JESS Tomlinson is raising a glass to toast her own success, after being appointed the North-East’s first female gin distiller.

The 25-year-old started work at the Durham Gin micro-distillery in Langley Park, County Durham, last week.

“When I’m introduced as the distiller, a lot of people are surprised,” the chemistry graduate from Hexham, Northumberland, said.

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“But that doesn’t bother me. I want to be that person.”

Durham Gin was founded by Jon Chadwick, a former NHS chief from Durham City, and distilling began in a tiny industrial unit in January.

Miss Tomlinson is the only employee on site, responsible for the whole process – distilling, bottling and labelling.

“This is what I always wanted to do,” Miss Tomlinson, who has a master’s degree in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh, said.

“But there are very few opportunities. When this came up, it was absolutely great.”

Gin is produced by evaporating alcohol through various “botanicals”, such as juniper, elderflower, orange peel and lemon peel, and then condensing it.

The resulting liquid, which has an 80 to 85 per cent alcohol content, is then mixed with natural spring water and bottled at 40 per cent strength.

The Durham Distillery uses “Lily”, a 400-litre copper pot still handmade to order in Portugal, to produce 200 bottles per week for sale online, to bars and at events.

Part of Miss Tomlinson’s job is to taste the gin during production.

But, although she enjoys the drink, she consumes so little during a shift she is still able to drive home afterwards.

And, sadly, there are no free samples, as all produce must be registered with HM Revenue and Customs.

“Gin is definitely having a revival, particularly in London,” she said.

“A lot of people think of gin drinkers as older people, but all my friends drink it.”

A limited edition batch of Fruit Summer Cup, a 20 per cent strength version pink in colour with berry flavours, has just been produced and there are plans to start making vodka, at 200 bottles per month, from September.

Mr Chadwick also hopes to start growing a strain of juniper in a secret location in the Durham dales.

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