This week in our My Gin Life series, we’re sitting down with Dr Anne Brock, master distiller at Bombay Sapphire. From its beautiful Laverstoke Mill distillery in Hampshire, Dr Brock leads the production team that ensures every drop of this world-renowned gin is up to scratch and develops new gins in the Bombay range, such as the recent Bramble and Sunset expressions. She was named Master Distiller of the Year in the Icons of Gin 2021, not only for her work as a distiller but also for her efforts to promote and educate about the wider gin category.
Gin Magazine (GM): Tell us how you got into the distilling industry, and how you got to your current position.
Anne Brock (AB): I came into distilling after studying organic chemistry. I wanted a career which would use some of the knowledge and skills that I had developed in all my years at university, but I also wanted to work in an industry I was passionate about.
Gin distilling brought my passion for great spirits and my love of science together. I feel very lucky to have found my way into this world. I was offered my current role after I had spent four years running a small distillery in London and jumped at the chance to lead the distilling team that is behind such an iconic product.
GM: What are the biggest highlights and challenges of working with a global brand like Bombay Sapphire?
AB: My role is challenging but so rewarding. I get to work with some very talented people, it is fast paced, varied and most importantly I get to make one of my favourite gins ever – Bombay Sapphire.
GM: The brand seems to have really stepped up its new product development (NPD) in the past couple of years – what has driven this?
AB: Creativity is at the heart of what we do at Bombay Sapphire’s distillery and NPD doesn’t happen overnight. The team have been working hard in the background to develop a fantastic pipeline of exciting innovations, answering the current needs of gin drinkers who have a thirst for exploration for new products and flavours, as well as serving future trends. The products from all this hard work are just starting to make their way onto the shelves and there are plenty more on their way, it is an exciting time for innovation in the brand right now and we are really enjoying launching these products and sharing our ideas with the world.
As well as Bombay Bramble and our portfolio of RTDs, we have just launched Bombay Sapphire Sunset – the newest of our Special Editions. Made with Indian cardamom, turmeric and Spanish mandarin, Sunset is an aromatic gin, perfect for those sundowner moments.
GM: Tell us one thing you are proud of in your career, and one thing that you may do differently if you had the chance again.
AB: I am very proud of becoming the master distiller of Bombay Sapphire – it is not every day you get to work for one of the world’s most recognisable gin brands. I have had a brilliant time over the past few years, I have learnt so much and I am looking forward to all the exciting times to come.
If I could do it all again? I am not sure I’d change anything – everything that has happened in my life has brought me to where I am now and that’s pretty awesome.
GM: What is the best piece of career/life advice you have been given?
AB: A person who has never made a mistake has never made anything, which helped me to move on and not dwell too much on past decisions.
GM: What do you find most exciting about the modern gin industry? What part of the industry should we be watching for interesting developments in the near future?
AB: Sustainability is an area to watch; there is a lot of work looking at how different technologies can support the distilling industry reduce its footprint. At Bombay Sapphire, it is important to us and we are working hard daily to improve things onsite as well as looking at our supply chain – recently we were able to announce that all 10 botanicals that go into Bombay Sapphire will be certified as sustainable by the end of 2021.
We are extremely proud of the various measures we have at the Laverstoke Mill distillery to make it as sustainable and efficient as possible including a biomass boiler, solar panels, reusing heat from our stills and helping deliver zero waste to landfill. In 2014, the distillery’s design was rated ‘outstanding’ by BREEAM, the most recognised environmental assessment for buildings. At Bacardi, as a family-owned company, doing the right thing is a top priority for us and our vision is to be the most environmentally responsible global spirits company.
GM: Are there any other gin producers that you really admire?
AB: So many! Over the past few years, I have seen brands grow from the beginnings of an idea in someone’s head to renowned and decorated products and that is something I love about this industry. I would struggle to name all the brands I admire, but one I do have a soft spot for is Greater Than and Hapusa gins from Nao Spirits in India. I worked with the guys when they were setting up and I love seeing what they are doing now and how they are growing.
GM: If you were a gin style or gin cocktail, what would it be and why?
AB: Tuxedo No. 2 – in the words of a lovely and talented friend of mine, “because you are more than a classic, you are elevated with a humourist side (little nutty at times which is why we love you) and clean up nicely.”