A day in the life of...Georgina, Alicia & Claire, Lussa Gin.
Published: 17th January 2019
Our exclusive ‘A day in the life of’ editorial feature series 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.
In this episode, we take a unique approach by spending a proportion of the day with each of the three founders of Lussa Gin, the award-winning Scottish Gin from the Isle of Jura. Each founder plays a very different role and we were interested to see who does what! On Thursday 15th November 2018, here’s what happened…
Georgina Kitching, Co-founder & Distiller, 9am – 12 noon
Thursday is Lussa Gin dispatch day and this week it falls to me to drive bottles of gin to the village of Craighouse. Jura’s shop and post office are eighteen miles away from the Lussa Distillery along a winding single-track road of dubious surface but stupendous views. The weather is wild today and white horses are flecking the Sound of Jura. After negotiating the cattle at Ardlussa I am further distracted by the aerobatics of a hen harrier and buzzard further down the long road. In the village, I have several cases of gin to give to the courier and I post the single bottles. The shop is often busy, even at this quieter time for tourists, and today the talk is of early Christmas shopping – you can get perfume advent calendars, who knew?! With a somewhat lighter vehicle I travel back to the distillery (another hen harrier and a sea eagle later) and start work on Hamish, our still.
I made a batch of Lussa Gin yesterday so today I must empty the spent botanicals and clean it out. Pumping out the remaining liquid is a delicate process, which occasionally results in a thorough drenching for me; today I manage to keep most of it under control.
The spent botanicals are used for composting. It’s a bit like “Where’s Wally?” to spot the minor botanicals like Scot’s pine and rosehips amongst the larger quantities of juniper and lemon thyme. Once they’re collected, it’s off to the compost heap with a wheelbarrow.
Alicia MacInnes, Co-founder, Finances & Foraging, 12 noon – 3pm
I’ve been waiting for this day for three years. I couldn’t say for certain but I think this might be a first in the world of gin – to grow and use your own orris. Orris is used as a fixative in gin and it comes from the root of the plant, Iris Fiorentina. During our start up, before the Lussa Gin recipe was even finalised, I was so enthusiastic and excited about growing and gathering all of our botanicals that I bought the Iris and planted the three tiny little tubers in my vegetable patch. Today is the day to dig up my plants. It’s been a three-year waiting game and I have no idea how large the little tubers have grown. After pedantically figuring out every tiny detail on how this is going to happen, standing over the plants um-ing and ah-ing, I gently loosen the soil, fork underneath the tubers and I’ve pulled the beauties out of the ground. I’m utterly delighted with the crop. Most of the tubers look a bug or an armadillo, they all are hideously beautiful, I’ve laughed a whole lot and taken many photos and videos. Each tuber is prepared, peeled, sliced and left to dry. The tops and leaves sections are prepared and replanted, hoping for more plants to come from the originals. It’s been a long wait but worth it, I still have to wait two to five years for the orris to dry before I can grind it and use it in Lussa Gin.
Onto my other favourite role – financial management of Lussa Gin. Accounting programs, spreadsheets, financial analysis are aspects of my business that I enjoy and after an Open University Course, I’m moving up a notch from recording and looking at figures to analysis. I have loads of new ways of measuring Lussa Gin’s financial performance and today I’m preparing for our next quarter budget meeting so I’m buried in excel spreadsheets and Xero, sales forecasts and stocktakes, counting, planning and organising numbers – fab.
Claire Fletcher, Co-founder, Sales & Marketing, 3pm – 6pm
I oversee the communication, sales and marketing of Lussa Gin, and I too like to get my hands dirty so today it’s time to prune the roses and I get to take a rose garden selfie. We grow about 20kg of rose petals across the year for our gin, which we then freeze to allow us to distill all year round. The recent wet conditions mean they need a bit of extra attention so they’re getting a hard prune and a good mulch of horse manure. Fortunately my four daughters have a pony or two between them to provide the fertiliser. The ponies were the original occupiers of the Stables building which now houses our distillery.
Living at the end of the road on Jura and being two ferries from the mainland means that logistics play a big part in our job and our lives. Today I’m trying to organise travel and accommodation for a trade fair we’re doing in Glasgow in the New Year, then a seminar in Inverness and an event at Kilchoman Distillery on Islay. I’m also trying to persuade a new distributor to take our gin but the rain on the roof makes conversation tricky!
The local courier from the neighbouring island of Islay turns up with 250 special gift boxes for our limited edition Lussa Gin Bramble Liqueur. We handpicked 30kgs of brambles and have spent the last couple of months deciding on artwork for labels and boxes and it’s great to finally have them in our hands. I never knew I could get so excited about a box.
The post van goes past the door of the stables, driven by my mother-in-law, followed by the primary school bus. We have a primary school on the island but my older daughters go to Islay for High School so they’re not home for another hour. The day finally ends with us making a plan on who’s going to the Christmas light switch on. There may only be 230 residents on Jura, but we’re glad to be part of such a great community.
You can learn more about Lussa Gin here.