve worked at Vendome for the last 7 years and like to think we are pretty good at what we do. It isn’t rocket science, but it’s close.
At Vendome the individual pieces of equipment that make up each distilling system are distributed among several employees. Some days this means I’ll be gathering purchased parts from the warehouse or machine shop, cutting angle or pipe, forming and/or rolling flat sheets, or fitting up and welding the smaller parts that make up my job. One week it might be a Vertical Condenser for Sherwin Williams or a Gin Basket for a craft distillery like Wilderness Trail in Danville, Kentucky. Another time I could be making 5 gallon High & Low Winery Wine tanks for the Spirit Safe at Pearce Lyons Distillery in Dublin, Ireland. The larger companies like Jim Beam, Jack Daniels or Four Roses use giant tanks and stills that are 10,000 gallons and larger. A fermenter that size can be 12 to 14 feet in diameter and 15 to 20 feet tall. As you can imagine, it takes several workers to fabricate each part of those systems. I’ve seen the shop filled with 4 to 6 of the huge tanks, in various stages, all going at the same time.
However, Vendome handcrafts batch and continuous distillation systems of all sizes. Each piece of equipment is custom designed and engineered for industrial use. In addition to the stills, it fabricates all related stainless steel and copper equipment including fermenters, cookers, condensers, coolers receiving tanks, and more. But it doesn’t stop there. Vendome is also a major supplier of vessels and process equipment for the brewing, chemical, pharmaceutical, confectionery, food and dairy industries.
Along with making equipment for distilleries, Vendome also informs prospective distillers on information related to their equipment (ex: Quotas). We’ve been doing quotas so long that we can even help with mash bills and recipes, and we’re also handy to have around when you’re trying to navigate licensing and TTB laws (Tax & Trade Bureau, which regulates tobacco and alcohol). However, the thing we do best is the thing you should care about most: Fabricating a piece of equipment that is going to do exactly what you want it to do, with the highest efficiency and in the safest way possible.
I had the opportunity earlier this year to visit a new distillery in Kentucky under construction. The facility is beautiful and will be a welcome addition to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. I was asked by a friend to give my personal opinion of the distilling equipment. I’m not an engineer, so there is no way I’ll make a call on the safety of this system, but as a Union Sheet Metal Journeyman for the last 30 years I will say this equipment has been poorly fabricated and welded. Without proof of whether there had been any hydro tests performed on the equipment, a lot of the welds looked to me like they would leak and many of the copper welds were already showing signs of corrosion. I’ll also say I know none of the copper pieces would have passed the company inspection at Vendome.
Bottom line is this… if you’re going to start a distillery, great, but be careful, know what you want to produce and research your fabricators thoroughly. Give Vendome Copper and Brass Works, Inc. a call. We would love to have your business. If you’re not that familiar with what you want, we’ll be sure to help you out with that.