Kit Clancy, our new Trainee Distiller, has has been with us for almost two months now, so we thought it was high time we got to know her a little better - over a G&T of course..
Hello Kit, you’ve been with us nearly 2 months now, it’s fantastic to have you as part of the team. How are you settling in?
The first two months have flown by! The team have been extremely welcoming and I’m lucky to be learning from the best, spending time with our Head Distiller Ollie Kitson and Master Distiller Jared Brown.
Distilling is not the most common career for women – do you have any advice for women wanting to get into the industry?
My advice for anyone interested in distilling would be to get some hands on experience. There are lots of courses around which can teach you the principles of distilling. The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) for example, run good short courses or you could even go down the route of a Distillation degree! At times it’s not the most glamourous of jobs and there is certainly a physical element requiring you to be fit and healthy, but at the end of the day its very rewarding to see something you’ve made be enjoyed by so many people. I see no reason why gender should discourage anyone from joining this exciting and innovative industry.
We’re definitely in the middle of a gin renaissance at the moment – what do you think makes Sipsmith gin different?
Part of what makes us so special is how we make our gin. Firstly we only distil on copper which crucially acts as a catalyst for removing unwanted flavour compounds and also creating desirable new ones. Secondly, we use the ‘one shot’ method; where exactly the correct amount of botanicals are distilled per batch to create an entirely finished gin once reduced to bottling strength with water. We also only take the very best cut of the spirit off the stills, the heart, and discard the unpleasant heads and tails, rather than redistilling them.
Tell us about what a typical day in the Distillery looks like for you.
My day can be very varied but my main role is to look after our bespoke copper stills Prudence, Patience and Constance. A batch of London Dry Gin on Constance takes around 9 hours to distil and re-load for the next day. Beginning at 8:30am I fire up the boiler and gently warm up the stills. By 10am I’m tasting and nosing the spirit coming off ready to make the important cut from heads to heart. Throughout the afternoon I monitor the quality of the spirit by adjusting the amount of steam going into the still when required. Just after lunch around 2pm I’m getting ready to cut to collecting the tails. Once the tails are collected, I wrap the day up by reloading the still with neutral grain spirt to macerate the botanicals overnight. Each step requires meticulous care and attention in order to make sure we produce gin of uncompromising quality.
What made you want to pursue a career in distilling?
I’ve come from quite a varied background in the wine industry where I trained my palate and gained experience in production working with wineries in the UK and New Zealand. I love to work creatively with my senses and being a long term Sipsmith sipper, the opportunity to join the team as the trainee distiller was too good to pass up. Distillation is an ancient art and to be producing gin of uncompromising quality in its natural epicentre of London is something I’m very proud and excited to be a part of.
Do you find the spirits industry very different to wine?
I don’t think the two industries are worlds apart. The wine industry is subject to very strict production regulations and whilst the spirits industry also has its own rules, I feel there is a little more scope within spirits to be more creative with ingredients and styles. On a daily basis we experiment here with different botanicals and ingredients and have even made a mince pie gin! My experience in the wine industry has suggested that it has a far more tradionalist approach to production than what the spirits industry has become. Especially, in the realm of ‘craft’. However this is rapidly changing with more as young men and women join the trade.
We have an amazing lab here at the Distillery – tell us about what flavours you’ve been experimenting with recently.
There is always something weird and wonderful going on in our Distillery Lab, but unfortunately most of it is top secret! A few weeks ago, Ollie created a pretty spectacular ham and pineapple gin that made a killer dirty martini, and we’ve also been experimenting with distilling classic cocktail ingredients. I love exploring new ingredients and creating new recipes and we have just welcomed another girl into the distilling team; Cygnet our mini copper still to use for such experiments.
And finally, how will you be drinking your gin on Christmas day?
The day is likely to start off with a Christmas tree G&T- one of our recent creations where we distilled last year’s Christmas tree to make a truly festive gin! As the day goes on I’ll be sharing sloe-negronis, one of my favourite ways to enjoy our sloe gin, with friends and family.
Thanks so much Kit, and welcome to the team!