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Hugh Sutton, Quality Assurance Technician

June 5, 2024

Hugh Sutton is a Quality Assurance Technician based at our Midleton Distillery in Cork. Hugh started his journey on an internship with Irish Distillers and is now a full time Lab Technician. Here he tells us more about his role and what it's like to work in the lab.  

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you started at Irish Distillers?

Hi, my name is Hugh Sutton. I am a quality assurance technician in the Quality and Environmental Lab based in Midleton Distillery. Originally, I did my placement at Irish Distillers as part of my Food Science degree in UCC, and I continued working during weekends after I went back to college. In my final year, I interviewed for a position and started working three weeks after graduation.

What attracted you to work at Irish Distillers?

The reputation of Irish Distillers was a big draw. It’s well-established in the Cork area, and the spirits and beverage industry appealed to me.

Can you explain the whiskey-making process?

Sure! It starts with grains that are crushed into flour and mixed with hot water to create a sugary liquid. Yeast is added to ferment this into beer. The beer is then distilled three times to produce a spirit that’s about 80-90% alcohol. This clear spirit is aged in oak casks for at least three years to become whiskey.

 What does your lab work involve?

In the lab, we analyse raw ingredients like barley, malted barley, and corn to ensure they meet specifications. We also test the beer before distillation and the spirit after distillation for quality. Additionally, we monitor the aging process and conduct water quality analysis around the site to ensure environmental standards are met.

What’s it like working in a company with such a rich heritage?

It’s really nice to be part of a company with a lot of history. Meeting people who’ve worked here for 40 years and hearing their stories gives you a connection to the place. There’s a great mix of really experienced and then younger people coming through the ranks, which creates a nice environment.

How important is sustainability at Irish Distillers?

Sustainability is a massive focus here.  I was involved in a water recycling project,  reducing our environmental impact by recycling more water on site. It was a fantastic project to be part of. One highlight for me was being involved with the barley harvest. We analyse samples from suppliers to predict the quality of raw materials for the year. We compared the results from different years so we could see how much alcohol can be produced. It was fascinating.

Have you had the opportunity to get involved in much learning and development?

There’s a strong emphasis on continuous education. I’ve completed my IBD Level 5 Certificate in Brewing and Distilling. The company supports ongoing learning, and you can pursue further education outside work hours.

How would you describe Irish Distillers to someone looking to join?

There’s a genuine pride to work here. The atmosphere is respectful and not overly corporate. When people ask where I work, they often mention they’ve heard good things, and I can honestly say it’s a really nice place to work.

What advice would you give to someone new joining Irish Distillers?

Be yourself, be open and friendly, and respect the culture. People here are supportive. If you’re sound, people will appreciate that.

Learn more about working with Irish Distillers