I am very fortunate doing what I do, I tend to hear about the latest gins before they reach the stores and often get to try samples and early developmental iterations and asked to give feedback. I get to see and taste the latest experimentations from a wide variety of distillers and am in awe of their talent and innovation.
However, I sometimes wonder whether the quest to have a “point of difference” to all the others gins out there (approximately 6,000) means distillers are straying too far from what makes gin (i.e. JUNIPER), gin resulting in little more than flavored vodka with the word gin on the label. I’m not saying there is anything wrong flavoured vodka, but there the cynic in me does question whether “GIN” is being slapped on a label because people know that gin sells.
So it was an immense relief (I may have actually gasped in delight) when I heard about Never Never gin and read the words “Triple Juniper gin on the label. As an unashamed juniper junkie I confess the pine and camphor notes of juniper fizzing around in a gin and tonic are what makes me happy. The last time a gin made this happy was when I tasted Sipsmith’s VJOP, another juniper-rich gin.
Triple Juniper gin is made in Adelaide by Tim, Sean and George from The Never Never Distilling Co. The name comes from the terms ‘Never Never’ which was first recorded in the late 19th century and was used to describe the uninhabited regions of Australia – then called just ‘The Never-Never’. The more remote regions of Australia’s outback are still known by that name. “Heading into the Never Never” was a test of strength and courage, with many an early explorer perishing in the vast expanses of Australia’s harsh outback.
For the team this term best describes the the excitement, dreams and the challenges that stretch out for a thousand miles in the journey of every small Australian distillery.
I caught up with the team when I was in Adelaide recently and had a gander at their teeny tiny distillery (expansion looms) and to find out more about Never Never Distilling Co.
The trio met in typical Adelaide fashion (i.e. everyone knows everyone) with Tim and Sean’s wives being best friends. Tim and George were at Uni together and when the three of them met at Whisky Live one year, the idea of making gin (and eventually whisky) in Adelaide was born.
The still was designed and made in Melbourne by Spark Brewing ( it was one of the first stills to come off their assembly line) and is a 300L copper pot with a 5 plate rectification column and gin vapour basket, both of which can be disconnected from the copper pot if required, allowing plenty of flexibility in terms of what the team can create. They decided to decided to call her ‘Wendy’ because there could not have been a lovelier sight!
As the name Triple Juniper gin suggests, the Never Never team use three different techniques to extract the most flavour from the juniper. They macerate (steep the juniper in the alcohol before distillation), distill in the pot and vapour infuse the berries to achieve the bold juniper flavour profile.
Triple Juniper Gin Botanicals
In addition to juniper the team use Australian coriander (they felt provided a brighter citrus and less earthiness than other coriander) plus angelica, orris root, native pepper berry and a small amount of cinnamon.
Tasting Never Never Triple Juniper Gin
The divine juniper gin sings out immediately upon opening the bottle, with zesty citrus aromas that made my mouth water. On tasting it has a bright piney juniper flavour with fresh citrus following through and a hint of rosemary. Earthy orris and angelica balance out the juniper and pleasant heat from the pepper berry provides a warm finish. Delicious and full-bodied with plenty of texture, Triple Juniper Gin makes a stunning G&T but is outstanding in a martini as I discovered at Maybe Mae in Adelaide.
Dark Series Southern Strength
Never Never’s Dark Series will consist of experimental and limited edition spirits. The first of these is their Southern Strength. Described by the team as a “beast of a gin” and coming in at 52% ABV you can see why. They used the same technique as with the Triple Juniper gin, but have tweaked the recipe slightly.
It’s certainly bolder than the original, without being overpowering. The smoothness hides the higher ABV. It has a slightly oily, resinous texture. Juniper is still the driving force, but the tweak to the recipe has given it a lengthier finish. I used this to make a glorious Army and Navy cocktail.
I am often over enthusiastic about gin. I do LOVE it so. However, with Never Never Triple Juniper Gin, I would go out on a limb and say that this is probably the best gin I have tasted all year (so far!).
They will also be joining us at Junipalooza Melbourne in October. To get your tickets click here.
To mark my forthcoming event “An evening with Lesley Gracie, Master Distiller, Hendrick’s gin”, I’m launching a new series called ‘Women in Gin’, where I’ll be featuring female distillers and other high profile females within the gin industry.
First up is Kristy Booth-Lark, who I had the privilege to meet when I spoke at the Asia Pacific Whisky & Spirits Conference in Adelaide last month. Kristy has distilling in her blood (her parents are Bill and Lyn Lark who founded the Australian spirits industry.)
Kristy is a talented distiller in her own right and is keen to promote women in the Australian Spirits Industry, so much so that she has recently formed the Australian Women in Distilling Association, Lyn Lark and Genise Hollingsworth (Blackgate Distillery are also on the committee)
Kristy opened Killara Distillery in July 2016 where she makes Apothecary Gin, Single Malt Whisky, brandy and other spirits
How long have you been a distiller?
I started distilling in 2005 at my parent’s distillery (although started working there in 1997).
How did you become a distiller?
Initially I wanted to be an Air Traffic Controller, I even applied to go to air traffic control school! and was lucky enough to be offered one of the 10 spots they had available. But, my eyes began to open to the (distilling) industry and I decided that air traffic control school was not for me and that I would rather be involved in the family business. So I began to take on more of a production/distillation role. My parents were very supportive and threw me straight into it! I learned heaps about whisky how to make it from my Dad, Bill, and heaps about gin and liqueurs and how to make those, from my mum, Lyn. Learning from them was a great experience, and one could say it was destined as I grew up with a 500 litre still outside my bedroom door!
What is the best thing about your job?
I love being able to create things and have control over the whole process.
When my parents distillery was sold and I was made redundant. I knew I wanted to open my own distillery. I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty again! Being able to experiment and create new things is so rewarding.
What is the most challenging thing about distilling gin?
Probably the hardest thing is creating the recipe. There are so many botanicals to choose from and people have such different preferences for how they like their gin to taste. At the end of the day you have to go with a recipe that you love which is what I’ve done. Although, I must admit the end recipe is different from how it was t the beginning. When I first started to develop the recipe, I had it in my head that I would definitely use rose, but it just didn’t work, it interacted in an unpleasant way with the other botanicals I decided to use. So it’s not in there!
How do you choose which botanicals to use?
When I started I distilled a wide range of things, probably about 50 in total, a mixture of herbs, spices and fruit. I then started mixing them together to see how they sat with other botanicals. Some things taste great on their own but when combined with other things will taste terrible (like the Rose I mentioned earlier). In the end I decided on a fairly juniper driven gin with citrus and an Australian twist.
Who or what inspires you?
Both my parents inspire me. My mum with the way she has quietly done things in the background all her career and has made some amazing spirits. Her knowledge and understanding of how flavours go together is fantastic. My dad is so passionate about whisky and the industry in general and is always so generous with his time and knowledge, I hope to be like him.
I am also inspired by people who get out of their comfort zones and to do something to follow their truth, whether it be to start a blog, write a book or walk the Camino (all of which I’d love to do!!)
Name your 3 favourite gins
- Apothecary Gin!! Of course
- The Botanist Gin (Islay, Scotland)
- None Such Sloe Gin (Tasmania, Australia)
What’s your favourite gin cocktail and why?
Negroni, every single time! I love the hints of bitterness and how Campari and vermouth combine with gin to create something so delicious
Which are your favourite bars?
The House of Whisky on Bruny Island (TAS) has it is one of the best gin and whisky collections I have ever seen. Society (Salamanca, TAS) is great as well, with a focus on Tasmanian spirits and a fantastic cocktail list.
Bad Frankie Bar in Melbourne, Seb has done so much to support Australian distillers.
What advice would you give to women wishing to become a distiller?
Start, just start! Approach someone in the industry, see if you can intern somewhere and definitely read as much as you can.
One of the reasons I started the Australian Women in Distilling Association (AWDA), was to promote awareness of the industry and to support women looking to become distillers. I’m hoping the organisation will become a place for women to find support, encouragement, inspiration and to celebrate other like-minded women in the Australian distilling industry.
If you are interested in finding out more about joining the AWDA, please email Kristy.
Sydney Bar Week is a little over 2 weeks away and I’m excited! It’s a great opportunity for me to catch up with bartenders from all over Australia and hear about the latest trends as well as learning from some of the best at the educational seminars (see, it’s not all drinking). With Leslie Gracie (Master Distiller, Hendrick’s Gin) coming over from the UK to join in the fun, it promises to be a week to remember.
While most of the activity is focused around bars and bartenders, one event is open to consumers and trade alike and is not to be missed!
Indie Spirits Tasting will feature over 140 brands including 25 Australian Distilleries! Whisky, gin, pisco, bourbon, absinthe, there is something for every booze geek. You’ll have a chance to taste and talk to the producers and there are even a few masterclasses running for a chance to get some in-depth knowledge.
Gins to look out for!
Gin Gin from Sardinia
Ferdinand’s Saar Gin
I HAVE 5 PAIRS OF TICKETS FOR INDIE SPIRITS TASTING SYDNEY TO BE WON!
All you have to do is complete the form below. Correct answers will be entered into a random draw.
- Over 18s only
- Winner must be available in Sydney on Sunday 17th September
- Winning tickets are non-transferable
- Winners will be notified within 24 hours of the competition closing on Friday 8th September
Father’s Day is coming up in Australia, so I’ve put together some ideas for Gin Gifts for Dad.
GILBERT AND GEORGE GIN BOTTLE CUFFLINKS BY TATTY DEVINE
Inspired by art duo Gilbert & George and their artistic approach to drink, these cufflinks are a button-through style, with a Tatty Devine plectrum fastening. Also available as a necklace.
Via The Gin Queen Shop.
Enright’s Gin Company Grooming Kit
Featuring gin scented hair paste and hand wash.
Available from Enright’s Gin Company
Calibrate Gin and Tonic Pocket Square
Dad will look super fancy wearing this divine pocket square (Available from Nordstrom)
Negroni/Martini pins from Love and Victory
These pins have been flying out of the Gin Queen store since I began stocking them. Dad will love one or both of these on his lapel.
Available from The Gin Queen Shop
NEVER NEVER GIN
The newest Australian gin from Adelaide will not disappoint if your dad is a juniper junkie like me. I’ll be doing a review in the coming weeks, but all you need to know right now is that Triple juniper gin is freaking delicious! (the juniper is treated in three separate ways, partially steeped, partially in the pot and partially in the vapour, hence the name!
Available from Never Never Distilling.
Jo Malone Black Cedarwood & Juniper Cologne 100ml
Described as Midnight rain. Seductive with the carnal touch of cumin and chilli leaves. Dark with cedarwood. Humid with moss. Modern and urban.
Via David Jones
Gumball Poodle Gin Crew Socks Blue/Yellow
OK, so socks for Dad are a bit passé, but how great are these?
Punk Long Drink x4
I adore these The Nachtmann NextGen line PUNK highball glasses which have has been developed in cooperation with the world-famous arts and design college Central Saint Martins in London. An edgy way to serve up your G&Ts!Available from David Jones.
(NOTE: I HAVEN’T BEEN PAID TO ENDORSE THESE PRODUCTS, THEY ARE JUST THINGS I THOUGHT YOU’D LIKE!)
Gin is a fantastic spirit for making infusions (try my Earl Grey Tea, Raspberry or rhubarb gin recipes) and this Grapefruit and Rosemary Gin with Ginger Ale from Ryan Chetiyawardana’s book Good Things to Drink is another to add to your repertoire.
Grapefruit and rosemary often pop up as gin botanicals (Melbourne Gin company and Gin Mare are examples) as well as making fantastic garnishes in a G&T. Together they make a fantastic infusion and on a cold winter day in Melbourne I felt positively mediterranean sipping on this!
The best thing about this particular infusion is that it doesn’t take too long for the flavours to be extracted, in fact, Ryan suggests no more than a day. As someone lacking in patience, I was very happy with the result after a couple of hours!
Ingredients for the Grapefruit and Rosemary gin
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 bottle of London Dry gin
Peel the grapefruits. Add peel to a clean, airtight glass container with the rosemary, sugar, and gin. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Leave to infuse for a few hours (no more than a day), then strain into a bottle and keep refrigerated.
Serving Grapefruit and Rosemary Gin with Ginger Ale
Add 50ml to a Collins (highball) glass and add ice. Top up with chilled ginger ale (I used Fentimans ginger beer as I had some to hand) and a grapefruit slice.
The IWSC (International Wines and Spirits Competition) is up there with the San Francisco World Spirits Awards in terms of prestige. Now in its 48th year, the IWSC not only has an experienced judging panel, but also puts each entry under chemical analysis to ensure the products are what they say they are. Integrity, accuracy and impartiality are at the heart of the competition’s ethos.
This year, the IWSC received nearly 400 gin entries from 35 different countries – an enormous 571% increase since 2013!
23 Australian gins were awarded medals; One gold medal, 17 silvers and 6 bronze.
Here are the winners:
Moore’s Dry Gin, Distillery Botanica, Erina, NSW
(PSA: Gin Queen on Tour to Sydney on 6th September will be visiting Distillery Botanica. Tickets available here.)
Brookie’s Gin Silver Outstanding, Cape Byron Distillery, NSW ~ Contemporary Styles
Angry Ant Gin, Bass & Flinders, Victoria ~ Contemporary Styles
Gin – Soft & Smooth , Bass & Flinders ~ Contemporary Styles
Archie Rose Distiller’s Strength Gin, Sydney, NSW ~Contemporary Styles
PLUS Bronze 2017 in Gin & Tonic category
Botanical Gin, Great Southern Distilling Company, WA ~ Contemporary Styles
Copper wave Gin, Hunter Distillery, NSW ~ Old Tom
Darley’s Gin, Aldi Stores Aust/Asahi ~ London Dry
Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin, Healesville, Vic ~ Wood Finished
Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin, Healesville, Vic ~ Contemporary Styles
Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, Healesville, Vic ~ Contemporary Styles
Four Pillars Spiced Negroni Gin ~Contemporary Styles
Kangaroo Island Spirits Wild Gin ~ Contemporary Styles
PLUS Silver 2017 in Gin & Tonic category
Kangaroo Island Spirits Old Tom ~ Old Tom category
Kangaroo Island Spirits Whisky Barrel Gin Silver Outstanding ~ Cask Finished
23rd Street Distillery Signature Gin, Adelaide, SA ~ Contemporary Styles
The Splendid Gin, TAS ~ Contemporary Styles
Prohibition Bathtub Cut Gin ~ Wood Finished – 69%
PLUS Gold medal in Packaging
Bass & Flinders Gin 10 – Wild & Spicy ~ Contemporary Styles
Bass & Flinders Monsoon Gin ~ Contemporary Styles
Kalki Moon Premium Gin ~ London Dry
PLUS Bronze medal 2017 in Gin & Tonic category
Kangaroo Island Spirits O’ Gin~ Contemporary Styles
Ounce Gin ~ Contemporary Styles
Distillery Botanica Rather Royal Gin ~ London Dry
PLUS Bronze medal in Packaging category
Huge congratulations to all the medallists!
While I didn’t manage to crack 8 distilleries in 7 days like I did during my 2015 trip, I was able to pop into a couple, including 58 Gin in Hackney, where I caught up with owner and Master Distiller, Mark Marmont.
Originally from Australia, Mark settled in London after meeting his wife. He didn’t like gin back then, put off by his dislike of cardamom and star anise which he found in many of the gins he tried. He started to take an interest in the London cocktail scene and as he learned more about gin from his bartender friends, decided to develop his own gin.
Mark opened the 58 gin distillery on Australia Day 2014, fitting for the former dive master and boat skipper from Sydney. Nestled under the railway arches in Hackney, the distillery is a tiny space filled with alembic stills in a variety of sizes. I was struck by the tidiness (I’ve been to A LOT of distilleries that could learn a thing or two) and Mark proudly showed off all the carefully designed hidden storage space that keeps the distillery in order.
Why 58 gin? Fortunately, this isn’t a reference to the number of botanicals, but is the number on the door of Mark’s house. The angel wings on the label represent Angel, the London borough where Mark lives.
Mark follows a traditional (one-shot) method of producing his gin. The botanicals are steeped over night and distilled very slowly to get the maximum flavour from the ingredients. It’s a painstaking process and only 90 bottles are produced at a time.
58 Gin Botanicals
Mark, like many distillers, initially experimented at his kitchen bench, playing around with different ingredients and refining his recipe. At one point he told me he had 30 different botanicals on the go and in his words “it was ridiculous! I couldn’t find any balance”. After paring everything back to the basics he settled on nine; juniper, coriander seeds, orris root, angelica, cubeb pepper, Sicilian lemon, pink grapefruit, bergamot and bourbon vanilla.
Tasting 58 Gin
Juniper and grapefruit notes are really clear on the nose. On the palate, it totally hits the mark with good juniper flavour and delicious citrus notes from the grapefruit and bergamot. There is a little lingering pepperiness from the cubeb and a merest hint of vanilla that thankfully doesn’t overpower. It’s a full-bodied gin with a smooth, round finish. So tasty!
Drinking 58 Gin
With lots of juniper and citrus, 58 gin is a natural winner in a G&T, but savoury enough to enjoy in a martini. Mark’s preference is in a Gibson (silverskin onions are always available in the distillery fridge) and I tend to agree!
While 58 Gin isn’t available to buy in Australia at the moment, it can’t surely be long before we welcome this delightful gin. I’ve already started nagging Mark about Junipalooza Melbourne next year!
Country of Origin: UK
If you haven’t yet bought a copy of Sasha Petraske’s book Regarding Cocktails, then do it now. It’s full of exquisite cocktails created by Sasha and the many renowned bartenders who worked and learned with him at Milk and Honey.
Too Soon was created by Sam Ross (Attaboy, New York and creator of the world-famous Penicillin) and features the underrated Cynar, an aperativo that I’ve been learning to love. This bitter-sweet Italian liqueur is made with 13 herbs and botanicals, with artichoke being the predominant flavour. Don’t that put you off though! This cocktail is deliciously fresh with sweetness of the orange balanced nicely with the Cynar.
Ingredients for a Too Soon
22 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
15ml simple syrup
2 thin slices of orange
Shake all the ingredients in an ice-filled shaker until cold. Strain into a chilled coupe.
One of the highlights of my trip to the UK last month, was my visit the Diageo Archives in Scotland, which contains the records of Tanqueray, Gordon’s and Boord’s gin, as well as Smirnoff, Johnny Walker and Baileys. It was undoubtedly one of my most thrilling experiences of my gin career so far!
I was welcomed to the archive by Joanne McKerchar, Diageo’s Senior Archivist responsible for the gin and malts. whose job I would give my right arm for. When I expressed my (not so mild) jealousy, she told me; “I know, I was lucky, wasn’t I? I didn’t quite know what to do after University where I studied history. I didn’t want to be a teacher, so I went to work at the national archives of Scotland for a year. I really enjoyed that. So I decided to do my Masters in Archives and Records Management in Liverpool and was appointed to this position on graduating.”
The site of the archive is a former whisky distillery which ceased production in 1925 and turned into a centre for producing and testing yeast. Labs were added and much of the innovation surrounding whisky comes from this centre. There is a wonderful family connection as Joanne’s grandfather worked here as a baker testing the yeast. While he is no longer alive and didn’t know of her role, Joanne said she feels a strong connection and sometimes comes across photos of him during her research.
The archive was established twenty years ago by Doctor Nick Morgan. Joanne explained that up until then, because of the various companies that had owned each brand there was material at lots of different sites around the UK.”Nick took upon himself to try and centralise all of the historically records in one place, which was a huge task”.
The archive was expanded about 2 years ago, with a £1.5 million investment in the archive this allowed them to add the Liquid Library.
The earliest records are for gin and go back to the 1740’s, with their earliest gin brand, Boord’s. The archives contain anything from minute books, letters, ledgers, old advertising, huge packaging collections, and recipe books. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to see some of these up close!
Joanne’s job doesn’t just entail looking after the historical items, but she is also responsible for gathering everything ongoing so that nothing is lost for the future. “We work in partnership with our teams, our global marketing teams, or in-market teams at the moment to make sure that receive everything they do, as well as keeping an eye on auction sites to see if anything unusual comes up that we might want to buy.”
The Liquid Library
The Liquid Library is a treasure trove of booze from some of the oldest to the latest launches, everything is here. Obviously, I was very keen to research the gin!
The role of the archive
The archive isn’t open to public, so is it simply a nice thing for the company to have? Joanne told me that, “For the business to support us we have to be commercially viable, and we are. We have to make sure that everything that we do delivers against the gin team agenda. For example, whatever our Tanqueray team is working on at the moment I have to think about how I can support them with the records, the information, and the knowledge that I have, to help them succeed in that project.”
Joanne responds to discussions with bartenders that the global team has to identify trends in the gin world. A good example is Old Tom gin. She turned to Charles Tanqueray’s recipe books (whose handwriting was in her words “horrendous”) and former master distiller, Tom Nichol relied on Joanne to translate and interpret the handwriting. She made me laugh with one story of Tom (who is known for his colourful language) returning something to her saying “Oh, Jo, for f*@%’s sake, it says a tub. How big is a tub?”. She patiently replied “Well, how big do you want the tub to be? Now go and interpret this recipe and make it into something special!”
According to Joanne, Charles Tanqueray’s recipe books offer a real insight into who he was. Each one has notes alongside saying things like “Not good. Don’t try that again.” as well as his workings rather than just finished recipes.
She explained, “It’s him experimenting to get to that perfected finished thing. The recipe books are massive because he’s just trying so many different things, it’s constant trial and error. He also gives really good details like, ‘You run the still for this long. You run it at this temperature’, so they’re very precise. He’s also using botanicals, fruits, anything that he can get his hands on from everywhere! And he’s not just making gin, he’s making fruit liquors, rums, brandies, he’s even got cocktail recipes in there. So it really is anything and everything. And then, because he’s a bit crazy and excentric, you’ll have things like a boot polish recipe. or pills to cure your horse when it has a sore stomach, and stuff like that. He was a chemist, very scientific, very factual. But he did have a bit of a twinkle.”
I spent hours at the archive, and barely scratched the surface! It was an extraordinary experience and I am very grateful to Joanne for her time and the entire Tanqueray team for making my visit happen.
Melbourne winters are brutal and this one seems to be more bitterly cold than usual. From someone who withstood years of English winters, this is saying something. Sloe gin is my go to in winter and this rich spiced Sloe gin and Tempranillo Negroni by Dan Jones in his book Gin: Shake, Muddle and Stir is perfect for cold evenings. You could even heat it up a little to keep your hands warm!
Ingredients for Sloe gin and Tempranillo Negroni
30ml Sloe and Star Anise Gin
30ml Tempranillo reduction
orange peel/star anise to garnish
To make the Sloe and Star Anise infused gin
For his recipe Dan has created a sloe and star anise gin from scratch, using fresh ripe sloe berries, as they are easier to come by in the UK. Fortunately I had some delicious McHenry sloe gin to hand so, I added some star anise to the sloe gin and infused for three days.
To make Tempranillo reduction
200ml Tempranillo wine
pinch of crushed star anise
100g of dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon of corn syrup or golden syrup (optional)
Simmer the wine and star anise in a non-stick pan and slowly add the sugar. Turn down heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reduced by a third. Turn off the heat and leave for 20-30 minutes to cool and for the flavours to infuse. Adding the corn syrup to the finished product will keep the reduction smooth.
To make to Sloe Gin and Tempranillo Negroni
Stir the ingredients in a mixing glass over ice. Strain into a rocks glass filled with a large ice-cube. Garnish with the orange peel and or star anise.