9 Questions with Georgia Billing, GM at the Home of Whitley Neill
1) Why is your brand so special? Give us your best cocktail party pitch.
Everyone loves the Whitley Neill range because the botanical flavours enable you to take a trip around the world- in gin! The original London Dry gin was inspired by Africa and now made in London, and similarly each of the gins has their own individual story to tell. The Neill family are also very much involved with the production process, now headed by Johnny Neill lending his experienced touch and palate to the development of each and every gin, inherited from eight generations of distillers.
2) Tell us about your new distillery in London?
When the City of London Distillery opened in 2012, it was the first operational distillery in the area for nearly 200 years, bringing gin production back to its historic origins. Distillation began on a pair of copper pot stills named after the two fat ladies- Jennifer and Clarissa, a third still was added in 2016 and was named after Queen Elizabeth in her jubilee year! The distillery is multi award-winning, and brings together craft and provenance, with the global presence and popularity of the Whitley Neill gin range. City of London Distillery prides itself on honouring traditional gin recipes, teamed with fresh, contemporary ideas. As a traditional London Dry Gin style, the Whitley Neill Connoisseur’s Cut is a great example of this fusion.
3) How did you get to where you are now?
I grew up in a family of hospitality professionals, and started working in bars to fund my studies and backpacking. Part-time jobs turned into a full-time passion, and after I completed a PhD in nutrition research, I finally decided to fully dedicate my career to hospitality. I had to restart from scratch as a bar-back (I was probably the most over qualified bar-back in London at that time), but I was ready to work up to management the hard way. I was lucky to work in many roles with various spirits, and had the chance to travel as a result of participating in cocktail competitions, which all helped expand my industry network. It was from this network that I heard about a job available at the City of London Distillery. After nearly two decades in the hospitality industry, and now two years managing the distillery and bar, I’m still not tired!
4) What has been your greatest learning in this job?
Hospitality has taught me more about tolerance and self-control than any of my academic pursuits. Also, teamwork has a whole new meaning, I don’t think I have ever relied on a team the way I have when working in bars!
5) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received along the way?
Customer complaints: it may not be your fault, but it is your problem to fix! So don’t take it personally.
6) What has been the most edifying moment of your working life to date?
Observing my peers surviving through the pandemic, I realised we are a fearless and resilient lot! I am definitely where I want to be.
7) If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing with your life?
If I had become a medical researcher, I think I would still be bartending part-time, or throwing the odd cocktail party.
8) What would you order as your desert island drink?
Perhaps a Negroni, but as it’s a desert island, make it a frozen Negroni!
9) What is your one guilty pleasure, or is there more than one?
I think I have a soft spot for all of those milky and multi-coloured drinks from the 90s and 2000s. The recipes were far from elegant and anything but balanced, but those were the first cocktails I ever had, and from then on, I wanted to try more, and learn more.