Amass Master Distiller on bottling nature

A woman working at a table.

Morgan McLachlan, the Master Distiller and Chief Product Officer of botanical brand Amass, discusses combining creativity with technical skill and breaking into the boys’ club of distilling

By Aleah Aberdeen    Images courtesy of Morgan McLachlan and Amass    Thursday 22 October, 2020   Short read

Amass Master Distiller and Chief Product Officer Morgan McLachlan has always considered everyday botanicals essential to emotional health and dining experiences. Growing up by the mountains of Vancouver, botany and nature have always been present in her environment. Today, the LA-based member surrounds herself with agricultural inspiration, distilling regional spirits from her home in Echo Park. But in March, just under a year after the launch of the spirits brand with a signature Dry Gin, McLachlan saw another opportunity for botanicals to serve a vital purpose – hand sanitiser. Its cinnamon and allspice scented spray is now the go-to sanitiser in all Soho Houses. 

Led by CEO Mark Thomas Lynn, Amass – meaning ‘to gather’ – uses multicultural and non-traditional botanicals to offer spirit categories with variety, working in the realms of technicality and creativity. ‘You have to know the rules before you break them,’ explains McLachlan. Reishi and adaptogenic mushrooms, which are featured ingredients in Amass Dry Gin, certainly push the boundaries for experimentation. Given the economic boom of the wellness industry, integrating spirits with natural medicines seems on the mark. 

Orange peel and nutmeg are also among the 29 botanicals used to distill the Dry Gin, in celebration of the cultural terrain of contemporary Los Angeles. ‘California is the salad bowl of America. I have a love affair with the landscape,’ explains McLachlan down the phone from her home in LA.
A lit candle with Amass written on the side.
Two bottles of product with Amass written on the side.
As a master in distilling and a chief in product development for Amass, McLachlan, who co-founded The Spirit Guild distillery in 2012, is one of the few females in her field.

‘Historically, distilling has been a boys’ club,’ she says. ‘I don’t fit the traditional mould of an old white man who is probably from the South.’ But with her background as a film technician, this male-centric narrative comes as no surprise to her. ‘There were about 5% of women working with cameras when I was in the industry, and there’s even less than that in distilling – but I don’t let that bother me. We need to support each other and encourage other women in the field to have intention.’

A gift for technical skills, combined with McLachlan’s passion for craft and precision, has pushed her to succeed in such a male-heavy environment. ‘These technical elements, the genre aesthetic conventions of cinema, all exist in distilling,’ she explains, referring back to her old film days. Trading in the Hollywood entertainment world for California’s Central Valley clementines wasn’t as dissimilar as one might think.
A woman writing in a notebook at a table.
‘For me, it’s a mindful process. It’s putting words to flavours derived from our cultural and physical landscape,’ says McLachlan. In turn, social and personal rituals become more enjoyable. When it came to creating the scents for the hand sanitisers – there are three different combinations available – she wanted to offer an alternative to the clinical options on the market and find a different sensory narrative. For example, eucalyptus and allspice are used in the Four Thieves hand sanitiser, which were ingredients historically believed to prevent the spread of the plague in medieval Europe.

‘My hope is that there is a dawn of a renaissance and that we become more mindful of what we drink and put into our bodies,’ says McLachlan, who prioritises transparency over the ingredients she uses in any Amass products, which historically hasn’t been the case for all alcohol brands. As we move towards gathering together more often, Amass is constantly evolving to find new ways to update traditional practices for the modern day.
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