Upon meeting Lesley Gracie, Master Distiller at the Hendrick’s Distillery, it takes little time to understand how such an unusual gin could come into existence. It is not Lesley’s coccyx-length pony tail and dry sense of humour that brings you to this assumption, but her astounding knowledge and excellence in mastering the two copper stills that make Hendrick’s Gin.
Lesley, alongside fellow Master Distiller at William Grant & Sons, John Ross, crafted the recipe for Hendrick’s Gin in 1999. It immediately stole the hearts of the most vanguard of gin drinkers with its infusion of cucumber and rose essences delivering a taste like no other gin.
Working in a male dominated environment at the remote distillery in Girvan, a small village in the south west corner of Scotland hasn’t been a problem for the Yorkshire-born lass. Her nose is rated as one of the finest around (she sits on the ISC judging panel), which is why she also leads the New Liquid Development team within the Company. However, her heart lies in the ‘Hendrick’s Gin Palace’.
A chemist by trade, Lesley moved to Scotland from Yorkshire to join the company in 1988. The creation of award-winning Hendrick’s Gin has been a real highlight in her career to date and Lesley is only one of four people who know the specific recipe of the 11 different botanicals that goes into making the gin.
Hendrick’s is handcrafted in miniscule batches at a time – the smaller the batch, the more control can be exerted by Lesley, allowing her to fine tune the distillation process, ensuring a high end gin worthy of the Hendrick’s name.
Lesley’s is rather coy about her favourite tipple, admitting The Balvenie DoubleWood single malt Scotch whisky comes in ahead of a Hendrick’s English Garden – a beautiful cocktail infusing Hendrick’s Gin, with pressed apple juice, lime juice and St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, garnished with cucumber slices – ‘a refreshing taste of summer’, says Lesley.
When Lesley is not busy creating delectable spirit, she can be found tending to her menagerie of 11 animals, nurturing her collection of 47 orchids, which all adorn her front room or walking her dog daily in the serenity of the grounds of Culzean Castle, near her home. The less said about her golf the better. Lesley is married with two step-children and four grandchildren, one of whom says that she is “seriously weird”.