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Spirited away

20 May 2022
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Dr Anne Brock

Style was lucky enough to recently attend a dinner hosted by Bombay Sapphire to celebrate a visit to Aoteaora by its master distiller Dr Anne Brock.

Over a welcome G&T and canapes at Bangalore Polo Club followed by five delicious courses at Christchurch’s Amazonita, each with a perfectly matched cocktail centred around a Bombay Sapphire gin, Anne regaled us with tales from inside one of the world’s most-loved loved distilleries, and shared a secret or two (hint, gin fans, expect something new and very special, with bold citrus notes of sustainably grown lemons, mandarins and sweet navel oranges, later this year).

One of just 2 percent of female distillers globally, last year Anne was named Master Distiller of the Year by the Icons of Gin. We caught up with her between courses for a chat. Interview Josie Steenhart

I understand you were initially studying at medical school, how did you find your way to becoming a master distiller?

I left medical school in my first year and became a bartender, a job I loved and did for four years. I then returned to university to study chemistry all the way up to PhD level. When I finished my PhD, I wanted a role that brought the two sides of my life together – the bartender and the chemist – so becoming a distiller was the obvious next step!

While we’re on the subject, what exactly makes a master distiller?

As master distiller for Bombay Sapphire, I am the guardian of the quality of the gin we make. I lead the team of distillers at our home in Laverstoke, Hampshire, United Kingdom that makes Bombay Sapphire for the entire world. It is my responsibility to ensure that every drop we make tastes exactly as our loyal drinkers expect.

Women make up only 2% of distillers globally, which is crazy, why is that, do you think?

It’s getting better all the time! The rise of craft gins means that there are more opportunities to get experience as a distiller, so you are seeing more women in production roles. As a woman leading a brand like Bombay Sapphire I feel that it is important that I stand up and be counted, being visible may help encourage more women into the industry. Distillers are very welcoming, and I wholeheartedly recommend it as a career!

Bombay Sapphire is one of the world's most popular gins, what makes it special?

Bombay Sapphire is a perfectly balanced gin which means that it is great to mix with in cocktails, we love to see how it inspires creativity in bartenders! The balance of the gin comes partly from the botanicals we use but also from our vapour infusion process which keeps all the botanical flavours in their fresh and natural state.

Tell us a little about Bombay’s latest drop – Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru…

Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru has been made to celebrate the region of Murcia in Spain where we source the citrus peels for all our gins. Murcia is one of the best citrus growing regions in the world due to its unique microclimate. All the lemons are hand harvested and hand peeled before being left to dry in the Spanish sun. For Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru we have selected a late harvest of Fino lemons along with mandarins and sweet navel oranges to give a bright, citrussy gin that is fantastic in a French 75.

What makes a great gin, in your opinion?

A gin that lends itself easily to several different cocktails! Balance and versatility is a must, as well as a predominance of juniper of course.

How do you take your gin when you’re off the clock? (Or do you go for another tipple altogether?)

I love a classic gin and tonic! But if I am not drinking gin then it would be wine, I have plans to explore some of New Zealand’s beautiful wines over the next few days.

What are a couple of food pairings you’re currently loving with gin?

I’ve been really enjoying the delicious New Zealand seafood! Sashimi and ceviche pair beautifully with gin drinks, the fresh citrussy spice flavours of the gin really work well with both.

Have you visited New Zealand before? What do you think of our gin, if you’ve had a chance to try any?

This is my very first trip to New Zealand and I am so excited to be here even though I’m not getting to explore much. I met Ant from Curiosity Gin whilst I was in Christchurch but didn’t get to try his gin, I’ll have to find some to try before I leave.

Do you have any travel time while here and if so, what are your plans in the South Island?

This has been a whistle-stop tour, I made it down to Christchurch for 24 hours and then spent the rest of my time in Auckland. I am going down to Tauranga for the weekend though, so I am very much looking forward to that. I’ll just have to come back for another visit.

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