Distiller Interview: Jeanne Runkle

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For my next Distiller Interview I have the one and only Jeanne Runkle! Jeanne and I were first introduced by fellow San Diego distiller Ray Digilio after we both contacted him about distilling experience. Jeanne, like me, was keen to get into distilling but at a bit of a loss as to how exactly to jump into the industry. Our first coffee date turned into an hours-long chat and surprise, surprise, Jeanne and I became fast friends. Little did I know when we first met, Jeanne was years deep into a well-orchestrated plan to leave the corporate world behind and pursue distilling! Following that passion for liquor-making ultimately led her to take up a distilling position in North Carolina and she’s since enjoyed stints at several distilleries across the country. Writer, blogger, distiller, jet engine mechanic, whiskey aficionado, Jeanne’s accolades go on and on – it’s my honor to feature her here (and to return the favor in doing so)! 

1. Explain a little bit about your background and how and when you came to have an interest in distilling.

I’ve always been a bit of a “jack of all trades” – my background ranges from being a jet engine mechanic in the Marines, to biotech, to the energy industry. And now liquor! My tastiest career choice to date, that’s for sure.

2. How did you come to the decision to actually pursue distilling?

My brother-in-law is a financial advisor, and he watches trends in various industries. About 3 years ago, he asked me if I’d heard about craft liquor. After doing my own research, I launched LikeYourLiquor.com less than a year later, a site dedicated to craft distillers and their delicious spirits. The more I interviewed distillers, the more I wanted to trade in my corporate cube for a still!

3. Tell us about your current post.

Right now, I’m working at Quincy Street Distillery in Chicago as their assistant distiller/marketing manager, as well as shaking up a few cocktails in our tasting room bar. Illinois marks my fifth state that I’ve lived in, in 2015!

4. What are some of the pros to being a “nomad” distiller of sorts, a.k.a. working at several operations, not having to go through the process of opening up your own shop, etc.

I’ve learned things from each place I’ve been and I like to think I share that knowledge with the people I meet. I’ll also say that boredom at work is a thing of the past – who has time for that?! Every day is a new challenge. Plus, if I’d decide to open my own distillery, I’m learning all the do’s and don’ts from the best – things like, “floor drains are a must”, or, “tanks that are flat on the bottom are a b*tch to clean”.

5. Your favorite thing about going to work each day?

I love the variety each day brings. I’m not just making the hooch – I’m slinging it at our bar, I’m marketing it. Plus, the people make every day fantastic – both my coworkers, and our customers.

6. I love how you fearlessly gave the corporate world the middle finger and jumped into pursuing a passion. Do you ever have regrets leaving a safe 9-5? Is there anything about your transition you’d do differently looking back?

Out of everything that’s happened this year, not once have I looked fondly back at my old cube and wished I’d done it differently. It took me about a year and a half to jump off the corporate ladder, so I like to think I planned as well as I could. The road’s not always been smooth – but when is anything puppies and rainbows all the time? I wouldn’t change a thing.

7. What’s on your bar cart right now?

I always try to pick up local bottles in a new town – which means my bar “cart” is more like a covered wagon! Right now, I’ve got [Quincy Street] barrel reserve gin and straight single malt (yum!) along with Letherbee’s traditional gin, and Starlight Distillery‘s apple brandy.

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{ Jeanne, slinging hooch since day 1. :) }

All photos courtesy Jeanne Runkle.

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