05/09/2023 In a production site, things don’t always go the way that they’re supposed to and so being able to think quickly and calmly on the spot is pretty necessary.
Tell us a little about your background and journey into distilling
I’m a South African who moved to Ireland in 2015, where I would complete the rest of my schooling and live permanently. After my high school years in a little town here, I went straight to university where I began a BSc course that focused on Brewing and Distilling.
The course was new that year, and the very first of its kind to be offered in Ireland. I had always loved science subjects and enjoyed being able to incorporate an engineering aspect that seemed so appealing! This drew me in, making me want to peruse the course as I didn’t really know where exactly I wanted to go with my future career and it seemed like such an amazing opportunity to take a risk!
As the years went on I just fell more head over heels for the industry. There were so many aspects to the course, marketing, engineering, law, and microbiology, allowing me to learn about so many different worlds, and realized by my third year, being given the chance to go onto a work placement, that this would be my dream career.
I began by working in a small craft brewery in the west of Ireland, moving from raw material handling, all the way to packaging, opening my eyes to full production and reassurance that this is the right path!
Later moving onto the distilling world I found my passion in Irish whiskey. From doing a short internship with a new and upcoming distillery, it brought me into the whiskey world, where I later joined a few other distilleries to where I am currently in Teeling Whiskey.
Your current role and what does your day look like?
In my current role, I work as a full-time distiller on a rotating shift pattern. I would run the entire automated production site, from handling the raw materials, brewing, and processing, to the distillation and final tank transfer of the new make spirit.
What inspired you to become a distiller?
When I began my journey into the brewing and distilling industry I was exposed to a new Irish distillery in the West of Ireland for a short internship. the team was so welcoming and opened my eyes to the beautiful world of distilling. I was welcomed with a tour and then walked through the PLC (Programmable Logic Controlled) automated process used to run the distillery. I loved the intricacy behind the program and how it was able to talk to itself and all its moving parts to create a smooth process from raw materials to full distillation. I enjoyed how such a delicate product could be created with a simple process, as well as how creative you could be, with there being so many possible outcomes by just changing one small part of the process.
What are some of the most important skills for a distiller?
I feel like a good distiller has to have a good amount of skills related to problem-solving. In a production site, things don’t always go the way that they’re supposed to and so being able to think quickly and calmly on the spot is pretty necessary. You’d want to be able to work well in your team too because it takes a little part of everyone to make the show run well. No one can do it on their own.
How do you think a distiller can help in driving marketing and sales personally?
How do you think a distiller can help in driving marketing and sales personally? I think that as a distiller I could have a bit of an impact on sales-driving just by being present on social media. I have a personal business account on Instagram, where I use the platform to showcase things in my daily work life that usually most people wouldn't see on a general tour as well as showcase any upcoming whiskey products that are being produced. By doing this it might open some eyes of interest to the behind-the-scenes of creating Whiskey, and thus intrigue people to hopefully look further into where the whiskey is being made and bring them to the final product. I think it's a great way to hit a very specified market as the algorithm that the platform uses tends to be quite well-established and able to bring the posts and videos I use to people who show some sort of interest in anything whiskey related.
Define a good distiller
I feel that a good distiller would have a passion for the distilling industry and a serious curiosity for the nose of detail of what goes into the production of making a full product. You want tot to feel the passion and creativity behind what you’re creating. It’s such a unique and beautiful process and it needs to be wanted to be shared. And to be honest you’d like to want to like what you’re making!
What is the hardest part of a distiller's job?
It requires a good amount of level of detail to create the final product. There can be such a small amount of error you could follow through with to create the product you want. You have to be able to go in with a creative mind that’s open to different outcomes as what you want will not always finish as you would wish. The timing to have to wait between creating the initial product before aging and then having to wait to see what it would beautifully transcend into is the ultimate downfall but at the same time such a beauty to watch progress into something beautiful.
What's your elevator pitch to a bartender when pitching your brand
New to Irish whiskey? I feel like our brand is an easy way to bring newcomers into the market. Teelings has a very versatile pot still that is amazing in cocktails and even greater on its own! It’s hard to make someone like your product, but if you’re looking for something new I feel like Teelings comes across as a comforting transition into something new. It’s simple and delicious. But also has different levels of whiskey such as their Renaissance series, which gives a beautiful complexity.
What are the current challenges the spirits industry is facing according to you?
At the moment I believe that the industry is facing a bit of an issue regarding casks used to age spirits. With the world and its climate going the way that it is, it'll only become more detrimental to the industry. But I believe that there are styles and ways around creating new innovative solutions to try and get the same final product without the need for excess use of wood.
What skill or topic you are learning currently and why?
I currently have come into the world of blending whiskey. I’ve devilled into looking into doing my master of distilling with IBD ( Institute of Brewing and Distilling.) I feel that my current job would help me to progress in my career and help the company at the same time. I currently hold a bachelor's in brewing and distilling at IT Carlow and feel like there are so many stepping stones to furthering my career to get closer to blending at some stage in the future. I feel that proceeding in this way would help me to gain a better esoteric perspective of the distilling art.
What is your idea of a good life?
I’ve always thought that to have a good life you have to try and create a happy life. This crazy world can go in any direction and anything at any point can be thrown at you. But you have to try with the little bit of control that you get and do things that you enjoy. Follow a career you enjoy, if you get the opportunity to, and surround yourself with people and things that bring you happiness.
Which is your go-to drink and what is the perfect setting you enjoy it in?
My ultimate go-to drink would be a glass of double-distilled peated Irish whiskey, sitting in a dimly lit lounge listening to a live jazz band. I just think the setting would be perfectly suited with the thick body that comes with a slow double distillation paired with a beautiful smokiness and almond profile that I tend to get from a peated whiskey. I could then just sip away at it, while listening to the deep undertones played by the jazz band. Just talking about it gives me just a blissful feeling!
Your favourite 2-3 distilling or spirits books?
My ultimate favourite book to refer to for the brewing side of distilling would be 'Technology Brewing and Malting' by Wolfgang Kunze.
This is one of the very first books that I was exposed to starting my journey into the distilling world. This book has a lot of technical references and information that talks about the importance of specifications and optimum conditions and levels needed to carry out a successful brew and how to achieve that.
My second book is ‘The World Atlas of Whisky’ by Dave Broom.
A simple book but has a great explanation of the various styles throughout the world and the history they’ve held behind their brand. It’s really interesting to see how various styles and types have changed over the years.