When you consider meeting someone who is one of the first female distillers in the world and only the seventh master distiller in a company that claims to be England’s oldest active gin and vodka distiller, you expect a highly driven person who knew exactly what they wanted to do from early on. Also, possibly with a background – wealth, affluence or legacy – to facilitate that achievement.
Joanne Moore at 18 was unsure of what she wanted to do. In 2006 she became G&J Distillers’ master distiller. Not bad for someone armed with a degree in biochemistry who was thinking of physiotherapy or podiatry (looking after people’s feet).
She tells Drinks International that her mother was a traditional mum doing a bit of book-keeping on the side. Her dad was a salesman.
“Like a lot of little girls, I wanted to do something in medicine,” she says. “I wanted to be a doctor or a vet but I did not get the grades.
“But like most 18-year-olds, I did not really know what I wanted to do. I got a job at what was then G&J Greenall, working in the lab. It helped to pay off the student loans.
“Then they asked me to come in for an interview and offered me this job as lab supervisor. They must have seen something in me. This was 1996, so I have been 20 years with the company,” she says wistfully.
After 18 months she was promoted again, to supervisor and quality manager. In those days quality included new product development. Moore worked with two predecessors, Eric Hughes and Ian Hamilton. In 2006 she became G&J’s seventh master distiller.
Asked if there was any history of the drinks industry in her family that may have tooled her up for the career ahead, she says not really. “We always had gin in the house. My mum is Irish so she likes Cork gin. My dad liked rugby and golf so we did a lot of socialising.”
Moore is an accomplished skier, revelling in taking on black runs and going off-piste – not something for someone who is half-hearted about anything.
As someone who juggles her job with being married and raising two children, the 42-year-old is matter-of-fact about her abilities. She says she found the tasting and formulating part of making gin relatively straightforward. She did her WSET Diploma but, as she says, “90% of it is about wine”. So not much use for a would-be distiller/rectifier.
Nevertheless, she is not a person who goes through the motions. Moore claims to be the orginator of the gin flavour wheel, which has been much used and plagiarised by many budding ‘craft’ distillers in their pursuit of uniqueness and typicity of locality, better know as ‘terroir’ in French winemaking.