State-of-the-art distillation technology to speed up the production of spirits

A New Zealand beverage tech company is claiming a revolutionary breakthrough in making traditional spirits, to provide a shortcut production method it says could eliminate the need for centuries-old processes.

It claims its newly developed distillation technology is used to produce the equivalent of “20-year-old mature” spirits – traditionally made and aged in wooden barrels – in just days.

The Reactory and its namesake technology have been in development for 18 months and are the brainchild of wine technologist turned spirits connoisseur Mark Eltom.

Eltom, who was born in Canada and has lived in New Zealand since 2010, holds a doctorate in viticulture and enology from Lincoln University. He has 17 years of experience in chemistry in the wine and spirits industry.

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His intention for Auckland-based Reactory is to make the technology available to distilleries on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Eltom predicted that within 20 years, all major liquor manufacturers would be using technology as a way to get products to market faster and minimize the environmental impacts of spirits production – although a leader industry said that ultimately consumers will be the judges of the success of such technology.

The Reactory claims to produce its own mature single malt whisky, bourbon, rum and tequila, under the Eltom Distillery brand, in just five days, compared to the years required for the traditional aging process.

The company uses its own spirits to sell its technology and test the market.

The traditional method is to store spirits in barrels and move them to different environments for several years to achieve aging.

Eltom said his technology took an unaged spirit and added oak to his giant, yet similar drums, which were heated and cooled in stages, and pressure-conditioned, to produce a mature flavor “profile”. He said his technology was able to control factors in the maturation process, which meant he could achieve fully matured spirits.

He said the technology “amplifies” the natural process that takes place in a wooden barrel, although he was tight-lipped about the details.

“We build a reactor that can take the environmental and natural conditions that lead to the maturation of a mind, and we measure that throughout the process so that we can control the parameters that we want to target to end up with the matured mind. .”


The technology is currently being tested to make tequila.

He said Eltom’s products came out on top in his own taste tests against well-established and well-known mainstream spirits.

Eltom’s motivation for creating the technology was partly to clean up the environmental impact of the industry.

Company director Andre Rowell says his own estimates, based on various sources and reports, indicate that the industry creates around 67 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and uses 9 billion liters of water.


“We have to look at the main environmental impact of the possibility of working in another way. We’re able to do this without compromising flavor, having more control, and giving consumers much greater access to flavor profiles they didn’t have access to before,” Rowell said.

The Reactory claims that because it does not use barrels to age its spirits, it saves trees, water, energy and C02.

Prior to Reactory, Mark Eltom founded wine technology company Accuro, which sold fermentation and storage equipment in eight countries.

Over the past 18 months, the Reactory has caught the eye of some of the global beverage giants.

Eltom said he was about to enter a commercial trial with an organic rum maker and was in talks with two of the world’s biggest spirits makers for a demo pilot.

The technology has also ruffled some feathers within the industry, with some companies unhappy with technology that could undermine their traditional practices, he said.

He described his ambitions as “creating the technology now that everyone will have to use in 10 to 20 years.”

“We’re getting a head start and engaging early with a few big companies.”


Mark Eltom, Founder and Managing Director of Reactory.

Eltom launched the Reactory in his garage in 2021 and attracted investment from venture capitalists specializing in technology. It had received just under $1 million in capital investments to date, including from Outset Ventures and Startmate.

But some distillers saw the technology as a “sort of sacrilege” to traditional techniques.

Eltom Distillery’s whiskey and single malt products are priced between $85 and $145.

Whether the technology would lower the price of spirits would depend on which producers use it, Eltom said.

The company planned to charge its customers using a subscription-style model to produce their drinks through the expedited process.


Robert Brewer, managing director of Spirits New Zealand.

Spirits New Zealand chief executive Robert Brewer said the Reactory’s technology held promise for the industry, but said it would be difficult to fully replicate the flavors created by centuries-old traditional ways of aging spirits.

He said he believed his technology used pressure to speed up the aging process, similar to the function of a pressure cooker.

But he warned there were international standards companies had to meet, such as being able to call drinks a Scotch whiskey, bourbon or tequila, for example.

“In the traditional artisanal approach to making aged spirits, there is so much human intervention that I think would be difficult to replicate,” Brewer said.

“Over time, the innovation has been incremental in terms of the core process – there’s been so much progress over the years – but what it looks like with the other process is that this innovation is at a whole new level, creating flavor profiles that are not only user-friendly and appealing, but take a lot less time – that’s a step change in innovation.

Brewer said the consumer will ultimately be the final judge of spirits taste-based technology.

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