A Day in the Life of an Archie Rose Spirits Blender
For an industry that measures time in decades, it constantly amazes me how fast-paced and dynamic our job is, and I love it. When people think of a spirits blender they might be envisaging someone out amongst the casks all day, sampling here and there. And whilst being a blender is still an amazing job, the reality of what we do is a little more precise and fast-paced.
So what is a Spirits Blender?
Spirits Blenders are a specialist arm of the production team that is responsible for blending together the different components that make up all of our Archie Rose products.
For white spirits like gin, vodka and white cane spirit we help to create the original recipes for the products and then recreate them as we need (we are up to blend 289 of our Signature Dry Gin). For matured spirits like whisky and rum we do the same things, but with the added complexity of tracking each and every cask that we have on-site. We regularly sample them to track how they are maturing, and when the time is right we decant them and blend the casks together to create our mature products.
It’s a tricky job, as even with a distillery as high-tech as ours, every time you create a spirit it is a little bit different, so when we recreate a recipe we have to make sure that those differences actually come together to make the end product taste amazing.
Spirit Blenders are the custodians of quality within the distillery, so we track and communicate the quality of things that come into and out of the distillery like water, grains, botanicals and all of our bottled products. As a Senior Spirits Blender, I also am responsible for creating models that take all of our sensory assessments and attempt to communicate that data in a meaningful way to the other teams in the business.
This is a reflection of one particular day, according to my schedule.
4:50 am - Early start for me! I have two dogs at home (Harrison & Billie) so to minimise disruption to the household I cook my breakfast at work. I normally get some variation of bacon and eggs in the pans by around 5:30 am. Most importantly this gives me half an hour to get a bit of banter in with the team and get across what happened overnight in the distillery.
6:00 am - I have a quick chat with the Senior Distillers Hamish and Lisa about anything that needs to be done across the two teams throughout the day. Most of the work that we do in the sensory team is executed by the rest of the production team, so there is a lot of communication between the two teams. During this time I also have a quick chat with the Cellar Hands who are assisting us with tasks and make sure that they are tracking ok and know what they have to do for the day. Today, we are starting a Single Malt blend so we talk through the actions amongst the Cellar Hand team to make sure everything is ready to rumble.
6:15 am - I then check in on my emails to see if there is anything new to add to myself or the sensory team’s workload for the day. Then a quick catch-up with Ev and Silvia, the two blenders who make up the sensory team with me. It’s important we plan for the day ahead as we have quite a dynamic list of day-to-day tasks and like to collaborate as much as we can. Some of these daily tasks can include nosing barrel samples individually as well as working together to blend the barrel samples to create our products.
6:30 am - The distilling team has been working on some small-scale distillations of pink peppercorn for a new product. They have performed three different types of distillation through our gin stills, a regular pot distillation, a column distillation and a column distillation using the botanical basket. The sensory team and I performed a sensory analysis of the three different methods and reported back our findings to Dave, the Master Distiller.
7:00 am - Silvia and I switch gears and work through nosing some Rye Malt Whisky barrel samples. We are working through the second screening of rye cask samples for the month to decide which casks will be decanted for the rye blend. Once we have narrowed down the casks we are happy with and group them into flavour profiles, we put together a work order for the Cellar Hands. Once the Cellar Hands have completed the decanting we will be able to finalise the next release of our Rye Malt Whisky.
9:00 am - Silvia and I then update our rye maturation spreadsheet with the data from our sensory notes. It’s not glamorous but it is a crucial part of the process. This spreadsheet tracks the maturation of our casks and is our most important tool for our maturing spirits.
9:30 am - Once the maturation model is updated I spend some time preparing the long-term forecast for the sales team. I meet with Archie Rose Founder Will and our Head of Sales Trevor twice a month to update them on how our maturing stock is travelling.
As you can imagine, the maturing spirits have a mind of their own, and we have to make sure we are communicating what we are seeing to the rest of the company. It’s one thing to create great products, but it’s just as important to make sure our sales and marketing teams have good visibility of what is coming up for them.
10:00 am - Ev and I meet with Dave to talk about a project that Ev is about to start. She will be doing some work on analysing the effects of different cask types on our spirit. We get pretty deep into statistics over the hour as Ev will be using a lot of statistics in her project. Again, not the most glamorous part of our job, but using statistics is one of the great weapons we have in dealing with the number of casks we are producing at the new site.
11:00 am - Time for a well-earned lunch. With the early start, we eat earlier than most! Lunch is a great chance to get together with the cellar hands and distillers and get some banter flowing.
11:30am - Silvia and I are straight back into it and have a chat about a project she is working on, benchmarking our botanical distillates. Our team looks after blending all products, and white spirits are a huge part of our role so Silvia and I talk through the structure of how we see the benchmarking working, and what the key characteristics for each of our distillates are.
12:00pm - I switch gears again and am back into the world of mature-aged spirits in a meeting with Will, Dave and Trevor to discuss our rye malt projections. Dave and I talk through what the stock is looking like over the next six months and present Will and Trevor with a few different options for releases and timings.
12:30 pm - Once all things are finalised for the Rye Malt I have a look over our recent cask filling records. These fill events form the basis of our maturing spreadsheets so I like to spend a bit of time every week checking over them.
1:30pm - Almost done for the day now! Next on the agenda is our new make panel. Every day myself, Dave, the sensory team and a member of the distilling team do a blind tasting of the previous day’s products. We do them blind, to make sure we give accurate results. In today’s panel we took a look at one dark crystal malt and two chocolate malt samples, we also had two native botanicals to look at as well.
2:00 pm - The shift is coming to an end but after jumping around so much during the day I like to spend some time trying to tie up any loose ends that may need my attention. I go back through my checklist for the day and double-check I’ve completed everything that needed to be done. I then have a look at what tomorrow looks like and plan it out. I’ve found that if I already have a plan ready for tomorrow I can hit the ground running.
2:30 pm - In the car and on the way home, today is a rainy afternoon which means a nice fun walk for me and the dogs.