Thursday, July 10, 2014

GSK process chemists-turned-distillers

I'm really going to miss Trevor Laird's editorials in Organic Process Research and Development when he retires at the end of this year. I've been reading them since I was a graduate student and have enjoyed them immensely.* This latest one has a really wonderful combination of food chemistry and #altchemjobs: 
...In contrast to whisky, gin is ready to drink right after it has been distilled and diluted since all the flavour components (known as botanicals) are added prior to the distillation. It is also, in my opinion, best drunk with ice and not at room temperature (I never put tonic in it–it hides the wonderful flavours!). 
I have recently been educated in this respect since two process chemist friends of mine used their redundancy money from GlaxoSmithKline, when the site at Tonbridge, UK, closed a couple of years ago, to set up a gin distillery in Kent, and their first product, known as Anno Gin (, has been receiving rave reviews. A recent column in the Times sang its praises—one of the distinctive botanicals used is samphire, a form of seaweed or sea vegetable that is sometimes eaten as an accompaniment to fish. Sadly, the new gin is not yet available in North America, but hopefully that situation will change soon. It has been interesting to see what a couple of process chemists have achieved in a new area of chemistry manufacturing. 
This demonstrates to me that process chemists have multiple talents and can turn their hand to a variety of occupations. Whilst still on the alcohol theme, there have been chemists who have set up breweries and others who have gone into wine production. The scientific training and the knowledge picked up by process chemists of the importance of quality raw materials, reproducibility, process control, cleanliness, etc. must stand them in good stead when manufacturing high-quality products. Process chemistry is so multidisciplinary, part of the attraction for many scientists and engineers, but also it is a good education for careers in other areas.
It's wonderful to read stories of chemists landing on two feet.  


  1. Those types of artisan liquors are too rich for my blood. I just buy the cheap stuff… Gordon's! All the quality booze comes in squeezable plastic bottles. "Top shelf" is relative when the room is spinning, anyway. It's quality is so unquestioned, it's the only gin to have the Royal Coat of Arms by appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

    Many a hot summer night I've spent quenching my thirst with round after round of refreshing gin & tonics and each time… [SCENE MISSING]

  2. While I salute these guys for their drive and willingness to take risks, it's rather sad that they are now distilling gin rather than pioneering routes to new drugs.