International Women’s Day is the perfect time to shine a light on one female distiller blazing a trail in an historically male dominated industry.
Moira Doherty is the Gin Queen of Sliabh Liag Distillers, and the woman who crafted the distillery’s world famous An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin.
An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin was first launched in 2017 and was the first gin distilled in Donegal. Since then, Moira has added two more gins to the Sliabh Liag Distillers’ collection; An Dúlamán Santa Ana and Memories of Asia.
Moira believes it’s important that women are becoming more prominent in the industry: “Contrary to public perception, women have always played a key role in the world of distilling” says Moira, “But it’s great to see more and more women around the world breaking through that distillery glass ceiling and getting recognition for the work they’re doing. I really believe the industry can only benefit by having more women at the helm, because the best spirits should be as diverse and unique as the people that enjoy them.”
It doesn’t take a long conversation with distiller Moira to understand the lengths she has gone to go to extract the right characteristics from the seaweeds and other botanicals that give An Dúlamán its profound umami flavours: “It is a true labour of love, an almighty adventure, and one that continues as we take memories and explore new botanicals from around the world for pairing with those botanicals found on Donegal’s shore. An Dúlamán is a love letter from the Donegal Coast which lets me capture the magic of the sea and celebrate the jewels which grow on the shore.”
An Dúlamán is a love letter from the Donegal Coast which lets me capture the magic of the sea and celebrate the jewels which grow on the shore.”
It takes intuition, meticulous trialling and a deft touch to create exceptional flavours that are a breed apart from the trend of sweet, fruity gins. Moira has brought a shy African soul to this Donegal gin, and she handwrites every neck label on each bottle. Her partner in alchemy is Méabh, (which in Irish means she who intoxicates), a tiny but mighty hand-hammered 500 litre copper pot still. Méabh is feisty but yields a soft, unique gin in Moira’s calming hands. Exactly how each of the six botanicals’ and five locally harvested seaweeds’ specific flavour characteristics are extracted, is Moira and Méabh’s secret.
An Dúlamán Santa Ana Armada Strength Gin launched in 2019 and was the first Irish navy strength gin on the market. An Dúlamán Santa Ana uses the same botanical recipe but is aged in former Rioja casks for three months, delivering a rose gold hue and slight sweetness that compliments the umami notes from the seaweeds. The gin is bottled at Armada strength (57%).
Moira’s most recent creation, and the latest addition to the An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin collection, is An Dúlamán Memories of Asia. Unlike the editions that have come before it, which are love letters from the Donegal Coast, this expression is inspired by travels to the other side of the globe. Created and distilled in Donegal, this distinctive and innovative expression was inspired by the Gin Queen’s time spent in Asia.
From growing coffee in Zimbabwe and tea in Malawi, to working with beer in Fiji and Asia with whiskey and gin galore, Moira and her husband James have travelled the world together. Before arriving in Donegal, the couple lived in Hong Kong for over two years, which is what inspired Moira to trial new botanicals in the original An Dúlamán Gin recipe: “Growing up I never imagined that I would have had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong, let alone live there. It is one of the world’s most exciting cities, full of diversity and full of flavours and fragrances. I really wanted to capture, or should I say bottle, everything from this chapter of our lives and use it to create a distinctive edition of An Dúlamán that will live on forever” said Moira.
For this edition, three seaweeds have been replaced with seven exciting new ingredients; Oolong Tea, Ginger, Sesame Seeds, Hibiscus Flowers, Sakura, which is dried Japanese Cherry Blossom that has been preserved in salt, Star Anise and Kaffir Lime Leaves. These ingredients come together beautifully and capture the flavours and aromas synonymous with Hong Kong life. It is a versatile gin, slightly sweeter than the original release, that works well with all neutral tonics, but also stands up well in classic gin cocktails such as the Negroni – just add Campari and Vermouth. On the nose it is a rich, zesty pine that is complimented with exotic floral hints and earthy tones. To taste, An Dúlamán Memories of Asia has juniper to the front, followed by a light umami burst with a fragrant, sticky star anise sweetness in the finish.
I really wanted to capture, or should I say bottle, everything from this chapter of our lives and use it to create a distinctive edition of An Dúlamán that will live on forever” said Moira.
An Dúlamán Santa Ana Negroni is the perfect cocktail to celebrate International Women’s Day. Take 30ml of An Dúlamán Santa Ana, 30ml Campari, and 30ml sweet vermouth. Pour over ice, stir, garnish with an orange twist and raise a glass to all the incredible women in your life.