• Tradition since 1869

    Carl Destillations- & Brennereitechnik

  • Tradition since 1869

    Carl Destillations- & Brennereitechnik

For 140 years, the name of CARL has been …

… an epitome of innovative distillation technology and equipment manufacturing. In spite of their common roots, the two well-known companies Christian Carl and Jacob Carl went their separate ways for almost a hundred years. In the meantime, the two lines were reunited as CARL GmbH. Alexander and Christian Plank continue the firm in the fifth generation.

Dutiful and innovative – that’s how you might characterize the way in which the various members of the family have conducted the company through 140 years of economic change, with all its ups and downs. In 1869, boiler and coppersmith CARL laid the foundations for today’s CARL GmbH in Göppingen. The production plant was located near the railway station: the automobile had not yet been invented, making the railway (along with waterways) the only means of transport. Keep in mind that the technical inspection agency TÜV – called “steam boiler revision association” at the time – was only founded a few years prior.

Among the company’s founder’s five sons (the second generation), the oldest one, Christian Carl, went to study, after which he remained as CEO with Transformatorenunion in Stuttgart. His brothers worked with their father’s company in Göppingen. When the company got into trouble, the eldest was also called back home. Around the year 1916, different conceptions led to a break-up between the brothers Christian and Jacob. The company’s initial location in Göppingen’s Davidstraße was abandoned. Christian CARL Ingenieur GmbH moved to Ziegelstraße, while Jacob CARL GmbH moved to Ulmer Straße, both in Göppingen. Up to that point of time, the focus was on manufacturing boiler and furnace installations, while already the first distillation facilities were being delivered.

From the Christian Carl line – in the third generation – followed his son Walter, who operated the company from the 1940s to the 196s. Of his two daughters (fourth generation), Traudel was thrilled to become a commercial apprentice for the distillation technology. The two sons Alexander and Christian (today’s fifth generation), direct descendants resulting from her marriage to Dr. med. Edgar Blank, are today’s CEOs of CARL GmbH. In the Jacob line, the company in Ulmer Straße was passed on to daughter Hannelore, married Klein. Their son, brewing engineer Gunther Klein (same generation as Alexander and Christian Plank), was a member of the management, but left the company before its crisis loomed. His brother-in-law, H. Feil, managed the company from 1997 to 2002.

Over all this changeful company history, during which the company fortunately remained in the hands of the family, the development of the company also wrote a few chapters in distillation history. After the separation, the brothers Christian and Jacob focused their activities on different fields of the business. Jacob CARL GmbH’s core business became – along with agricultural licensed distilleries – the brewing industry, building large brewhouse plants from the 1970s to the 1990s. As of the 1990s, the business went on well due to standardized brewpub concepts (and hands-on distilleries for 10 to 20 hl). In the 1960s and 70s, due to the golden age of the Spirits Monopoly legislation, the agricultural licensed distilleries became very important: the company kept investing in new technologies. This also had an effect on the time’s many equipment manufacturers. Actually, Christian CARL Ingenieur GmbH and Jacob CARL GmbH was in fierce competition with Gebr. Becker und Große-Lohmann, Beckum, Gebr. Herrmann, Cologne, Georg Westphal Ing. KG, Offenbach/Main, Linke & Henze, Regensburg, and many others.

The large distilleries’ heyday lasted until 1976. Then, as a result of a European Court of Justice decision, importing cheap alcohol from abroad was permitted. Orders for equipment manufacturers diminished, and thus, many of these renowned companies ceased to exist. Christian CARL focused on distillation technology. While under third-generation Walter Carl, distillation facilities were sold in Baden-Württemberg and all across Germany, his daughter Traudel Plank found new customers in all German-speaking regions. Today, the company still serves customers in Austria, Switzerland, northern Italy, Alsace, and other places. As of the 1990s, German technology has even been exported overseas (to Asia, Australia, North and South America), including worldwide customer service. The youngest generation, the brothers Alexander and Christian Blank, generates its turnover from a sound sales mix of high-tech facilities sold in Germany, Europe, and overseas.

A glance at the history of distillation reveals the breathtaking development of CARL GmbH over the years. When, in the early 20th century, processing fruit in the traditional German settlement distilleries became increasingly popular, the biggest demand was for simple bricked facilities. Large plants for fruit or grain distillation were also equipped with steam boilers manufactured by CARL. For the settlement distillers, Pistorius stills were used to improve the results. As of the 1950s, bubble trays were used. CARL was the first company to construct adjoining rectifiers, during the Karl-Heinz Bidlingmaier era: he has been a long-term oriented, recognized technology expert, and a witness to history who can look back on more than fifty years of working with CARL. Bidlingmaier recalls that in the old days, work meant hard manual labor, as only few machines could be used. The installations were created with both heat and sweat, relates the competent expert, who has been widely recognized in all German-speaking regions to this very day.

The main development period of distillation technology can be dated between 1950 and 1980: settlement and fruit distilleries received a boost in firing technology, design of distillation plates and dephlegmators, stills with increased capacity, and the integration of stirring units as well as sight glasses. Already in the 1970s, CARL resisted a widespread mistake, which consisted in manufacturing stills and columns made of stainless steel, explains Christian Plank. In case a customer actually insisted on ordering a stainless steel version, he or she had to confirm that in writing.

In the 1990s and to this very day – the computer age – have then followed electronic sensors and instruments, such as for supervising alcohol and cooling water circulation, controlling oil or gas burners, etc. Generally speaking, the cost of materials has increased, as the stills have been equipped with considerably more instruments and control systems.

This was also the era when catalyst technology as well as CARL’s perforated distillation plates were introduced to the distilleries. Thanks to these two technologies, the concentration of ethyl carbamates can be reduced in all kinds of fruit brandy.

Until 2004, Traudel Plank was the company’s sole CEO and owner. She had much of commercial training, and was at the same time such a technophile that she happily took over the business from her father – at the time, rather a bit of a bold decision for a women. Her son Alexander Plank loves to confirm that the basis for her more than thirty years at the head of the company were both her knowledge of human nature, and her commercial wit. With lots of sense for the business, she seemed to be working day and night, always striving for the best for our customers. Her husband, a chief physician absorbed by accident surgery, wasn’t involved in the company at all.

The brothers had always spent a lot of time with their grandpa Walter Carl since kindergarten, and they even got familiar with visiting customers, and also the entire distillery business. Alexander as well as Christian Plank studied engineering and process technology until the late 1990s.
At the beginning of the new millennium, the company was about to expand and move to a new location. When the construction plans were complete in 2002, the plot of land in the industrial park was purchased, and everything was ready for action, came the news about Jacob Carl GmbH’s bankruptcy. “I had to buy”, is Alexander Plank’s short statement about the family-owned company’s moral obligation. Although both enterprises were competitors, nobody was really happy when the insolvency was announced, Karl-Heinz Bidlingmaier recalls. Assets such as the brand name, technology, and material were purchased, employees were taken over when they wanted to. It was an exhausting time, as all the current business activities had to go on. But it was also about disbanding what had been important for forty people, integrating them into the existing company, as Alexander Plank tells us.