Meet the Distiller

Keith Cruickshank, Benromach Distillery, makers of Red Door Gin.

Published: 22nd December 2020

There’s no such thing as a typical Scottish Gin distiller. The people making Scottish Gin are a diverse bunch from all backgrounds with their own ethos and approach to making Scottish Gin and spirits. In ‘Meet the Distiller’, we meet the people who make Scotland’s growing number of amazing Scottish Gins to learn more about their background, their gin making process and more. From ‘Master’ distillers, who have been working in the world of distillation for years, to new distillers; each one with a story of their own to tell.

In our latest ‘Meet the Distiller’, we take a trip up North to the small town of Forres, home to the Benromach Distillery. With its bright red chimney and doors (and the inspiration for the Red Door Gin name), the distillery in one guise or another started producing Whisky in 1900. Over the last century the distillery has seen many changes but the focus has been unwavering; produce great Scottish spirits of quality and character.

What’s your name and what do you do?

I’m Keith Cruickshank and I’m the Distillery Manager here at Benromach Distillery, so I’m responsible for all areas of distillation for both our whisky and Red Door Gin.

What’s your background?

I started working in the industry in 1991 in cask warehousing. From there I was able to progress my career into distilling. I started working at Benromach in 1998 as a Stillman when we restarted production so I’ve been here since the beginning. I made the move to Distillery Manager in 2000 and since then I’ve been overseeing everything that happens here on site.

What spirits are you involved in making?

I’m involved with our Whisky distillation and the distillation of our Red Door Gin. Both whisky and gin distillation are similar on the one hand, in that everything is done with a focus on producing great tasting spirits. And yet on the other hand they are both completely different in terms of distillation, process and ingredients.

What kind of research went into making Red Door Gin?

In 2017, Gordon and MacPhail decided that we should make our own gin, having distributed and sold so many other brands for years. From there we began looking at how we could make this a reality. We decided our old Malt Barns would be the perfect spot for Peggy (our gin still) to sit and create a visitor experience around her. Once Peggy was made and in place, we then had to look at the spirit style and how we wanted it to taste. We use the vapour infused distillation method and have a basket we fill with botanicals that is placed in the still each time. This resulted in the London Dry style we see today with our local botanicals, inspired by the sea, mountains and forests. Then came the name… if you’ve visited us before, you’ll know how we came up with Red Door Gin!

Do you get the opportunity to experiment?

Yes, absolutely! In order for us to get it right we have to experiment. At first our experimenting was with our base flavour profile, we had to trial various botanical quantities to get the right balance for all of them. We then moved into the development of our special Seasonal Editions, which started with Winter last year, and we are now putting thought into the other seasons and what that may look like – watch this space!

What’s your No.1 rule when making spirits?

Always take your time – nothing at Benromach is rushed, and even with our gin, it’s all made by hand so we all take our time and ensure we are doing all the processes right to get the best quality spirit at the end.

What’s the best part of the gin making process?

Being able to get immediate results, after nearly 20 years of only making whisky and having to wait a long time to see our results pay off, it was a totally new experience to be able to see exactly what our gin was like as soon as we distilled the first batch.  It was also great to see the differences between Red Door and Red Door with Winter botanicals and the different aromas and flavours instantly – it’s fascinating! 

What’s the worst part of the gin making process?

Honestly, there isn’t one!  The only part that takes a bit of time is the weighing out of botanicals, it’s a bit footery, especially the smaller ones like Heather so it takes a bit of practice to get it right.

What’s your ultimate drink?

I’m a whisky man first and foremost, so a Benromach 10 year old with a splash of water is my typical go to, but you cannot beat a simple Red Door Gin and tonic, plenty of ice and a slice of lemon!

Tell us something we might not know about Red Door Gin?

Peggy, our copper gin still is a miniature version of our Spirit Still in Benromach, even down to the reflux ball – that combined with our slow hand-distilled methods is why you find rich, full bodied flavours in both our gin and our Whisky.

You can learn more about Benromach Distillery, makers of Red Door Gin, here.

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