On Thursday evening Tom Nichol, Tanqueray Master Distiller became the second ever person to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. With good reason. With 42 years of hard work creating one of the world’s best loved gins under his belt, he blooming well deserves it. We caught up with him the day after to share our appreciation of his exceptional talent, fantastic personality and of course, those excellent gins.
Congratulations on your Lifetime Achievement Award, how did receiving it honestly make you feel?
It was amazing. I wasn’t expecting anything like that at all. One of the things it really brought home to me though was I am actually retiring. It made things feel very final. But to be recognised by these amazing people is something really special – I must admit, there were so many people in that room that were more deserving of that award than me. People like Desmond Payne at Beefeater. I’ve always looked up to him – he’s my hero. The night was very special.
What’s been your memorable part of your career?
42 years in the same industry is kind of boring but I wouldn’t change a thing. What’s been the most memorable? All of it. I guess when I was asked to become Master Distiller for Tanqueray was pretty up there – I was determined to get that job, I gave the best interview of my life for it.
Over the past 42 years Tom Nichol and Tanqueray have become inextricably linked, how does it feel to be leaving the business?
You need to know when it’s time you need to go and for me, that time has come. Tanqueray needs new blood as well. I may be kept on as some kind of ambassador if they want me, if not then so be it.
When will your last day be?
July 3rd. I chose that date for a reason – the next day is Independence Day!
What will you miss most about the job?
I’ll miss the Tanqueray people, we’re a great family. They’ll still be there but in a year’s time, Tom Nichol will be in the past – that will be hard for me and I guess it will be quite difficult to move on. I really hope we’ll still be friends.
So how will you be filling your days come July 4th?
I’ll be getting my life back! I’m looking forward to walking, taking up hill climbing again, fishing – not killing them, just catching then releasing them back into the water. I also want to buy a motorbike…
Whoa, a motor bike? Are we talking moped or Harley style?
Definitely not a moped, I may as well get a pushbike! No, I want a really nice bike so I can go riding in the summer. My wife Gillian is retired too and we’ll both need our space.
What advice would you give to any aspiring Tom Nichol’s?
Be honest, be prepared to put in lots of hard work, know what you’re talking about, don’t think its glamorous because it isn’t, Sure you get to travel and stay in lots of fancy hotels but half of the time you don’t get to see the countries you’re in – it really is harder than it seems. If you’re prepared for that and you’re really passionate, it’s one of the best jobs I can think of.
If you could distil your character into a gin, what botanicals would you choose and why?
That’s the best question I’ve ever been asked! Can I get back to you on that one?…
The full interview will appear in issue 16 of The Cocktail Lovers magazine, available August.