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Joanne Moore - G&J Distillers

Joanne Moore G&J Greenalls
Written by Gin Foundry

Joanne Moore is something of a quiet, female icon. She has risen through the ranks in a male-led industry to become Master Distiller at G&J Distillers, where she oversees the production of their myriad of gins, from Greenall’s, to BLOOM, to Opihr, to Thomas Dakin to Berkeley Square. As well as looking after existing gins, Joanne is constantly innovating as she strives to create a gin for each palate. We caught up with her ahead of Junipalooza to find out a little more about her career to date.

Gin Foundry: How long have you been distilling and what got you into a career in the drinks industry to begin with?

Joanne Moore: I’ve been in the industry since 1996 so just about to celebrate my 20 years anniversary with G&J Distillers in June this year; very apt as it is around the same time as World Gin Day. I got into distilling straight after finishing my Biochemistry degree. I initially started in the Quality control lab, where I was always actively  involved in product development. Through working alongside our previous master distiller I discovered a talent for creating Gins and really enjoyed this side of my job therefore when our 6th Master Distiller retired in 2006 the company recognised my skills for creating Gins by making me only the 7th Master Distiller since 1761.

There was a significant fire at the distillery a few years ago. What do you remember of the day and what part of event has stuck in your mind?

Mixed emotions really.  The full extent of the damage was not clear, but by the early evening, as the fire continued to blaze, it became very apparent that we might not have a job to go to that Monday morning – how wrong was I. On the Sunday morning I was called by our exec team at that time to be part of the recovery business team. My task was to  initially  find co packers  and other distillers who could help us with some distilling and bottling in the short to immediate term. I am very proud of the way we all pulled together as a team and got the distillery building, which we protected throughout the fire, operational  just 10 days after the fire, therefore we only needed to explore co packers for bottling ,we achieved our first bottling with co packers merely 14 days after the fire! I  have learnt a great deal from this experience and realised how friendly and helpful this industry can be.

A lot of the old archives were lost in the  fire, do you ever wonder about the recipes and what previous generations at G&J had made? 

Whilst we sadly  lost some archives, the recipe files were kept in my office which  amazingly survived the fire , so we still have all our  old recipes. The files have since been transferred onto electronic format now but I still have the old files which ironically still smell of smoke even 10 years on from the event.

Looking in, you’ve accomplished so much already. As an individual - what’s been some of your favourite highlights along your career?  

I think one of my favourite moments has to be when I was made the 7th Master Distiller back in 2006 of G&J Greenall’s (as it was formally known) and then given the opportunity to create from scratch BLOOM gin which bears my name and then to be able go on and  create other gins under the Quintessential Brands Banner such as Berkeley Square, Opihr and Thomas Dakin which are all seeing success in the market place.

We were inspired by your tasting wheel to create our version as we’ve always found that people (including ourselves) struggle to articulate what they are tasting. You’ve got such a developed palate and honed the ability to discern very specific flavours, do you still use yours and what made you create it at the time?

Thanks, yes I still use it today, but the reason I created this tool back in 2007  was to help me create BLOOM & Berkeley Square. I wanted  an organoleptic tool to map out the gin market to analyse flavour gaps, as there was nothing out there in terms of research to help me I decided to help myself instead. I took inspiration from the Whiskey wheel that has been around for years and just created one with a Gin bias that could be understood by everyone regardless of your training in sensory analysis.

What do you like to drink when you are at home?

Oh that greatly depends on lots of things, my mood , the time of year, the occasion, which is why I’m glad I have create a portfolio of gins that hopefully will meet those ever changing needs. Although at the moment as we are starting to see signs of summer I am drinking my favourite cocktail mix – BLOOM Gin and bubbles (Champagne or Prosecco) a twist on the French 75 .

When releasing your latest product, Thomas Dakin Gin, you mentioned that there was a need to reach the ideal ABV in order to have a perfect balance of all the flavours. What kind of a process do you go through to fine tune the final liquid and how do you decide when something is ready? 

I allow the choice of botanicals to drive the final ABV, but there is also a sense of experience you gain over the years that enables you to have good idea of what flavours work best at certain ABV’s. There is some science behind this too which I touched on recently at my guest speech at Ginposium. But at the end of the day it’s trial and error through sensory analysis.

What advice would you give young distillers training and looking to start their career?

Stay true to the definition of gin, explore new flavours / methods  and mostly  have fun doing it – if you don’t have any passion for the product your audience will know!

With BLOOM, Berkeley and Ophir each occupying a specific flavour area and now being joined by Thomas Dakin Gin with its more savoury profile - is there a direction that you thinking about to add to the Quintessential portfolio?

I’m always working on new ideas and brand extensions, just some of them never reach the market place for commercial reasons, timings and opportunities. There are flavour areas I have yet to play around with that are not your obvious choice, so only time will tell.

All of your gins cover different flavour profiles but all are respectful of being discernibly juniper prominent and easily identifiable as Gin. There’s also no doubt that the category has shifted in the past 5 years and “lighter” juniper styles have become frequent. How do you find your middle ground and how do you judge if something is “ginny” enough when creating a new recipe?

For me it’s about getting the  foundations right, which is why I always start every gin creation with my holy trinity – juniper, coriander & angelica. I always think of this as the backbone to the gin on which you can then anchor your other aromas to create your desired profile.

You’ve had the chance to pioneer quite a lot already (with the gins you’ve made) and continue to do so. You are also at the helm of one of the biggest Gin distilleries anywhere in the world. Do you ever think or are you ever driven by the idea of leaving a legacy? If so, what do you hope it will be?

That’s very kind of you to say and makes me blush slightly when you put it like that. I don’t think I am consciously driven to leaving a legacy so to speak, I’m naturally a determined, focused person and just really enjoy what I do.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Creating new products and seeing the enjoyment on people’s faces when they taste them.

And last but not least, what’s the next big milestone that you are looking forward to?

Not really thought about this. I’m learning to be more mindful about enjoying the moment we are in rather than always searching for the next big milestone.