A day in the life of...Sandy Morrison, The Pentland Still.
Published: 18th October 2018
Our exclusive ‘A day in the life of’ editorial feature provides a short and snappy insight into a day in the life of someone who works in the Scottish Gin sector. This might be a distiller, shop owner or bar owner, but all play a role in the story of Scottish Gin. For our second ‘A day in the life of’, we asked the obliging Alexander Morrison, aka Sandy, founder, forager and distiller for The Pentland Still, makers of King’s Hill Gin. Sandy gave us a very funny, honest and refreshing glimpse of what a day in the life of a distiller and distillery owner looks like.
7am – 8am
Unwelcome alarm call, currently consisting of a loud rendition of “Slade, Everyday” (once a great song but now invoking a feeling of revulsion). Mouth tastes like a gorilla’s armpit at this point, drink the flask of tea my girlfriend leaves next to the bed before she leaves for work (angel I know!).
Tame my beard and mane then go on the forage for breakfast, already knowing my girlfriend has beat me to it (not such an angel now). Open the void fridge and sigh as my fears are confirmed.
8am – 9am
Tend to my veggie and botanical patch, ensure zombie gnomes are still in position. Take progress photographs of my pumpkins and send them on to people who couldn’t care less, throw any naughty slugs over the fence and eat fresh strawberries.
Pull on my faithful old boots and head for the Pentland Hills. Make words out of the last three letters on number plates en route, practicing in the hope to beat my old man at his own game one day.
Park up and hike to ancient, secret, foraging locations, handed down from generations of… I’m joking I found them (sometimes from the car).
9am – 11am
Foraging and dodging under foot sheep turds. Cursing myself for using Gorse flowers in my gin (anyone who has tried to pick Gorse can sympathise). Getting overly excited when I find a particularly laden patch of berries, especially juicy Sloes. Spend an inordinate amount of time helping little creatures escape from my bags of bounty. Marvel at the raw beauty of the hills and imagine the ancient battles that have taken place here, ponder the idea of buying a metal detector.
11am – Noon
Obey the dragon currently in my belly and head to Costco for lunch. Buy a tattie, normally bean and cheese. Walk aimlessly around Costco, checking out the gin selection, sitting on various items of garden furniture. Curse myself as I load 12 litres of unnecessary shampoo, 1 mile of tin foil and 10kg of washing powder into my car.
Noon – 1pm
Trundle round and open up at The Pentland Still, hoping no sadistic bills are waiting behind the door. Turn on the radio and hope for banging tunes, give up and settle for “Cilla Black, You’re my world”.
Carefully lay out the botanicals to be air dried and load the berries into the freezer. Take in the sensational reek in my little distillery. Load my botanical basket with the more delicate botanicals and light a fire up the arse of my beloved Marion, our little 200 litre copper pot still. Open the manhole to smell the NGS and botanicals that have been macerating overnight, cough, splutter and rub my watery eyes. Fire up the kettle and fill up on some sergeant major tea.
1pm – 2pm
Closely monitor Marion at work. Make the heads cut, continually sampling throughout (on the back of a teaspoon, not a mouth under the spout job like the films). Regular ABV and quantity measurements, decanting into Marion’s metal mixing tank mate when required. Continue rinsing, sterilising and stacking bottles onto the drying trees.
2pm – 5pm
Keep a slack eye on Marion, she has a tendency to get over excited and over flow her cooling bucket on occasion, especially when Madonna starts on the radio. Catch up on 45 emails, reply to 44 of them politely declining a collaboration request for free Gin. Listen to the 4 messages on my answering machine of someone breathing and then hanging up the phone. Update my Instagram with any decent pics I have managed to get whilst on my foraging trip. Package up any gin that is requiring delivery, get angry that my tape dispenser is as useful as teats on a bull. Fill in the logs, schedules and paper work that comes with being a Scottish gin baron.
5pm – 6pm
Make a final call on the tails cut and stop the distillation process. Decant this heavenly liquid into my stainless mixing vessel and take in the burning odour of 87% alcohol. Take a final ABV and quantity reading. Clean out Marion, who is filthy after a hard day’s graft. This is a laborious task that requires asbestos like skin. Eventually give up and throw my hose and bucket away. Collect the spent botanicals and keep for throwing on my veggie patch, hope my Pumpkin takes on a gin essence.
6pm – 7pm
Dash home in time to make tasty snacks for my girlfriend coming home, this is how I ensure steady morning tea supply. Consider being a better citizen of earth and eating vegetarian, give up once I spy a pack of chipolatas. Discuss our day with each other, try to impress with the size of my pumpkins.
7pm – 9pm
Romantic moment where I am checked over for ticks (these horrible creatures prefer intimate areas of the male anatomy). Move on to taste test the gin goods! Alongside a glass of fermented grape juice or two. Catch up on Bake Off and make a high stake bet (who is hanging up the washing usually) on who is sent home next.
9pm – 11pm
Carry out vital research online, in my books and at the bottom of my gin glass. Continue emailing and following up leads, filling up my diary with jobs and appointments. Brain sufficiently oiled on King’s Hill and wine, I come up with ideas and recipes. Spend more time trying to convince myself they aren’t insane.
Hit the hay. Assume the usual pencil position on the edge of the bed, grapple for covers, accept one shoulder under cover is sufficient. Check Slade are ready to do their job in 7 hours, rest and recharge.
You learn more about The Pentland Still here.