Meet the Maker | Sean Harrison, Master Distiller, Plymouth Gin

Each week we ‘meet a maker’ from a Walpole member company, shining a light on the highly skilled craftspeople, creatives and curators making British luxury products and experiences. Today, introducing Sean Harrison, Master Distiller for Plymouth Gin.

Tell us what you do?

When I worked as a Royal Navy Officer, I was stationed in Plymouth where I fell absolutely in love with the historic city. In fact, it was in the 15th and 16th centuries that Plymouth became known as the ‘City of Discovery’ and was a gateway to the world for Britain’s most famous explorers, including Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Frances Drake. Plymouth city also happens to be a port for the British Royal Navy for over 300 years and Plymouth Gin supplied gin for the Royal Navy, who took it with them to the four corners of the world. When the unique opportunity to work on Plymouth Gin came up, I knew I had to seize the moment.

I started work at the British brand over 20 years ago as the Assistant Distillery Manager. Over that time my work has required me to do various functions from filling tankers with 30,000 litres of gin, to going to the bottling plant and driving a fork lift truck. I am now responsible for the careful selection of botanicals, distillation and the superior quality of Plymouth Gin while looking after the day to day operation of the Black Friars Distillery. Even though my job has changed a bit in 20 years, I luckily still get the opportunity to drive a fork lift truck and see the Royal Navy ships pass by.

What do you love most about your job?

Selecting quality botanicals that make Plymouth Gin is my favourite part of the job.

Working in the navy taught me a lot of discipline, which comes in handy when selecting botanicals. The character of every gin is defined by its botanicals and selecting the perfect ones is not just a matter of freshness or size. You have to understand what you are trying to create, and understand the finished article. Each year I compete against Mother Nature’s unpredictability to find the perfect taste and smell profile of the essential oils contained within the botanicals to ensure the continued flavour of our award-winning Plymouth Gin. The recipe is very old and people instantly recognise the flavour, so keeping it consistent year on year is a fun but never-ending task which requires great discipline. Also, when I travel around the world and see bottles of Plymouth Gin in bars or duty free shops I can’t help but feel proud that I helped make it, which is pretty amazing if you ask me.