Profile piece: Liam Jackson
Following the launch of our new Special Edition Distiller’s Strength gin, we thought it was only right to bring you the people behind the liquid.
First let us introduce you to Liam Jackson, our Lead Distiller. You may already recognise his face from our website and social media.
When speaking to Liam, he’s full of passion for his job. It’s much more than a 9-5, it’s an outlet for his creativity.
Liam was born and raised in Cumbria, and initially after leaving school, Liam trained and worked as a plumber for 5 years.
Recession hit, jobs were few and far between, so Liam looked to another career. Following a few years running bottling operations for a brewer, Liam spotted an opportunity at a local distillery.
Liam jumped in and closely shadowed the distillery manager, absorbing as much information as possible. When Liam speaks about this, it’s clear there’s so much more to distilling than just botanicals, alcohol and water. Distilling is an art form, an incredibly talented skill and a creative canvas for flavour.
Let’s start with the fact you have arguably the coolest job at Masons – what does the day-to-day look like for a Lead Distiller?
When asked this question, Liam laughs. It’s like I’ve asked him to explain the plot of The Da Vinci Code.
“Why thank you. It’s very generic when people say “every day is different”, but it’s absolutely true for me. There’s certainly no monotony in this job – I could never say I’m bored.”
Being a distiller is a unique and highly skilled job – what do you enjoy most about making gin?
“For me, the best part about making gin is the happiness and enjoyment that it brings to people’s lives. Whether it’s a present for someone, that drink at the end of a hard week or a few drinks with friends, gin ubiquitously brings warmth to those moments.
Hearing that our customers love the product is amazing – it makes it all worth it.”
As well as making the Masons core range of gins, you and Rory, our Research Distiller are responsible for creating new products. How do you go about coming up with new ideas?
For me, flavour is obviously critical when making gin, but what’s more important is the mastering the best balance of different flavours. If you have one aspect that’s overpowering, it can ruin what would be a great product if you just made some slight adjustments.
So, we start with flavours that naturally complement each other but we also try to think outside the box. One thing Masons is known for is creating a different gin, not just a different label. That’s always our part of our brief – blow us away.”
Speaking of new products, tell us about Distiller’s Strength gin. It’s the first gin Masons have made above 42% ABV, so where did the idea come from?
“Karl, Rory and I have been chatting for a while about creating a higher strength gin perfect for the base of a cocktail or for those who like it a little stronger. We initially considered a Navy Strength gin which is at least 57% alcohol by volume (abv). We started with the recipe for our flagship gin, Masons Original we tried a few variations at 57% but the alcohol overpowered the flavour of the botanicals. After a few rounds of development, we found that 53% ABV was the sweet spot and we produced a beautifully balanced gin with the same bold flavours but without the harshness.
Distilling to 53% meant we couldn’t promote this new gin (and enter awards) as a Navy Strength-style gin but we stuck to our values of putting flavour and quality first, and doing things without compromise. I’m so proud we make these kinds of decisions to do things the right way, not just the easy way.”
And what about at home? Are you naturally experimental with flavour?
“Those who have lived with me would definitely agree with that. When cooking I’m constantly opening cupboards and throwing in things I find, just to see what works and what doesn’t. More often than not, they work out well. Sometimes it’s a failure which can completely ruin an evening.”
So why Masons?
When Liam moved out of Cumbria, he did so to join Masons. The company’s reputation for quality over all else stood out to Liam and he knew that would allow him plenty of creative freedom.
“The best thing about Masons is that we make really good gin. I feel really proud of the products we sell and that’s a good feeling for a distiller.”
Do you have a stand-out moment at Masons – something you’re proud about?
“With all the uncertainty COVID has brought, I am proud of the part I have played in keeping Masons in a strong position, and the way the whole company have pulled together and done an incredible job has just proven to me that we’re a family, not just a group of staff.”
Liam is one of our resident cricketing buffs and his claim to fame is that he used to play with Ben Stokes, England’s Cricket Captain. He even looks a little bit like him too – although Liam shrugs and goes bright red when we suggest this.
So, we hear you know Ben Stokes from your cricketing days?
“Yes it’s true. When we were younger we played together for a short period of time and then he moved away. Still spot him at social events sometimes and he’s a good guy.”
Is cricket still a big part of your life?
“Yes it will always be a big part of my life – I love being active. I’ve just joined the local cricketing team and I just can’t wait to get back out there once restrictions are lifted and get active again.”
What else do you do in your spare time?
“My hobbies are all usually centred around being active, whether it’s cricket, the gym or a long walk – I love them all. To make up for the exercise I’m also a big fan of going out to eat and finding great new restaurants. Naturally, there are some bars thrown in there too, for research purposes of course…”
Finally Liam, how do you drink your Masons at home?
“I’m a classic G&T kind of guy. It has to be a double measure of Masons Original on top of a good handful of ice, premium Indian tonic and if I garnish, I use twisted lime zest.”
Thank you Liam!