Lee Katrincic, Head Distiller

Chemist & Gin Distiller

To make a perfect blend like Conniption Gin, it helps when you start with a perfect blend of people. Okay - perfect is a strong word, but when it comes to Lee and Melissa Katrincic, it’s hard to think of a better way to describe their strengths.

Lee Katrincic is Durham Distillery’s co-founder and master distiller, or as we like to call him, our own resident Mad Scientist. Using a little bit of magic, a whole lotta science, and a big heapin’ spoonful of healthy curiosity, Lee spent night after night in the family kitchen, covering every surface with vials and beakers of his experimental concoctions – until he perfected Conniption Gin. Using locally sourced botanicals, Lee mixed and sipped and eliminated samples until he created the perfect recipes Durham Distillery uses today for our Gin and Damn Fine Liqueurs. He and Melissa then developed the vacuum distilled process unique to Conniption Gin.

And the cool thing is, Lee really is a scientist. With a BS in Chemistry from Penn State University, and a Masters from Lehigh University. Speaking of Chemistry, Lee met his future wife Melissa through online dating in 1999! They married and moved to North Carolina (where they were meant to be) in 2006. 

After graduating, Lee spent the two decades as Principal scientist at GlaxoSmithKline and Catalent Pharma Solutions. His innate innovative spirit led him to develop instrumental techniques such as FT-IR microscopy, Variable temperature IR microspectroscopy, IR surface imaging, DRIFT, grazing angle FT-IR, and far infrared spectroscopy. We’re not entirely sure what all that is, but we do know that type of brilliance is what brought Lee to developing award-winning Conniption Gin and Damn Fine Liqueurs here at Durham Distillery.

In 2013, when Melissa suggested they open a distillery, Lee was initially surprised, but eventually became excited about the idea and started to develop a plan to differentiate their product using his chemistry experience and inspiration from Research Triangle Park (RTP). They wanted to create a high-quality gin that would reflect the growth of Durham's restaurant and bar scene - or as Lee puts it, “we wanted to be worthy of being in Durham.”

After research, education, and lots of planning, Lee and Melissa officially began their distillery journey in early 2014, signing the lease to the building we continue to operate in today. The first batches of Conniption Gin in were sent out in August, and the doors officially opened on October 1st of that same year. It was an important date, as it was the first day North Carolinians could buy liquor outside of an ABC store.

Lee continued working full-time at Catalent during this time, spending weekends at the distillery until coming on full time in 2019.

One of Lee's proudest moments was when Conniption’s Navy Strength Gin received a Double Gold Award at the San Francisco Spirits Competition in 2017. The achievement signaled to Lee that they were making a quality product and they were doing the work they were meant to do. The Beverage Tasting Institute also gave their gin a 96/100 score, making it one of the highest-rated gins in the world.

Lee finds great satisfaction in building the brand and products with his partner from the ground up. Their success is a true blend of skills, and they’ve created not only an award winning lineup of products, but an inclusive, supportive and exciting place to work along the way.

Award Winning Science of Conniption

The 2023 World Gin Awards have granted our American Dry Conniption Gin and Navy Strength Conniption Gin the illustrious honor of Gold awards. To add to this triumph, our Navy Strength Conniption Gin has been designated as the Country Winner for the USA. The crowning glory continues for our Navy Strength Gin, which for 5 consecutive years has reigned supreme as the unrivaled champion of its class within America!