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Positive VTEC Relationships Yield Positive Results

The Worshipful Company of Distillers Vocational Training and Education Committee (VTEC) has recently expanded the support it gives to the Livery’s educational partners to include work experience. An initial placement was organised and run through the Distillers’ network of producers, educators and students, a first example of the new vocational training and education strategy, pushing beyond simple funding into using the Livery’s connections to create new opportunities.

The effort to identify companies in the drinks industry able to offer students from the Distillers’ education partners work placements is being led by Alan Montague-Dennis. He and the VTEC team are already working with Copper Rivet, Cotswolds, Lindores and Summerhall distilleries, as well as Gordon & MacPhail, to identify potential work experience opportunities.

The road to the initial placement started in March 2022, when Amelia Webb, studying for a BSc in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt university, was discussing her desire to gain practical experience as part of her studies with her tutor Dr Dawn Maskell, Director of the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD). Dawn contacted the VTEC team, who contacted several distilling partners and quickly identified Summerhall Distillery – makers of Pickering’s Gin – as an ideal opportunity. They then put Amelia in contact with co-founder Marcus Pickering to organise hands-on distilling experience during the university’s summer break.

The VTEC team spoke to Amelia to learn a bit more about her time at Summerhall:

VTEC: How did the job came about?

Amelia Webb: I was hoping for summer work experience in the industry between my third and fourth year at university. I asked director of Brewing and Distilling Dr Dawn Maskell for some help in this matter as, like all the staff at Heriot Watt ICBD, they have great links and connections in the industry. I was originally put in touch with [WCD development director] Clive Bairsto, who I will forever be grateful to for introducing me to the Pickering’s team. He put my name forward to several distilleries and Summerhall kindly accepted me into their small yet efficient team.

L-R: Conor Lynch, Jason Toro, Amelia Webb, Quinn Miller, Marcus Pickering

VTEC: What was your experience when you got there?

AW: When I arrived at the distillery, I was struck at its wonderful location situated in the heart of Summerhall. I had never been into the building prior and was baffled by the fact this building is home to roughly 120 small businesses. The distillery team welcomed me, and I got straight to it. I started by weighing out and making up a batch of Red Top [Pickering’s classic London dry gin]. In their beautiful botanical room, I measured out the ingredients required and started the still run. I spent the rest of my time working there gathering experience with every aspect of the production process, including having the chance to make more gins from their core and export ranges.

A highlight of my time at Summerhall was being given the chance to use the mini stills to practice distilling and come up with my own gin recipe! I chose the following ingredients: rose, vanilla, apple, chrysanthemum, pink peppercorn, and hibiscus. Upon reflection, it needs refinement – adding my ingredients in addition to the core botanicals that make Pickering’s Gin was all too much.

I had such a fun time coming up with the recipe with the help of the distilling team. Conor, Jason, and Quinn were the most kind, genuine, and funny lads I have worked with, and I really had such a great time with them in the distillery.

VTEC: Any reflections on your time at Summerhall?

AW: I would like to thank the Pickering’s team for taking me under their wing and showing me the ropes. Even at such a stressful time of year as the run up to the Edinburgh Festival I had the best time, and the team made sure I was able to observe and help with all aspects of their business which gave me a fabulous grounding for entering my fourth and final year of studies at Heriot Watt.

The Distillers’ partnership with the ICBD, as with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) and Wine and Spirits Educational Trust (WSET), is blossoming. We continue to implement our new more holistic strategy, engaging in activities from providing bursaries and scholarships to mentoring, knowledge sharing between WCD member and now industry work experience.

The richness of what we as WCD can contribute to young people is only just beginning to be realised, and the prospects are exciting in terms of our reach and the activities we are able to support.

A thank you from the Master Chris Searle to all involved, with a special thanks to Dawn Maskell and Marcus Pickering for supporting the placement, and to Amelia Webb for her initiative in kick-starting the process.

If you have any questions or would like to investigate the potential of hosting work placement students, please contact Nick Carr, VTEC COMMS, through the Clerk’s Office: office@distillers.org.uk.