Meet Caitlin Quinn, Eau Claire Distillery’s Master Distiller

On March 6, a couple of days prior to International Women’s Day, Eau Claire Distillery will release its “Yours Truly Batch 003,” a batch of single malt whiskey created by Caitlin Quinn, Master Distiller and Director of Innovation at Eau Claire, and the company’s female distillers. This was created not only in honour of International Women’s Day, but also to recognize the distillery’s 50 per cent female workforce.

“Everything that’s on the shelf has been blended or approved by a female, which most people wouldn’t think of when they’re looking at a bottle,” says Quinn, who notes that brewing and distilling is typically a male-dominated industry.

Quinn began her journey to becoming a master distiller back in 2009 where she was studying for an undergrad in Chemistry at the University of Glasgow. After graduating in 2013, she came to the conclusion that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her career working in a lab. That’s when she discovered and enrolled in Heriot-Watt’s Master of Science in Brewing and Distilling program in Edinburgh. 

Distilling does align with her background in chemistry but has a much clearer upside than lab work. “What’s better than drinking what you make?” asks Quinn rhetorically.

Born in Winnipeg, Quinn’s dual citizenship helped land her first entry-level position as Distiller at Eau Claire in 2015. She was actually walking out of her final exam when she received the job offer. Less than six months later, her bags were packed and she was on her way to Turner Valley, Alberta, to help grow the province’s first craft distillery.

“I thought, I’ll do it for a year and if I hate it, I’ll come back [home],” says Quinn.

Although Eau Claire Distillery was established in 2013, it didn’t actually begin distilling operations until 2014. As a result, the company will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of filling its first whiskey barrels in October of this year. 

And, with Quinn first arriving in August of 2015, she’s essentially been along for the company’s entire journey. In fact, she has either directly made or has had a hand in the production process of every drink that the company has offered to date.

Over her eight-year career, Quinn has created hundreds of different products for Eau Claire and she says she cannot pick a favourite. “It’s kind of like asking what one of your children is your favourite,” says Quinn.

Despite that, she notes that one of her most cherished products is Eau Claire’s Christmas Gin, “That was my very first recipe from scratch with Eau Claire,” says Quinn. “The first batch of whiskey obviously [also] has a special place in my heart.”

It’s no secret that Quinn has played a huge role in getting Eau Claire from its beginnings a mere 10 years ago to its current state now as Canada’s most awarded craft distillery. 

When it comes to encouraging other women to pursue careers in the distilling industry, Quinn says, “Just go for it, don’t think it’s not for you just because someone else said so.”

Eau Claire Distillery’s products can be bought on their website, at select locations across the province, and at the Calgary Farmers Markets South & West.