Written by: Tom Fitzpatrick
Date: 17th November 2023
For those of you who followed Premier League football in the 2000s, you’ll be very familiar with one John O’Shea. He played for Manchester United and the Ireland National Team. He won many trophies in the later years of Fergie’s reign at United. He was often used as a utility player – meaning he would be asked to play in multiple positions which could and would change from game to game. Fergie would stick him in centre half on the Saturday and centre midfield on Tuesday in the Champions league. Basically, he was there to do whatever the team required.
I feel I can relate to J O’Shea in my own employment. I’ve worked here for nearly 6 years now and in that time, I have contributed to several roles for the distillery. When I first came on board in May 2018, it was in a part time capacity as I was still working at a restaurant in Manchester. I began to help with events – which were popular then in the gin category. There was somewhere to be every week showcasing the gin. One week you’d be doing a festival in Bristol and the next you’d be closer to home doing a farmer’s market in Helmshore.
The distillery bar, The Cuckoo’s Nest was just taking off – and given my background in bartending, I was called upon to put a shift in there too. I have discussed in detail with my colleagues before – if there was such a thing as a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday bartending job, we’d find it hard to turn it down! It is still my favourite thing to do but given how life changes and moves on, the hours just didn’t suit me anymore!
Our experiences – Gin Tours and Workshops is where I dipped my toes next. These were quite daunting for me. I had never spoken publicly and actively avoided doing so, to be honest! I was nervous every time I did a tour or workshop. I’ve heard people say that’s a good thing, but I struggled to shake them and ended up not looking forward to getting up there in front of sometimes 50+ people. With every job, there are elements of it that we won’t enjoy or not enjoy as much as other aspects. It turned out I was pretty good at speaking publicly but regardless of that – I still couldn’t shake the anxiety of it!
I was then entrusted to push the gin into on/off trade venues throughout the North West and beyond – as well as a few retail outlets along the way! This was something I’d had experience in before and something I felt was naturally the next step in my career. I loved the buzz of getting the products into a new venue. What was particularly rewarding to me was being out in the places I’d got the gin stocked into and seeing people ordering and drinking it. It felt like a pat on the back!
Fast forward then to Christmas 2022, and an opportunity arose for me to move into the distillation and production side of the distillery. I’d chipped in before with bottling and labelling, but never spent significant time in production. My role now is to distil the gins, the rum and the vodka. On top of this, I look after bottling, labelling, warehousing, quality control, stock control and forklift truck driving! It’s been a big change for me to work solely in the distillery but a change which I have enjoyed a lot. Nearly a year into my new role and I have learnt so much and hoping in the next couple of years to be able to call myself a master distiller – which will be mind blowing!
As you’ve read up to now, I’ve chipped in with pretty much everything at Cuckoo and feel genuinely at home here. I even celebrated my wedding in the distillery – which I will always be grateful for. What a day!
I’ve often felt a bit of imposter syndrome – not just here at Cuckoo but in previous jobs as well – and probably in life generally! Do you think O’Shea felt a bit like that at United? He was willing to play anywhere he was told to play to just be at the club he loved. I have felt like that in the past. But now I feel like I have found my position, but not scared to play in a different one when needed! Just call me Mr Versatility!