Hedy’s Highlights of 2016

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As 2016 takes its closing breaths, we learn of the passing of yet another icon, Carrie Fisher.  My Facebook feed is full of pleas to keep David Attenborough safe lest we lose yet another national treasure.  We’ve seen terror attacks, ongoing conflict in Syria, the rise of the political far right, Britain vote to leave the EU and, personally most concerning, the election of Donald Trump as next ruler of the free world.  All is not doom and gloom however and as the world ticks over there has been plenty of good news from the world of women in STEM.  I’ve put together my highlights of the year below, covering both personal and industry arenas.

January – For the first time, NASA’s class of astronauts are 50% female

February – Female engineering entrepreneurs featured by CNN 

March – UNSW Graduate Megan Kline wins 2016 WA CME Outstanding Young Woman in Resources award and is profiled by UNSW

April – Whilst on Yvette’s Grand Tour, we both visited the Falkirk Wheel, a connection point between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal

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Having a wheely good time on Yvette’s Grand Tour!

May – Yvette is awarded the 2016 Young Railway Engineer of the Year from the Railway Technical Society of Australasia

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Yvette and Antonia with their awards

June – National Women in Engineering Day is celebrated in the UK on 23rd June, featuring the release of a list of the Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering

July – My favourite mathematician Hannah Fry and Dallas Campbell explore the modern aviation industry in a series produced by the BBC ‘City in the Sky

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Hannah Fry not posing next to a plane, but rather a Jacquard loom from her show on Ada Lovelace

August – Whilst on my summer holiday we visited Bletchley Park and found out about the amazing women who operated the Bombe machines to find the daily Enigma settings

September – The Paralympics highlight a number of engineering innovations  A special issue of Sports Engineering highlights technology for Disability Sport

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October – BHP Billiton sets new goal for 50% of workforce to be women by 2025

November – Book launch for Rules of the Game, a book that explores the world of engineering, resources and construction, from The Blue Collared Woman

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December – Largest all-female expedition to Antartica heads off

What are your highlights of 2016, and what do you have planned for 2017?

Dressed for Success

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The Wagon Whisperer (mech eng, Antonia), was the first to bring my attention to Women In Engineering’s Dress for Success event. I was initially skeptical, mostly because I don’t like being told what to do by other people and that the phrase “dress for success” sets my teeth on edge. Why should women have to dress a certain way to be taken seriously in their workplaces? And who is anyone else to tell me what foodstuff my body most resembles? (In a subsequent conversation Antonia identified herself as a hourglass and decided I was probably a fairy floss – generally round with bumps and stuff in random places, but still pretty sweet!)
But occasionally, very occasionally, I do change my mind. The reality is that women are judged on the way that they look. And I decided that until we conduct job interviews and pay rise discussions using the methodology employed by “reality” television program, The Voice, your appearance will affect your career somewhat. So, I accepted that taking advantage of the advice that is offered is sensible, and not a betrayal to my ideal utopian goals of wearing whatever the heck I want without influencing how others treat me.
There were two sessions on offer, one for recent graduates and students, and one for established professionals. I selected the latter despite being in denial about my ever-increasing age.
Unfortunately, Antonia was unable to make it, but sent graduate Kimmie in her place. Antonia also sent me with instructions to take notes for her. We joked about potential topics of interest:

  • High vis contouring to set off the colour of your shirt
  • How to avoid hardhat hair
    Selecting safety glasses to match your face shape
  • How best to wear men’s pants without looking like you’re wearing men’s pants
  • Are you a Summer or a Summer? (Summer is the only choice in the Central Queensland coal area)

 

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I arrived a little early, just as the first session was finishing up. The ladies were being addressed by David Jones Stylist, Melody, who just oozed professional style. She actually reminded me a lot of Madame Fleuri from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Their pearls of wisdom are almost indistinguishable!

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“The most flattering garment you can ever wear is a suit.” – Melody the Stylist
“You can be married OR buried in a quality suit.” – Madame Fleuri

The Suit Look on Site

Melody recommended trying to keep a “suit look” as much as possible when on site by trying to wear a blazer or a tailored jacket and dark denim jeans. The Trenery chino/jean hybrid was suggested, but I wondered how the fabric composition would affect the safety of the garment.

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I suppose it depends on what type of site work one is engaging in and whether not having fire retardant clothing is going to be an issue.
You can also get the pockets of your pants sewn shut to improve the way they sit (but decrease the functionality). It depends where your priorities (and lipgloss) are…

Just as an aside, if you are ever around high voltage switching or somewhere where arc flash could occur, DO NOT wear an underwire bra! This is not usually listed as a safety precaution because the patriachy probably hasn’t considered it because it doesn’t affect them, but if you are caught in an explosion wearing extra metal around your boobs, you will end up with extra metal melted into your boobs. This is probably something to avoid. These are on my shopping list for next site visit.

 

The Power of Red

One of the ladies posed a question about a “f*ck off” power outfit. Melody said to wear anything with red in it – a red top with a suit or a white shirt with a red scarf or red lipstick.
“It’s funny how red lipstick can make you feel powerful.” – Melody the Stylist
I have never agreed with anything more in my life!

Skirts with Stockings/Pantyhose

Another question from the first group of fashionistas was about the best pieces to wear as a petite woman. The answer was skirts with nude stockings and shoes. Having legs of a different shade to the skirt helps to divide the body more into threes (head and torso, skirt, legs), so the more distinction the better the effect in making you seem more well proportioned. (Apparently, I have been making myself even more dumpier with black stockings for the last 10 years of my life. I think I need to buy some nude shoes!)
After some networking, fancy Schweppes softdrinks and antipasto, we began to discuss skirts again.  Melody’s advice was to wear skirts as much as possible because they give the aura of formality more so than pants, which are really for functionality and comfort. And that one should never go to an interview without wearing stockings and without a spare pair in your handbag.
The length of the skirt should be at the centre of the kneecap or a little lower if you are trying to accentuate the awesome slimness of your calves.
Another popular skirt style that was highlighted, especially for more curvaceous ladies, was the Anthea Crawford horizontally stripy stretchy skirt, which is super comfortable and very flattering.

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Makeup

“Makeup is the most important tool for power.” – Melody the Stylist
You don’t want to look like a Kardashian, apparently, but you want to look groomed and fresh.

Intimate Apparel

“The most important thing you can own in your wardrobe is sensible underwear.” – Melody the Stylist
Melody went on to clarify that she didn’t mean the dreaded Bridget Jonesesque shapewear but proper high-waisted cotton briefs like Jockey or Bonds, with coverage to avoid unsightly lines.
This is some really basic but sensible advice, especially for working on site or in the tropics.
On a related note, a change that I personally made in the past few years was switching to stockings from pantyhose. This has greatly improved my life from a women’s health point of view and you can really get a lot of bonus confidence from knowing that you’re wearing kick ass suspenders under your power dress! I recommend to all!

Another engineeress complained that button up shirts always revealed her underwear. Melody’s advice was to take the offending garment to the fitters in the Intimate Apparel department and that they would be able to match the underwear to the shirt.

 

How to Dress for Summer Without Wearing Too Little

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Tips for surviving the commute to work in Summer without showing too much skin include:

  • Wearing a short sleeved top which can be handwashed and dries quickly (pictured above)
  • Choosing shoes that are only half enclosed
  • Selecting clothes made of natural fibers
  • Leaving a suit jacket at work that can be put on when clients turn up

 

Jacket Tailoring

In the way that women come in all shapes and sizes, so too do quality suit jackets, we were told. One wants to select a jacket which fits across the shoulders without pulling and that drapes down at the arms, without sticking out.
The length of the jacket is also important. The bottom of the jacket should sit somewhere between the hipbones and the knuckles (when the arms are at rest) and the top button should be below the bust. It seems obvious that some jackets look better than others, but unless you’ve tried different lengths, it is difficult to tell if you really have selected the winner or not.
A jacket with details and cinching at the wait will improve and accentuate the wearer’s waist, if it is located at the correct height.
Another tip was not to unpick the pockets of a jacket unless you absolutely require the functionality. A lot of the time, the sewn pocket will improve the way the jacket falls and as the ex-Hugo Boss now floor sales manager co-presenting with Melody lamented, “they are never the same again” after a pocket is unpicked.

Suits

Quality suits in the “lower” price range like Veronika Maine and Perri Cutten are generally made of synthetic fibres and can be handwashed. Higher end ones, like Hugo Boss, will be 100% wool and will breathe infinitely more. Another amazing fact which I definitely did no know was that 100% wool suits are only meant to be dry cleaned once every 6 months! In between, just hang it in the bathroom while you shower to give it a bit of a steam clean, sponge out any lunch crumbs and hang where there is a breeze. And when you are dry cleaning, make sure that all the pieces are cleaned together so that they don’t fade at different rates.
Boss and Saba produce suit pieces of the same fabric year after year, so if you have made a (massive) investment in one of these suits, you can add a piece later that will match.

In Conclusion

As much as I was enjoying the session and learning lots of practical and fascinating fashion facts, we snuck out a little early from the presentation because I had a dance class but Melody caught me and gave me her card. It turns out that personal shopping at DJs is a complimentary service and I could make an appointment to come back any time and have Melody dress me properly. Now just to save up for a Boss suit…

As my brother always says, especially when commenting on my credit card debt, this is advice of a general nature and not all products will suit everyone.
Some of us take great pride and joy in selecting outfits which convey our personalities. I, for example, began work in the city with a look I called “eccentric librarian” but now have headed towards the bright bubbliness of “rockabilly corporate” (see photos below). This is definitely a reflection of how I have changed as a person and I love dressing up to express myself this way (I also love taking selfies, evidently).


However, some of us don’t actually care about fashion, and are really just trying not to draw too much negative attention to ourselves while not being too uncomfortable. If this is you, follow Melody’s guidelines and you’ll never go wrong.

But, if you do rock your own look and love it, keep on doing what you’re doing! Because you’ll always look fabulous wearing clothes you love with a confident smile! Saccharinely sentimental but totally true!

Also, a big thank you to Women in Engineering Queensland for organising such an awesome event and generally being so lovely and welcoming!

 

Let’s Talk – Day 5

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This week is National Women’s Health Week.  Their slogan is “Let’s talk!” and their logo is a delightful pink elephant in the room.  This week, I’m getting us talking about periods with an engineering spin.   Have a look at yesterday’s post to get up to speed.

 

We will continue to use the Engineering Hierarchy of Controls to examine this topic each day of this week.

 

Just a note that some of the health and medical things discussed here aren’t the right solution for every one and your doctor might have some really good reasons why it won’t work for you (like, you might have a stroke), so treat this information as if it were a casual gossip with a girlfriend and not tailored medical advice.

 

Today we’re up to Personal Protective Equipment.

 

Personal Protective Equipment

 

Interestingly, I was introduced to the concept of the Lily Cup by a male engineer who was surprised that I hadn’t realised they were made of flexible material.  (The one doco I’d seen featuring one, made me think it was like one of those cheap plastic medicine cups.  Those edges!  No thanks!)  But, now I know they’re made of comfortable medical grade silicone, I’ve found them LIFE CHANGING!  If the idea doesn’t make you squirm, it’s an awesome way of saving money and the environment, and not dealing with external protection methods (see Day 2), which personally make me squirm.

 

I just used my own woman’s intuition to decide that Lily Cup was the best choice financially.  But knowing that you ladies are the empirical, evidenced-based kind, I did some calcs.  And it turns out that based on my previous consumption of consumable feminine hygiene products (one pack of tampons and half a pack of pads a month) the paypack period for the Lily Cup is only 5 cycles.  And the net present value over 18 months is a whopping $224!

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So as I tell every woman of reproductive capacity that I meet, Lily Cups are the best thing ever!

 

Your white knickers, the environment and your wallet, protected!

 

 

We hope you enjoyed National Women’s Health Week and that you learned something new, started a conversation you wouldn’t otherwise have had, or just liked looking at pink cartoon elephants that weren’t the nightmarish Disney hallucination kind!

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As always, we’d love to hear what you think about this or any other issues faced by women and/or engineers so “Let’s talk!”

 

Let’s Talk – Day 4

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This week is National Women’s Health Week.  Their slogan is “Let’s talk!” and their logo is a delightful pink elephant in the room.  This week, I’m getting us talking about periods with an engineering spin.   Have a look at yesterday’s post to get up to speed.

 

We will continue to use the Engineering Hierarchy of Controls to examine this topic each day of this week.

 

Just a note that some of the health and medical things discussed here aren’t the right solution for every one and your doctor might have some really good reasons why it won’t work for you (like, you might have a stroke), so treat this information as if it were a casual gossip with a girlfriend and not tailored medical advice.

 

Today we’re up to Administrative Controls.

 

Administrative Controls

 

If you have ever met with me, chances are it was scheduled as an event in my calendar.  Everything is in my calendar.  And I mean everything.  There is a four-weekly repeating event marked as “EOM” for End of Month so I know when I’m likely to not feel crash hot.  With this information, I can manage my life (to a certain extent) so that I’m not doing highly stressful, high stakes or physically demanding stuff when I’m cramping, bloated or could have an emotional response range anywhere between an overtired toddler and The Queen of Hearts.

 

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The most significant professional memory I have of avoiding scheduling something on a Red Letter Day was when I was booking my CPEng interview.  I was offered 9am on the first day of my period or 11am the following week.  I chose the latter, specifically because I thought I would feel better and hence perform better.  I was incredibly relaxed, gave my presentation without a hitch, answered all of the questions, ethical and technical, and was granted my CPEng.

 

Is this sneaky and selfish?  I don’t know… but I think I’m going to continue to do this sort of thing anyway.  What do you think?  Do you even give it a second thought?

 

I want the best outcomes for myself, my company and my clients.  So I’m going to continue to give myself all the advantages I can by making sure that I’m in the best state I possibly can be when doing the hardest stuff.

 

Cycle times administrated!

 

Tomorrow, is the last level of the hierarchy of controls and we’re looking at Personal Protective Equipment.

Let’s Talk – Day 3

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This week is National Women’s Health Week.  Their slogan is “Let’s talk!” and their logo is a delightful pink elephant in the room.  This week, I’m getting us talking about periods with an engineering spin.   Have a look at yesterday’s post to get up to speed.
We will continue to use the Engineering Hierarchy of Controls to examine this topic each day of this week.
Just a note that some of the health and medical things discussed here aren’t the right solution for every one and your doctor might have some really good reasons why it won’t work for you (like, you might have a stroke), so treat this information as if it were a casual gossip with a girlfriend and not tailored medical advice.
Today we’re up to Engineering Controls.
 
Engineering Controls
 
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to contact the original designer of the human female for comment on the design and any improvements that could be incorporated in later releases but I’ve heard that the original requirements had indicated that the body would receive the level of nutrition that would delay menarche to about 15 (not 11 as I experienced) and that the reproductive years would be spent either pregnant or breastfeeding (with no mention of taking over the world).
In terms of consequence, let’s say that a period is between a 1 (illness or injury not requiring medical treatment) and a 2 (minor illness/injury requirement medical treatment).
And your original designed likelihood was a 3 (once in the next 2 to 10 years), but its now a actually a 5 (>10 times a year).
You’ve actually gone from a risk score of 3-6 to 5-10.
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But we’re well out of the defects liability period so we’ll have to make do with some of these technology/medicine related controls:
  • Taking hormone based contraceptives that make symptoms less severe
  • Taking preventative painkillers – but proceed with caution!  The last time I actually followed the directions on Naprogesic to take it preventively rather than reactively, I had an allergic reaction which caused my tongue and throat to swell.  (Note that I’m pretty much allergic to life but I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else.  We have too few female engineers as it is without accidentally killing them off!)
  • Smart tampons – check out this article 
  • Tracking apps and devices
  • Stick on heat pads that you can wear under your clothes
“That time of the month” engineered!
Tomorrow, we’re looking at Administrative Controls.

Let’s Talk – Day 2

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This week is National Women’s Health Week.  Their slogan is “Let’s talk!” and their logo is a delightful pink elephant in the room.  This week, I’m getting us talking about periods with an engineering spin.   Have a look at yesterday’s post to get up to speed.
We will continue to use the Engineering Hierarchy of Controls to examine this topic each day of this week.
Just a note that some of the health and medical things discussed here aren’t the right solution for every one and your doctor might have some really good reasons why it won’t work for you (like, you might have a stroke), so treat this information as if it were a casual gossip with a girlfriend and not tailored medical advice.
Today we’re up to Substitution.
Substitution
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Who remembers “Ready or Not?”  This and Degrassi Junior High were staple teen issue viewing for me in my formative years.  One of the quotes from the tomboy character who had just become a woman (much to the dismay of the jealous girly character) regarding her sanitary napkin sticks in my mind, “It feels like having a football down my pants.”  Based on this and my own personal preferences, I’ve concluded that pads are not everyone’s cup of tea.
But it is no longer the 80s in regional Cananda (aboot time!), and just because a gal doesn’t want to insert foreign objects at her most vulnerable time to stem the flow, doesn’t mean she has to be subjected to the bunching, sticky, messy horror that is sanitary pads.
Today, there is such a thing as anti-microbial fabric, which can be used to create period-proof undies which claim to hold two tampons worth of fluid without feeling like sitting in a pool of your own blood.
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Check out their website to see some of their cute but functional designs!
Icky mess substituted!
But stick around, tomorrow, we’re looking at Engineering Controls!

Celebrating Gin and Visitors

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Here’s something I posted last week for a good friend of mine who was celebrating World Gin Day in proper style, with a Gin Week on her blog!

As an oompa loompa of science I find the world of distilling and brewing quite fascinating.  Basically Chemistry class for adults!  So to celebrate Gin Week and a couple of visitors from home I headed to Edinburgh’s first gin distillery in 150 years Pickering’s, situated in Summerhall in Edinburgh’s south.  I had unfortunately missed out on Juniper Fest over the weekend and had already visited the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, so was keen to learn what made Pickering’s special.

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This way to gin!

Pickerings gin is based on an original Bombay recipe dating back to 1947 and kept as a family secret until it resurfaced in 2013 when Matt and Marcus began distilling at Summerhall.  The tour begins at the Royal Dick Bar in Summerhall, also home to one of Edinburgh’s breweries Barney’s Beer, with a G&T to sip throughout.

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Great way to start a tour, G&T with a slice of pink grapefruit

From the bar you are taken past the Mens room, then the ladies, through winding corridors and over uneven ground to what used to be dog and cat kennels. They have since been repurposed with some of the kennels used to store raw ingredients, gin and boxes.  But how do they make their gin?

A neutral grain spirit with 96%abv is piped into one of two copper stills on site, one called Emily, the other Getrude after Matt and Marcus’s great-grandmothers.  In the still the 9 botanicals are added and the spirit left to steep.

The 9 botanicals that go in to making this tasty drop are juniper, coriander, cardamon, angelica, fennel, anise, lemon, lime and clove.  The two stills have an ingenious custom-designed bain marie heating system that provides a gentle simmer able to coax out their subtle, soft, highly drinkable flavours.

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With their 9 Botanicals

After steeping this bain marie system is used to heat the spirit to vapour.  As the heating begins this vapour is trapped in the ‘onion’ of the still, condenses and travels back down to the heart of either Emily or Gertrude.  This process of vapourising, condensing and travelling back to the spirit can occur up to 16 times before the spirit is warm enough for the vapour to bypass the onion and travel through the swan neck to the neighbouring condenser.

The condenser uses water that is stored in a local underground well to cool the vapour back to a liquid.  Similar to whisky distilling, the potable alcohol the distiller wants to capture has a boiling point of 78.2OC, with the first vapours to boil off being more volatile and known as the ‘heads’. The hedas include chemicals such as acetaldehyde (CH3CHO), acetone ((CH3)2CO) and esters (pretty sure I learnt about those in chemistry back in the day!). Once the desired boiling point is reached the ethanol liquid is called the heart and piped through copper piping to one of three vats.  The heart will be ethanol. The tails are left, containing water, carbohydrates and less volatile alcohols, all undesirable. The tails will consist of 1-propanol (CH3CH2CH2OH), butyl alcohol (C4H10O), amyl (Isobutyl carbinol) and acetic acid (CH3COOH) to name a few.

The copper in the still and piping is very important as it helps produce an even, smooth flavour and impurities are left on the inside of the copper piping thereby keeping the spirit pure without excessive filtration.

Once stored in the vats the distillers will monitor the temperature and density of the spirit, regularly taking temperature and density readings and adding water until the desired alcohol content is arrived at.  Pickering’s Gin has 42%abv, slightly more than the required 37.5%abv to qualify as a London Dry Gin.  It is a particularly high tech process at Pickering’s, adding the water by hand in smaller and smaller quantities, stirring using a oar bought from an outdoor shop and taking individual measurements with thermometer and hydrometer then double checking them in a large book full of tables.

This is a one-shot method, only mixing their end distillate with water to cut it to bottling strength, compared with larger distilleries who use more base spirit to stretch their distillate before cutting with water.

When the desired alcohol content is achieved then it is piped in copper pipes to the room next door where it is bottled by hand.  It is also stoppered and waxed by hand.

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If you’ve ever seen a bottle of Pickering’s you’ll know the bottle isn’t square which makes attaching labels by hand consistently rather difficult.  The distillery is housed in part of Summerhall, an old Veterinary Hospital that is now home to many community groups including Edinburgh Hacklab.  This hacklab is a space for people to mess around with technology for fun so Pickering’s asked them to come up with something they could use to attach the labels, as they were worryingly close to their launch date and had a few hundred bottles to label.

The resulting machine is quite something, and is still going well considering it was designed to be used on a few hundred bottles and has now been used on over 60,000.

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What a beautiful machine

Once labels are attached, and the stoppers are waxed the bottles are boxed up and stored in the old dog kennels.  Throughout this whole process it s evident that everything is done by hand by a very small team, and it is definitely a labour of love.

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Dog kennels being used as an excise store for gin

The original 1947 recipe was altered as they were creating a gin that goes perfectly with tonic, and it seems they have hit the nail on the head.  They also produce a Navy Strength gin, as official partners of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and have also created a gin using the original 1947 recipe which is a spicier, sweeter and more intense spirit.

Their most recent release has its beginnings in a trip around Scotland to the iconic whisky regions in search of the best casks they could find.  They then age their Original gin in one of five ex-Scotch malt whisky casks, and the result is truly something!

Well that’s all from me today. I hope you feel a little better informed about the process of creating one of my favourite gins. I definitely believe a greater understanding of something leads to a much deeper appreciation of its beauty. So next time you sip that G&T ask yourself what botanicals are in it, how they affect the gin, whether it is a one or two shot distillate, and never forget how much love and care has been put into your handcrafted gin.

If you want some wonderful ways to cook with gin, don’t forget to head to Kitty’s Storecupboard and have a look at all her wonderful Gin Week posts.