Distiller at Irish Distillers’ Micro Distillery, Midleton, Co. Cork
People don’t often realise that distilling offers a wide range of opportunities for STEM graduates, especially those with backgrounds in engineering, food science and environmental science.
After moving from Brazil to Ireland, on a scholarship to study chemical engineering at Cork Institute of Technology, I identified Irish Distillers as my ideal employer. Most of my classmates went for Biopharmaceuticals but, having interned with Eight Degrees Brewing, I knew I wanted to take a different route and Irish Distillers’ Graduate Distiller programme felt like a natural next step.
The two-year programme offers graduates the unique opportunity to learn from our master craftspeople, and senior management teams, who provide mentoring and practical on-the-job training. It is a challenging and rewarding placement during which I learned to turn beer into a clear spirit and developed a broad range of skills, while working across a variety of projects.
The Micro Distillery is like a playground for distillers
I’ve noticed that, as a company, Irish Distillers acknowledge the importance of recruiting and nurturing young, emerging talent. This really furthers our ambition to drive innovation in the Irish whiskey sector. I am currently a Distiller at the Micro Distillery, our innovation hub at Midleton Distillery, where we experiment with new mash bills and distillates. Through the establishment of the Micro Distillery, and the open mindset of senior members of the team, we have fostered a culture of innovation. It’s like a playground for distillers. I’ve learned how to make some of the finest Irish whiskeys in the world while also being given the opportunity, and confidence, to experiment. Each day I am required to hone and test my skills to understand the fundamentals of world class distilling. I can’t wait to see the results from our maturing stocks.
The importance of real life, hands-on experience
Irish Distillers is committed to maintaining a strong pipeline of skilled female professionals and has defined routes for STEM graduates within our operations. Our involvement and support of twothird level courses offers a gateway into the sector. We have partnered with CIT to create their Certificate in Brewing & Distilling Operations and with TU Dublin to develop a Brewing & Distilling stream within the BSc in Food Innovation. As part of our involvement in these programmes, we welcome students from both courses on educational site visits and for internship placements.
Take, for example, my colleague, Eva Doherty, Assistant Distiller at the Micro Distillery, who was recruited straight from TU Dublin upon completion of her degree after a successful placement at Midleton Distillery Co. Cork, the summer before. My advice to other women interested in STEM is simply to be fearless in pursuing the career you want, even if it’s in a traditionally male sector. You will be surprised by the strides that have been achieved. I have been supported every step of the way, and even picked up a Cork accent.