A Day in the Life of a Red Door Gin Distiller
A background in malt whisky production has made Red Door Gin’s distiller, Lizzie Haw, quite the expert in the science and art of distillation.
Despite being busy perfecting our latest batch of Red Door Gin, Lizzie made some time to have a chat to us about all things gin, whisky and distillation. We found her tending to Peggy, our beautiful copper pot still, in our gin distillation room and seized the opportunity to talk!
How did you get into distilling?
I’ve been at working with Gordon & MacPhail for 7 years now. I started off in the distribution and quality control for the finished product and now work on distillation in the morning, whisky quality and cask selection in the afternoon.
I was always interested in the distillation process so when I was offered the opportunity to learn the intricate process of distilling, it was a chance not to be missed.
I’ve worked my way backwards to the complete other end of the business, from the end product to distilling!
Did you come across any challenges?
It took me a while to build up confidence, there’s so much that can go wrong! Luckily, I had some brilliant mentors from the G&M team to walk me through the process and train me up on the job.
I shadowed Benromach’s distillery manager, Keith Crookshank, who has twenty plus years of experience, and Stuart Urquhart who is so inspiring and incredibly smart – I was definitely taught by the best!
Were you excited to become a distiller for Red Door Gin?
It was a standing joke that, despite working in whisky, I would never choose a whisky at the bar, always a G&T.
As you can imagine, I jumped at the opportunity to work on Red Door Gin!
We had the whole team on the first Red Door Gin distillation. There was a crowd of us pressed up against the spirit safe watching the liquid come through. Of course, we all had to have a taste of the final product – It was very exciting!
What is the best part of working on Red Door Gin?
It’s my dream job, there are so many parts that I love. I really enjoy dealing with the botanicals; we’re very particular about checking every bag, we only buy the best. It’s important for us to be exact with the proportions of the botanicals, it’s a closely guarded secret!
We also have more Red Door Gin recipe development in the pipeline so I’m really looking forward to that – stay tuned!
Take us through Red Door Gin’s distillation process.
After preparing the botanicals, I’m next to the still for the distillation. Peggy is a baby version of our Benromach whisky stills. She uses a vapour-infused distillation method to steam the neutral base spirit through our basket of botanicals.
It’s a very hands-on process, I have to nose the gin regularly to make sure the character hasn’t changed. The temperature is critical as it can have an effect on the alcohol percentage, so I am constantly checking gauges.
When the still is running, the oils from the botanicals come out at different times during the distillation; citrus oils come through initially, then juniper, coriander, angelica, sea buckthorn, subtle and delicate heather, and then chocolatey rowan berries at the end.
I rouse the distilled Red Door at the end by hand as there are different strengths at different layers – It’s a good workout for me!
How does the process differ from whisky distillation?
When I first started learning the distilling process of Red Door, I was surprised at the simplicity of gin making compared to whisky distillation. Although I know the science behind gin distillation, I was still suspicious that it wasn’t going to have worked; but when I tasted it I was amazed that all the aromas had come through – It was delicious!
What’s your favourite thing about Red Door Gin?
It wouldn’t be gin without juniper (you can smell gin just by crushing a juniper berry in your hand) but my favourite Red Door botanical has to be bitter orange; it’s deliciously rich and has comforting citurs aromas that remind me of buttered toast and marmalade!