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A Drink With… Joanne Moore, G&J Distillers

G&J Distillers, formerly known as J&G Greenall, has been producing gin since the reign of George III. In 2006 it broke with tradition and appointed Joanne Moore as its first female master distiller. Over a French 75 – gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and Champagne, she tells Tom Bruce-Gardyne what gets her creative juices flowing.

Joanne Moore, master distiller at G&J Distillers

How did you end up in gin?

I never set out to be a distiller, so it was probably as much a surprise to myself as anyone else. My degree is in biochemistry, so I describe myself as a geeky scientist with a creative flair. I have always had a creative streak in me, but I never made the connection between liking science and being creative until I joined G&J in 1996.

What was it like joining that rare breed of female master distillers?

It was a very proud moment for me. Obviously it’s a bit of a male-dominated industry, but I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy growing up so it didn’t really matter that I was going to be surrounded by men. And nowadays there are more women coming into the industry, so I’m not alone.

Since 2006 the gin category has exploded with new entrants – what’s going on?

Gin is very trendy at the moment with a plethora of gin brands being launched all the time. It has been helped by all the micro-distillers popping up in the States, and also I think that people may have become slightly tired of neutral spirits like vodka, and are looking for more flavoured creations that you get with gin.

Do you worry that the category is being stretched too far?

Obviously the definition of gin says we have to be “predominantly flavoured with juniper”, though it doesn’t quantify that. It’s great in one respect because it allows room for innovation which breathes new life into the category, but my concern is that we could go too far and end up creating a sub-category of very sophisticated, flavoured vodka. So we need to keep in mind that gin is about the juniper note. Whatever choice of botanicals you use I’m always mindful to match it so it complements the juniper note, not hides it.

What was the inspiration for BLOOM?

I knew there was a gap for a light, floral gin and my imagination took me to a secret garden with wild flower meadows and a wrought iron gate. I knew camomile would work and started experimenting with lots of flowers which took me back to my childhood – like all little girls, I collected flower petals to create my own perfume. For BLOOM I ended up choosing honeysuckle and pomelo (Chinese grapefruit), which has this beautiful, rich orange note.

Do Russians really drink cans of Greenall’s G&T on their way to work?

Well, we were led to believe that in the past, but I don’t think it’s the case anymore. There are now a lot of strict rules and regulations in Russia.

What’s your latest creation?

In July we launched our new oriental spiced gin, Opihr. We’ve taken inspiration from botanicals along the spice route. The idea is that you’re walking through a spice market and you get those big, powerful smells and vibrant colours. With Opihr you get the soft spice notes from the cardamom and the cumin.

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