Practical Craft Distilling

General Certificate in Distilling

Who should attend?

The General Certificate in Distilling  (GCD) gives international recognition of a basic, under-pinning knowledge and understanding in the principles of distilling operations. The GCD has been designed for candidates who may have little or no formal academic or technical qualification. Typically a candidate will be employed as a senior operator or team leader in a brewery or packaging plant, however the scope of these examinations will enable candidates from smaller brewing operations to obtain this recognised qualification. This examination is open to anybody with interest in brewing or beer packaging. They are a measure of basic knowledge (theoretical and practical) underpinning brewing, packaging and associated operations.

How will you benefit?

These are a measure of the basic knowledge (theoretical and practical) underpinning distilling, packaging and associated operations. They are aimed at team members, team leaders and technicians who may lack appropriate higher education or may not have the basic scientific knowledge to sit the Diploma Level qualifications. They are also suitable for other non-operational personnel (e.g. in HR, accounts, logistics, and engineering) who will benefit from a basic understanding of operations within their industry. The General Certificate qualifications can be an end in themselves, equipping successful candidates to carry out their tasks more knowledgeably, or can also be the start of professional development, leading to Diploma Level qualifications and, potentially, the Master Level qualification.

The GCD can be an end in itself, or the start of professional development, leading to the Diploma in Distilling (Dipl. Dist) and, potentially, the Master Distiller (M. Dist) examinations. 

Outline programme 

The General Certificate in Distilling (GCD) gives international recognition of a basic, under-pinning knowledge and understanding in the principles of distilling operations.

The GCD requires a basic knowledge of the processes used to produce the main types of potable spirit consumed worldwide. The scope of the syllabus is therefore confined to spirits derived either from cereals, molasses, and grapes. The generic descriptors “whisk(e)y”, “rum” and “brandy” are consequently restricted to beverages made from those respective raw materials. Similarly, neutral spirits derived from the same sources and vodka and gin made from neutral spirit are the only other products covered in the following syllabus. More detailed national and legal specifications of these potable spirits are to be found in Section 1 (Overview and Glossary) of the Learning Material.

The GCD allows candidates to qualify for certification in the following electives:

  • Cereal
  • Molasses
  • Grape

The elective format allows candidates to follow a specialised path through the GCD. The syllabus contains specific sections denoted A, B or C and common sections without denotation. Candidates must specify at Registration for the Examination which of the elective options they have chosen.

  • Raw Materials
  • Raw Materials Processing
  • Fermentation Theory and Practice
  • Fundamentals of Distillation
  • Distillation Technology – Batch and Continuous
  • Post Distillation Control of Flavour
  • Distillery Co-products
  • Packaging
  • Utilities and the Environment
  • Health and Safety
  • Plant Cleaning – Chemicals
  • Engineering and Maintenance
  • Process Control
  • Quality Control
  • Quality Management Systems (QMS)

To gain the General Certificate in Distilling (GCD) qualification, candidates will be required to: 

Successfully complete:

  • a multiple choice paper of 60 questions

Please note: The course will be available for study from Spring 2019

Please note: you need to register 8 weeks prior to the examination date to take the IBD examination.

Included in the course price are: – The course material, the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) examination (recognised in over 100 countries around the world). Access to the e-Learning site for the duration of the course.

Required prior learning for the course: no prior knowledge is required (if you are not sure, contact us, so that we can help you choose the course level according to your needs and objectives).

Guided learning hours: It is recommended that a candidate should allocate at least 80 hours of study. This is a NQF / IQF Level 3 course

Learning outcomes – at the end of this course, the candidate should be able to explain and describe in simple terms, or demonstrate familiarity with: 

  • Definitions of the main spirits derived from cereal, molasses and grape
  • The range of spirits and their respective styles and characters
  • The technical terms used in the distilling industry, and their country specific alternatives
  • Cereals and the malting process
  • Malt and malt enzymes
  • Enzymes for GNS production
  • Sources and types of molasses
  • Harvesting and processing to molasses; measurement of sugar content
  • Relevant analysis of molasses
  • Source of grapes and wine for spirit production
  • Vine varieties and cultivation of grape vines
  • Grape analysis
  • Milling
  • Mashing and wort preparation
  • Wort cooling and aeration
  • Pre-treatment, dilution and additions
  • Reduction of microbial count
  • Grape processing to produce must
  • Additions: sulphiting and yeast nutrients
  • Principles of alcoholic fermentations
  • Yeasts and pitching yeast quality
  • Role of other micro-organisms
  • Design, construction and operation of fermentation vessels
  • Importance of temperature
  • Cultured yeast for cereal wort fermentation
  • “Artificial” and “natural” fermentations for dark and light rums and molasses neutral spirit production
  • Typical fermentation conditions and progress of fermentation
  • Theory of distillation
  • Basic concepts of batch and continuous distillation
  • The role of copper
  • Operation of batch stills (pot)
  • Cut points to control flavour and Double/Triple distillation
  • Collection of distillate
  • Operation of the two column distillation process
  • Neutral spirit production
  • Whiskey and Distillation
  • Rum and Distillation
  • Brandy and Distillation
  • Role of wood and wood treatment
  • Changes occurring in the spirit over the process of maturation and Blending
  • Whisky Casks and Blending
  • Quality of neutral spirit feedstock for gin and vodka
  • Botanicals and methods of use for gin production
  • Production of Vodka from neutral spirit (charcoal filtration)
  • Co-Products
  • Range of distillery co-products and preparation of animal feed
  • Range of distillery co-products
  • Spirit preparation for packaging
  • Unit processes of packaging
  • Identification and protection of packages and the detection and prevention of fraud
  • Sustainability and climate change
  • Energy
  • Quality requirements of water at all stages of production
  • Water treatment
  • Sources of effluent and measurement
  • Effluent treatment systems and control strategies
  • Packaging waste
  • Health and safety
  • Detergent and Sterilants
  • Microbiological control
  • Detergents
  • Sterilants
  • Systems for in-place cleaning (IPC / CIP)
  • Cleaning cycles
  • Plant design and maintenance for hygiene and efficiency
  • Approaches and tasks
  • Performance improvement
  • Product consistency
  • Quality parameters – process and end product
  • Flavour evaluation and tasting
  • Describing a quality system
  • Roles and responsibilities

Progression Routes – Upon successful completion of the IBD General Certificate in Distilling, the candidate may progress to the following qualifications: 

Diploma in Distilling: – The Diploma in Distilling examination is a measure of the candidate’s theoretical knowledge of distilling science and technology. The objective of the Diploma in Distilling is to give international recognition of comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the principles of distilling science and technology The Master Distiller is the highest level of distilling qualification offered by the IBD. It is a measure of the level of a candidate’s competence in the technical management of the distilling processes. Although they are competence-based assessments, it is essential that the candidate has a background which includes a detailed technical knowledge of the scientific theory and principles that underpins the process.

Master Distiller: The Master Distiller is the highest level of distilling qualification offered by the IBD. It is a measure of the level of a candidate’s competence in the technical management of the distilling processes. Although they are competence-based assessments, it is essential that the candidate has a background which includes a detailed technical knowledge of the scientific theory and principles that underpins the process 

Please note: if you are interested in any of the IBD courses and qualifications, you will need to register directly with the IBD on the following website: 

You will however, be able to chosse where you sit the examination and we are a centre for the IBD examinations.