Aussie grad engineers new type of micro-distillery  

A chemical engineer from the University of Queensland (UQ) has put his academic endeavours to use by designing a new type of micro-distillery for rum.


Operating out of The Malecón Bar in Brisbane, the micro-distillery is also capable of producing brandy, gin and other spirits, as well as non-alcoholic drinks such as ginger beer. It is the brainchild of Alex Bell, who was able to bring his concept to fruition via the UQ Idea Hub, a startup pre-incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“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,” said Alex.

“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 will be using to create a range of spiced rums and aperitifs.”

According to Alex, the system allows for each product to be designed from scratch and able to be reproduced exactly, regardless of scale.

“This is achieved by directing the flow of vapour via several valves,” he said.

“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.”

Alongside engineering, Alex’s also studied business management. Combining the two, along with help from the UQ Idea Hub, provided the platform for him to create his startup, Alchemy Spirit Company.

“All the design work and problem-solving involved in the distillery was a direct result of the toolset the engineering degree provided me,” he said.

“The UQ Idea Hub also gave me the opportunity to bounce my ideas around a vast number of experienced people from a range of industries, which helped continually refine my idea.”