A biochemist by training, Joanne Moore never imagined she’d end up becoming a Master Distiller. In 1996, she joined G&J Distillers — one of the foremost gin distilleries in the world. After 22 years spent learning the ins and outs of the business (e.g. production, distillation and product development) she found herself at the company’s helm. The result? The creation of two of G&J’s signature gins, Opihr and Bloom.
Initially in quality control at G&J, Moore soon discovered that her passion lay in the creation of botanicals used in the distillery’s various libations. Her talent is prodigious: evident from the fact that she’s only the seventh Master Distiller to be appointed since 1761; and the first ever woman to hold the role.
Today, we chat to Moore about what makes a good spirit, how she created Opihr and her advice to women entering the drinks business.
Let’s talk about your creations – namely Opihr Gin. Can you tell us the inspiration behind the bottle’s design?
Opihr has two main sources of inspiration: ancient spice routes recorded throughout human history; and the evolving nature of taste exploration. That’s also reflected in the bottle’s design: two elephants traverse the sides of the bottle and they always meet in the middle — as traders exchanging wares on the spice route would have done many years ago.
In your opinion, as a Master Distiller, what makes a good gin?
A good gin should have recognisable juniper notes – after all that’s what legally defines a gin. It should be dry, not overly sweet and balanced. It should possess a persistent soft mouthfeel and shouldn’t be too harsh or burn one’s palette. Additionally, creating a truly unique offering is often about perseverance! It involves testing your taste buds, getting creative, taking risks and concocting new solutions!
How should gin be enjoyed?
The process is akin to wine tasting in that the same basic principles apply: aerate your glass, nose the aromas, and allow your sense of smell the opportunity to hone in on what you’re going to taste. Unlike wine, there’s no need to hold the spirit in your mouth for a prolonged period of time. Simply nose, sip and enjoy!
What advice could you offer other women who are interested in the drinks business?
Be passionate about your product and mindful of your work-life balance. In my experience, a happy distiller is a creative distiller.
Can you give us a brief overview of the status of women in the industry today?
Despite the fact that women are more widely represented in the spirits industry nowadays, we still have a way to go before we achieve empiric gender diversity. From a tasting perspective, women have more taste receptors than men: so in theory, tasting and identifying flavours should come more naturally to us. Having said that, a real passion for what you do is always going to be helpful, regardless of your talent or gender.
What are your three favourite cocktails?
For starters, The Road Less Travelled, which is an incredibly innovative award-winning cocktail created by Aaron Pollack. It’s made with a base of Ophir, fenugreek infused Manzilla sherry, vanilla, a spicy citrus blend, bitters and salt. Aside from that, I also really enjoy Michael Rambags’s 1001 Starry Nights and the Coffee Martini mixed by Cesar Peres.
Could you share a few easy home recipes for PRESTIGE readers to try?
You can always start off with something simple like an Ophir mixed with ginger ale. Simply pour one measure of Opihr into a glass, then top with your preferred ratio of ginger ale, before garnishing with an orange slice. Alternatively you can try a Bloom Strawberry Cup: it’s a punch-style drink where the gin becomes naturally infused with strawberry, lemonade, mint and grapefruit. It’s a very flexible beverage which can be served in a glass or a pitcher.