ADI is honored to present Dr. Anne Brock, Master Distiller of Bombay Gin, as the keynote speaker for the 2020 ADI Craft Spirits Conference and Vendor Expo in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Brock has become a widely respected and influential force in the gin community worldwide, and was recently designated Grand Rectifier of The Gin Guild. Below is a Q&A interview ADI conducted with her recently about her life and career.
Tell us about your current job and what it is you do… what’s a typical day like?
As Master Distiller of Laverstoke Mill distillery, I oversee the production of Bombay and Oxley gins and I am responsible for the delivery and quality of each gin globally. The most important task in my day is following each distillation, nosing and tasting the gin as it comes off the stills. My favorite part of the day is arriving on-site, walking past the beautiful glasshouses that sit in the heart of our distillery over the River Test and into the stillhouse. The site runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so when I arrive in the stillhouse and the gin aroma greets me, I know where we are in the distillation cycle and I can tell if we’re on track to hit our target for the day.
What did you do before Bombay? How did you get into distilling gin?
In 2013 I joined a small gin company that wanted to build a distillery in South East London, not too far from Tower Bridge. I had no experience of gin distilling and had never built a distillery, but I had bucketloads of enthusiasm and a desire to learn. I talked to other producers, especially ADI members, to learn what I could while the distillery was under construction. One of the things I love about this industry is the support you receive from other distillers and I have done my best to pass that support and knowledge on. The spirits category is stronger if we all grow together.
Where did you grow up? When did you realize you had an interest in science?
I grew up in a small town called Kenilworth which is in the middle of the UK, near Coventry and Stratford-upon-Avon. I am one of three siblings who all ended up studying science at university, and we were lucky to have engaging science teachers at school who inspired us. My favorite teacher was my chemistry teacher — she made a complex subject very understandable and gave me a good grounding in the basics, which is important. I enjoyed other subjects such as French and English literature, but science challenged me the most — which is why I took it on to university.
What’s your educational background?
I have a Master of Chemistry and a DPhil [PhD] in Organic Chemistry (Oxford Universtiy).
What do your family and friends think of your career and your current job?
I have a very supportive family who are happy that I have found a job that I enjoy as much as I do and that I am working in a role that challenges me. The fact that it also means that they have a regular supply of great gin is just a bonus!
What’s your philosophy when it comes to doing what you do? How do you approach your work mentally?
Take each day at a time and enjoy yourself. In the past I have gotten overwhelmed by my workload and I was keen when I came to Bombay to stay happy and not let things get on top of me. I am also not afraid to reach out and ask for help if I feel I need it. At Bacardí, I have a global network of people who are willing and able to help which means that there is always someone I can call on if I need some advice.
What are the biggest challenges of the job, and how do you approach them?
Running a distillery is a careful balance of making great quality product in a timely manner while keeping your team safe. When we are busy it would be very easy to let quality or safety slip a bit in order to get gin out to customers, but it is crucial that we do not do that. The only way to manage this is to make sure you have clear systems of work in place that can cope with these busy periods, you also need to have a team that understands the importance of each of the three [quality, time, safety] and who support you in achieving your aim. When new challenges do present themselves, I reach out to other Bacardí distilleries and other members of the gin industry; someone is always able to help.
What advice do you have for others who aspire to do what you do?
Talk to other distillers. This is a fantastic and challenging career that can be very rewarding, but like any job in any industry it has its challenges so I would make sure that I was aware of what those were before starting out. Get experience. I know many small distilleries are short on people, so see if you can get involved, give them a hand and learn what you can along the way.
Tell us about the Gin Guild and your involvement, and what it means to you.
I have been a member of the Gin Guild since 2014 and on the Board of Directors since 2015. This year I was honored to become the Grand Rectifier, a position I hold for two years. The Guild was set up to encourage excellence in gin production, promotion and education, all things that I feel strongly about. I love the annual Ginposium event when distillers from across the gin industry share ideas and experiences and we try some new, intriguing products. The most important thing the Guild does is to provide distillers with a network — it helps strengthen the industry and ensures a healthy future for the category.