Father’s Day is looming in Australia and unless your Dad has specifically asked for socks or undies, let’s try to use a little more imagination shall we? I’ve put together a collection of gifts for the gin-loving Dad that will let your him know that he definitely raised you right.
Poor Toms Fool Strength Gin
You know already that I am a big fan of Griff and Jesse’s work at Poor Toms in Sydney and when they told me a few months ago that they were planning an over-proof gin, I was really excited. 8 months on and they’ve finally released Poor Tom’s Fool Strength gin and it was definitely worth the wait!
At 52% ABV, it has a bolder a juniper flavour but is still of the same quality and smoothness that you get in the original.
$79.00 ~available from Poor Toms.
Santamanìa Reserva is a barrel-aged gin from the first urban distillery in Madrid. Using french oak that previously held Rioja, the team have adjusted the botanicals so that the gin flavour is retained, but with a hint of spice and a little vanilla. Delicious over ice or in a Negroni.
$60+ ~available from Master of Malt
Waterford Crystal London DOF Tumbler Pair
Share a gin old-fashioned with your Dad served up in these beauties and you’ll be his favourite child.
$249 for the pair ~available from Waterford Crystal.
Cocktail Kingdom Stirred Set
Everything Dad will need to make a great shaken drink.
Includes large and small Koriko® tins, Koriko® Hawthorne strainer, Mexican Beehive™ Juicer, ice cube mould and a Japanese Style Jigger.
$102.70 ~available from Cocktail Kingdom.
The Australian Spirits Guide by Luke McCarthy
You’ll have to give Dad an I.O.U for this one as it’s not released until 1st October, but I promise it will be worth it. Luke has unearthed sixty of Australia’s best spirits and covers the history, creation, tasting notes and serving suggestions. There is even a handy price guide included.
$30.75 ~ available from Booktopia.
Four Pillars Distillery Tee
If you’ve already shared the Four Pillars gin love with your Dad, then why not give him one of these great looking T-shirts? Designed by Australian illustrator Rohan Cain, this limited edition features Wilma, the first Four Pillars still.
$40 ~available from Four Pillars.
Jo Malone Black Cedarwood and Juniper Cologne
Described as seductive, modern and urban, you might not be able to resist keeping this one for yourself.
$95.00 (30ml) ~available from Jo Malone.
Let me know if you have any other gin gift ideas to share!
(Note: All of these items were selected by me and are included because I like them, not through sponsorship)
They say you should never meet your heroes because you’ll come away disappointed, but when the opportunity arose to meet and interview Desmond Payne, Master Distiller of Beefeater Gin, I couldn’t resist.
The word ‘Legend’ in relation to people is overused in my opinion, but Desmond is the real deal and revered in the industry by bartenders and distillers alike. It’s easier to see why. Jolly, intelligent and eager to share his knowledge, it was an absolute pleasure to meet him.
How long have you been in the industry?
I started making gin in London in 1967. I was in the wine trade and I joined a company who were a wine and spirit merchant. They had a gin distillery called Seagar Evans and I became a trainee. I found it fascinating. They also owned Plymouth gin so I then spent quite a lot of time down there, about 25 years. After which I moved to Beefeater where I’ve been for the past 20 years.
How much has the industry changed?
If you went into a bar, there’d be three whiskies and probably one gin, Now, I was in a bar in Valencia, Spain, about 10 months ago, and they had 624 brands of gin. That’s what’s changed. It’s a great time for gin. The consumers are better informed, everyone’s reading back labels. They want to know what’s in things that they’re consuming.
People are much more inquisitive. They want to know about things that they’re eating, drinking, what clothes are made of, where they come from.
Do you feel like you have to defend Beefeater, because the perception is it’s not made in the same way as ‘craft’ gin?
It’s funny that somehow, gin got a reputation for being slightly industrial like vodka. Gin comes out of a big factory somewhere. It’s absolutely not true. We do everything. We weigh things by hand and we do exactly what they (‘craft’ distillers) do but on a larger scale.
Craft is not enough. You actually need a combination of craft and skill and various other things. It’s about how you do things and how all the decisions are made by people and not machines. We use computers, of course, (they send us damn emails!) but the decisions are made with the nose and palate. When we look at our juniper crop each year, we’re looking at something like 200 samples of juniper berries from each year’s crop. Consistency is something that’s much easier to achieve on larger scale.
What is the best thing about your job?
It’s the sheer variety. I’m very lucky in that I’ve pretty much always been in a situation where I’m involved in everything from buying the juniper berries and assessing the quality of the botanicals, right through to distillation and lately a lot of new product development. Gin is on a roll! I’ve made six new gins over the last six years. In the previous forty, none!
How do you feel about that there are some gins having only four botanicals and others so many it’s difficult to remember them all?
I think honestly it doesn’t matter. There’s one gin we all know with four botanicals, it’s good gin. It’s how they complement each other and how they balance, and how work in the simplest gin and tonic. Not all gins work perfectly in all cocktails.
You know, a good gin should be versatile, but it should have enough integrity to work on its own. Which is why the Burrough’s Reserve is a sipping gin. It’s pure gin. You don’t have to do anything with it.
Do you welcome that kind of innovation?
Yes, but be careful. I think some of the new gins are trying almost too hard. When I talk to the botanical suppliers they say, oh I’m getting people phoning all the time saying, “What have you got that nobody else is using?”, which is fine, but what impact does it make on the flavour? The thing I’ve really learned over the mistakes I’ve made in the last 45 years, is it’s a gentle touch.
With Beefeater 24, what I had to do was to create a new balance but in a different place, but it still has to be balanced. It has to have its own integrity. It’s like making a cocktail, that extra drop of lemon juice or whatever would just change the character. There’s always a tipping point of which, “whoops, gone too far”. There’s no way back. It’s about balance.
What is the most challenging thing about distilling gin?
It’s finding a balance, in creating a gin, and maintaining that gin as being consistent. I’m very aware as a gin distiller that I make is not what anybody drinks, hardly ever. There’s always something else done to it, I’m kind of halfway. My job as a distiller is to produce something that is well balanced and has that potential and the ability to work in many directions in the hands of a good bartender. Whichever way he or she wants to take it.
Are you going to be doing more new gins?
I’m sure I haven’t finished. I was fortunate enough to receive a life-time achievement award the other day. I said, “Thank you very much, I’ve very pleased to have it, but actually, I haven’t finished yet.”
How did you go about selecting which additional botanicals or what flavors to use when you made your new gins?
Beefeater 24 was my first, and it took a while. A year and a half!
The marketing guys are saying, “Come Desmond, we’ve got the packaging done, and the launch party, we’ve got a date. How’s the gin coming on?” and I’m saying “I’m not ready yet!”.
You kind of wait for inspiration. There are two things that make all these gins different. One is, what botanicals? That’s where the flavour comes from. The other is how you make it. The rest is marketing, equally important. It’s about putting packaging and everything else on a bottle. What I didn’t want to change with making Beefeater 24 was the ‘how’. That 24 hour steeping period that comes from the name. I try to tell people it’s my age, but obviously it doesn’t work! That 24 hour steeping period is so important in integrating all these flavours. I didn’t want to change that, so I changed the botanicals.
Beefeater’s a great, well balanced recipe and James Burrough’s picture’s in my office watching me to make sure that I don’t change his gin! That’s why I’m the custodian of that. The inspiration came to use tea in Beefeater 24 because I had been in Japan about a year beforehand. You work quite hard in when you’re in Japan and I’m ready for my gin and tonic at the end of the day and Beefeater’s number 1 everywhere, but Japanese tonic water is different or was then. They weren’t allowed to use quinine as it’s considered a medicinal drug, and you can’t put drugs in food stuffs (although I think they can do it now). So the Japanese tonic was different, so my gin and tonic is different. I’m not really happy, so what to drink?
What sort of things were around? Tea, Iced lemon tea, green tea, and I thought ‘will that that work?’. And wow, yes it does. The molecular structure of tea means it works very successfully with other flavours. I thought, okay, tea works as a mixer. How would it work in distillation? I started experimenting with different teas. That’s how I started. It’s just that light bulb moment when you think, ah, that’s something worth pursuing.
What about the Garden gin?
There is a wonderful garden in London, the Chelsea Physic Gardens. Which was planted, I don’t know 300 years ago. It’s filled with medicinal herbs for apothecaries and with James Burrough starting life as pharmacist in Chelsea I thought it would be a fascinating place to visit. I saw this lemon verbena there, and I thought, I love citrus notes, and I love to use citrus in a different way. I used the kaffir lime leaves in another gin and the summer gin I made was more floral, with hibiscus and black currant leaves while the winter gin I made more spicy. I hadn’t really looked at herbaceaous flavours so I went with adding thyme and lemon verbena to the nine Beefeater botanicals because that is always my starting point.
Do you think there are too many gins on the market?
You know, they won’t all survive I’m afraid. It’s not easy to get something off the ground and then on somebody’s shelf. I kind of have a suspicion that when that happens people will come back to the classics. Classic, to me means something that’s been around for a while. Why has it been around for a while? Because it works, because it’s good.
It’s really fascinating. I do see, now, a lot of gins, using local botanicals. In Australia, South Africa, and all over the place, which is really nice to see. But don’t do it just because it’s local, do it, number one, because it works. That’s the whole thing about gin. English gin, London gin, none of the botanicals come from London, the art is the skill of putting it together. It’s what we do well in England. We bring things in from the world and turn them into something else and send them back again. Like marmalade.
Who/what inspires you?
I travel a lot these days. Which is great. You pick up inspiration everywhere you go. I think this generation of bartenders, and I’m not saying this because we’re sitting in the middle of Tales of the Cocktail, are better at their game than the ones we all give reverence to, Harry Craddock and the rest of them. I think this generation are better than them. They are so creative.
They understand their art and they’re passionate about what they do. They’re producing great things. They’re a great inspiration to me. The thing that persuaded me to do Burrough’s Reserve as an aged gin was having an aged negroni in Clyde Common in Portland Oregon. What a difference that made!
Your favourite gin cocktail and why?
Oh, there’s so many. I’m a negroni fan, but I discovered about a year ago I’m diabetic so I’m watching the sugar. I’m kind of back on dry martinis. It’s gin. It’s what I’m saying about balance, not overdoing things. It’s that little bit of vermouth, and good gin. It’s that combination that just changes that balance. When you have a twist or olive, or the thing I love, is onion.
Which are your favourite bars (anywhere in the world)
Oh my goodness. Every time I go somewhere I find new ones.
In London, classic Dukes Hotel, their martinis and that mad Italian bartender.
What is it about their martinis?
It’s the theatre!
LA, I’d never been there before, and I went to a bar there a couple months ago called Melrose Umbrella Company, which was great.
What was it that you liked about them? What sort of makes a good bar for you?
You can see that they love and they’re passionate about what they’re doing. It’s like any great restaurant seeing the chef working. It’s a passion you see that really makes it work. In Barcelona, there’s a bar called Boadas. Just off the Ramblas. It’s been there forever and they have making been making these cocktails forever. The Elderly bartenders do it the way they’ve always done it and they throw the drinks. It is just magnificent. I’d say I’d want to die there.
What’s next? Any future plans?
We’re bringing back Crown Jewel. It was originally made for duty free but when we launched Beefeater 24, we stopped Crown Jewel. Every time I speak to bartenders, somebody says, “I’ve got a question, why did you stop Crown Jewel?” I said, “Look, it’s finished, get over it.” But, last year we brought it back, as a thank you to the bartenders.
There’s always something about their mind bubbling away. Whether it ever ends up being a new gin or not I don’t know. I’m working with this David Munoz at DiverXO in Madrid to produce a gin for and with him. That’s an interesting experience. He’s an incredible guy. I have so much admiration for these people. It really stretches the brain. I see bartenders at the top of their game. They love to show you want they’re doing. “Oh try this, try this.” You think, wow, the care you go to do these things. It’s great.
East London Liquor Company was one of several distilleries I managed to pack in to my week in London last year. I was really impressed by their set up in East London, which is the first vodka, gin and whisky distillery to open there in 100 years.
Founded by Alex Wolpert and housed in a former glue factory, East London Liquor company combines a working distillery with a fantastic bar setting, and is a little reminiscent of Archie Rose in Sydney, which does the same.
The overarching aim of the distillery is produce spirits that are “accessible in flavour and price” and East London Liquor Company Dry Gin certainly achieves that.
The botanicals: Juniper, coriander, fresh lemon and grapefruit peel, angelica root, cubeb berries, and cardamom.
On the nose there is plenty of cardamom and citrus, but taste wise it’s incredibly well-balanced with a good juniper flavour and a little spice and warmth from the cubeb at the end. It is beautifully smooth with a long finish.
The great thing about a well-balanced classic style gin is it’s versatility. As expected it makes a great gin and tonic, but you could use this gin in pretty much every cocktail, which was the aim in its creation. Many bars use this as their ‘house pour’ and it would serve you well in your home bar. I went with a White Lady (sans egg) as my other trial cocktail and wasn’t disappointed.
In addition to their Dry gin, East London Liquor Company also produces two premium gins with a higher ABV. Batch No. 1 features Darjeeling tea and Batch No. 2 which is more savory, has bay, fennel and sage as key botanicals. In 2016 they also launched an experimental barrel-aged gin program.
None of other variations these are available in Australia yet, but I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed. In the mean time I’ve going to enjoy this East London Liquor Company Dry gin. As the saying goes…a gin in my hand….
Country of origin: UK
Note: I received this bottle for the purposes of review. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
It’s been almost 3 weeks since I returned from my first Tales of the Cocktail and some days it’s hard to believe I was really there. I packed so much in to the week, but there was so much more I could have done!
Why did I want to go?
Living in Australia we don’t always get to see many of the industry heavy hitters visiting that often. This was a great opportunity for me to catch up with lots of international people who I’d been dying to meet or interview as well as get some serious learning in at the seminars.
I was planning to make it to Tales last year so had spent lots of time talking to friends who’d been and learning as much as I could about the event, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer scale of the event!
I didn’t see as much as I would have liked, but I fell in love with the architecture, the weather (aside from the humidity!), the bars and the vibe.
Most people think that Tales is one long party (and there is plenty of partying), but the seminar program is an incredibly important part of the week. Philip Duff, the Director of Education for Tales oversees the whole schedule and this year there were 84 sessions to choose from. These ranged from informal tastings to 2 hour seminars on anything from bar management, history, cocktails, cocktail trends, ingredients, culture, all with formidable panels eager to share their wisdom.
Bartending is not a stop-gap job while you make up your mind what you really want to do. It’s a career worth investing in and hundreds of bartenders save up all year to attend these seminars and learn from the best.
It simply wasn’t possible for me to attend every single one, but the ones I did attend were fantastic. My highlights were:
A Great British Discussion on Gin with Ian Griffiths (Dandelyan/White Lyan), Dave Broom (celebrated author of the Gin Manual) and Duncan Macrae (Hendrick’s Global Brand Ambassador)
A lovely informal chat over some delicious Hendrick’s cocktails and plenty of opportunities to ask questions about where the gin boom is heading.
Big Gin Small Gin, The Producers talk with Allen Katz (New York Distilling Company), Mikey Enright (The Barber shop Sydney), Jake F Burger (Portobello Road Gin), and Ivano Tonutti (Master of Botanicals at Bombay Sapphire).
It was really interesting to hear from such a wide variety of distillers. The similarities regardless of scale was illuminating. This seminar will run again (with a different panel) as part of Sydney Bar week.
Why do Cocktail Cultures Develop or Don’t with Mikey Enright, Audrey Fort and George Nemec.
Bespoke Gin & Collaborative Distilling with Cameron Mackenzie from Four Pillars and Emile and Olivier from Gin Foundry.
A great seminar showing all the different ways people are involved in distilling, often without owning a distillery themselves. You can read the seminar here.
Juniper Ascending Parts 2& 3 with Jared Brown (Sipsmith), Desmond Payne (Beefeater), Simon Ford (Fords Gin), Alexandre Gabriel (Citadelle Gin), Arne Hillesland (Distillery 209) and Christian Krogstad (Aviation Gin)
Juniper Ascending was actually a 3 part seminar that ran most of the day. Moderated by Keli River from Whitechapel in San Francisco it was a fascinating journey through the history of gin.
500 years of Juniper Distillation – How Genever changed the way we are drinking today presented by Rutte Distillers with Myriam Hendrickx (Master Distiller), Keli Rivers (Whitechapel San Francisco), Joaquin Simo (Pouring Ribbons NYC) and moderated by Simon Difford (Difford’s Guide).
I wasn’t a fan of Genever until this seminar, having experienced a style made with more malt than botanicals. While not converted away from gin, I gained a better understanding and a new appreciation.
New Orleans is home to some of the most famous cocktails. The Sazerac, The Ramos Gin Fizz, The French 75, Hurricane, Grasshopper, Vieux Carre and more were all invented in New Orleans so I had to visit The Roosevelt for a Ramos Gin Fizz and Arnauld’s French 75 Bar for a French 75 didn’t I?
My first Ramos Gin Fizz had to be at the bar where it was invented yes?
Other highlights included a delightful Dante New York pop-up, Alibi (if you are ever lost at Tales, head here as this is where everyone ends up), and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar – do what I did and sing yourself hoarse around the piano with your buddies.
There are parties galore all week and if you are lucky enough to score invitations, GO! I was lucky to receive lots of invites, but you have to see Tales as a marathon, not a sprint, so I picked two, the William Grant ‘Party on your Palate’ and the Bacardi Block Party. Both epic. The 200 voice gospel choir at William Grant gave me goosebumps while the sheer scale (a different ‘house’ for each brand) of the Bacardi party blew my mind.
The sense of community around the world of bartending and hospitality is like no other. And nowhere did I feel this so keenly as I did at Tales. Thousands of the industry’s finest; bartenders, distillers, brand ambassadors, brand owners and media descend on New Orleans and it feels like the friendliest place on earth. It’s a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends from all over the world, share ideas and sometimes even come up with ideas to work together.
Even though everyone is on a hectic schedule, people still made time for me. I was thrilled to be able to meet and interview Desmond Payne (Master Distiller Beefeater Gin), Charlotte Voisey (Head of Advocacy at William Grant and Son), Simon Ford (Fords Gin), and Myriam Hendrickx (Master Distiller at Rutte).
I also got to spend time with some of my favourite Aussie bar people on the same side of the bar for a change!
Where to stay
I stayed at the Hotel Monteleone which is where all the Tales of the Cocktail action happens. It is slap bang in the middle of the French quarter and The Carousel bar (yes the bar rotates) is another one of the places most people hang out.
The staff are excellent and really friendly, but if you prefer something a little hectic (the elevators get crazy busy during peak seminar times) then the Royal Sonesta is close by and less frantic. I also went to the newly opened Ace Hotel for a couple of meetings, it’s a little bit further away from the main Tales of the Cocktail action and super-chilled.
Things I’ll do differently next year (if I’m lucky enough to go again!)
Make it out of the French Quarter and take a swamp tour and a river cruise
Visit more restaurants
Get to Erin Rose for a Frozen Irish coffee…
Spend a whole afternoon at Bacchanal
Remember to ask for photos when interviewing someone!
Have you always wanted to visit a gin distillery? Put off by having to drive?
Then have I got the perfect solution for you…Announcing GIN QUEEN ON TOUR 2016!
I adore our award-winning Australian gin distillers and am constantly telling people to get out and see the distilleries first hand, but it isn’t always that simple. So I’ve put together 3 different tours to 3 different distilleries where you can find out first hand the work that goes into each gin, including an EXCLUSIVE visit to a distillery that doesn’t currently open to the public.
We’ll be travelling together on our private gin bus that will collect you from Federation Square in Melbourne and whisk you to the distillery. There, you’ll meet the distiller, have a G&T, learn about (and sample!) their fantastic gin(s), and enjoy a light lunch before the gin bus departs.
But wait there’s more!
Instead of you ending your tour back at Federation Square, we’ll be alighting at Gin Palace where Manager, Trish and her capable team will serve a mini martini made with the gin of the day. The perfect way to round off our gin tour!
- Fully escorted tour hosted by Caroline Childerley, The Gin Queen!
- Transport from Federation Square to the distillery and then returning to Gin Palace
- Meet the distiller
- Gin tasters
- G&T at the distillery
- Light lunch (limited dietary options available)
- Mini martini at the Gin Palace
Where are we going?
Four Pillars Gin Distillery ~ Saturday 27th August
Loch Brewery & Distillery ~ Saturday 10th September
Melbourne Gin Company ~ Saturday 15th October ~ EXCLUSIVE – not currently open to the public.
Each tour is $99pp and is fully hosted by yours truly! Be quick, the Gin Bus only seats 22!
Tangy, sharp rhubarb is a staple dessert ingredient (rhubarb crumble is one of my favourites) and seems to be popping up in the gin world too with at least three distilleries, Warner Edwards, Edinburgh Distillery and Slingsby all producing a gin flavoured with rhubarb.
I’ve yet to try those, but I have been wondering whether to make my own infusion, rather like the Raspberry gin I made a while back, one of my readers swears by it!
With my limited amount of rhubarb and not enough patience to do an infusion right now, I decided to have a play with rhubarb in cocktails instead, using rhubarb syrup. Making a rhubarb syrup is quick and easy and a good stand by to have on those off-booze days (yes, we all need those occasionally).
I cup of sugar
1 cup of water
1 cup of chopped rhubarb
Bring ingredients to the boil, then simmer for 25 minutes. Once the syrup has cooled, strain into a clean, air tight bottle and you are ready to go!
Rhubarb Gin Fizz
Ingredients for a Rhubarb Gin Fizz
30ml rhubarb syrup
15ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
Shake the gin, lemon juice and rhubarb syrup together in an ice-filled cocktail shaker until cold. Strain into a collins glass, add more ice and top up with the soda water. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
Ingredients for a Rhubarb Gimlet
60ml rhubarb syrup
10ml freshly squeezed lime juice
Shake the gin, rhubarb syrup and lime juice together in an ice-filled cocktail shaker until cold. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a twist of lime.
Rhubarb Blush Martini (pictured left in the main image)
This is a combination of two different recipes (Pok Pok’s Rhubarb Blush and this one) that I liked, but wanted to tweak, mainly with the swapping of Aperol for Campari (the bitter the better in my book!).
Ingredients for a Rhubarb Blush Martini
20ml rhubarb syrup
25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
Shake all the ingredients together and strain into a glass. Twist orange peel over the glass and then drop it into the glass.
The prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) has announced the 2016 medal winners, and while several Australian gins have followed up their success in San Francisco, disappointingly none were awarded Gold medals this year.
What is the IWSC
The International Wine & Spirit Competition was founded by wine chemist Anton Massel as ‘Club Oenologique’ in 1969. Massel wanted to create a wine and spirit competition which relied not just on the palates of judges, but also by putting the entries through chemical analysis. The name was changed to the ‘International Wine & Spirit Competition’ in 1978.
The original aim of the Competition was to award excellence to wines and spirits worldwide and this aim remains the same today, with entries received from almost 90 countries.
The Competition is one of the most prestigious competitions and has a dedicated tasting premises and over 400 global experts judging products for 7 months of the year.
Australian Gins awarded medals at the IWSC
Best Packaging Design Range Of The Year 2016
Archie Rose (NSW)
Silver Outstanding – Contemporary Gins (Australia)
Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin (NSW) ( Also awarded a Silver in the Gin and Tonic category)
Botanic Australis (QLD)
Silver – Contemporary Gins (Australia)
Four Pillars Rare Dry
Four Pillars Modern Australian
Four Pillars Spiced Negroni
Botanic Australis Navy Strength
Distillery Botanica (NSW) (Also a Gold Medal awarded in the Best Packaging category)
Bronze – Contemporary Gins (Australia)
Hobart No. 4 (TAS)
Noble Cut (NSW)
For more information on the IWSC visit their website here.
The Weaver gin is the latest expression from Loch Brewery & Distillery in Victoria. At their beautiful cellar door (a converted bank building), Craig and wife Mel, are creating English style ales, distilling beautiful gin as well as putting their new-make whisky into barrels (launching 2017/18).
Craig has already impressed with his Loch gin, which is based on a classic London Dry recipe, but he was keen to use some Australian native botanicals in a new higher proof gin.
A self-confessed perfectionist (he grinds all the botanicals he uses by hand in a pestle and mortar) painstaking research went into choosing the botanicals. He could have released The Weaver at the end of 2015, but he wasn’t happy with it, so delayed the launch to tweak it some more.
Botanicals in The Weaver gin
Cinnamon myrtle, anise myrtle, lemon myrtle, strawberry gum and wattleseed were eventually selected (Craig uses locally sourced and sustainably harvested ingredients) and added to juniper, coriander, cassia, nutmeg and mace. If you aren’t familiar with Australian natives, check out my guide here.
Casting your eye over the list you’ll see a heavy lean towards warmer, earthier side of gin botanical spectrum, but this gin is anything but another hot spicy number.
On the nose there are juniper and citrus coriander aromas with hints of nutmeg and cassia. On the palate it’s fresh and astringent with a little anise to begin with. Then, warm, savoury notes with some lemon as the flavour builds, before a lengthy finish with a little heat. It has a pleasant mouthfeel and a smoothness belying it’s ABV.
Drinking The Weaver
Craig and Mel describe The Weaver as “a big Gin” (and at 50% ABV it certainly is in strength) but I think they’ve achieved a subtle, nuanced gin with great flavour and none of the brashness that can sometimes occur when using native botanicals.
As you’d imagine, The Weaver makes a wonderful gin and tonic, fresh but with a good kick of booze, but it would have been remiss of me not to experiment with some of Craig’s ales and The Weaver to make some old fashioned Purl, a wonderful winter warmer.
However, I think it’s shines brightest in a martini. With an olive it’s sublime and a lemon twist brings out those coriander and lemon myrtle notes. Try with Maidenii Classic or Castagna vermouth, if you want your martini Aussie style. If you can’t get your hands on these, Dolin is also an excellent choice.
If you are looking for a top quality Australian gin then I’d highly recommend The Weaver as a worthy additional to your collection.
Please note I as gifted a bottle of the Weaver for review. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.
Planning a Fourth of July celebration? Why not give one of these a go?
The Cranberry Martini
A little variation on Salvatore Calbrese’s Breakfast Martini. I’ve used Greenhook American (of course!) gins from Brooklyn.
Ingredients for the Cranberry Martini
50ml Greenhook America Dry gin
15ml Greenhook Gin Beach Plum liqueur
15ml lemon juice
1 teaspoon of cranberry jelly
(optional rosemary sprig to garnish)
Add all of the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and shake until very cold. Strain into a chilled glass. Add a sprig rosemary.
Ingredients for a Blueberry Buck
60ml Aviation gin
15ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
90ml ginger beer
Mint leaves for garnish
Add gin, lemon juice, blueberries (reserving a few for the garnish) and ice to a cocktail shaker and muddle together. Shake until outside of the shaker is chilled.
Strain into a tall glass and top up with ginger beer. Garnish with a couple of blueberries and a mint leaf or two.
Gin Old fashioned
“Old fashioneds” are traditionally made with whisky, but I used Ransom Old Tom which has been rested in bourbon casks to recreate one of the oldest American cocktails.
Ingredients for a Gin Old Fashioned
50ml Ransom Old Tom gin
tsp of sugar (or 1 sugar lump)
3 dashes of Angoustura bitters
1tsp of soda water
Put the sugar in the glass and add the bitters and soda water. Stir until mixed thoroughly. Add gin and stir. Add ice and continue to stir (dilution is key) until chilled. Add a piece of orange peel for garnish.
Happy Fourth of July!
The latest interview in my ‘Meet the Distiller’ series is William McHenry, Master Distiller of McHenry’s, one of Australia’s most awarded gins. His story is a fascinating one, involving a complete career change, as well as a move interstate, creating a very different life for himself and his family in the process.
How long have you been a distiller?
We are now in our 6th year. I moved from Sydney to Tasmania in 2010.
How did you become a distiller?
In around 2005/6 things weren’t going well at work. I was travelling between Perth and Sydney every week, working for a company that was in trouble, and as they usually are when things are bad, the atmosphere was terrible. I missed my wife and kids and knew that there had to be something else other than the life I was in. The trouble was, I’d worked in the pharma industry for so long, that I couldn’t see what other opportunities there could be for me.
Over a few glasses of Shiraz with a neighbour one night he says “well, with a name like William McHenry, I think you should be making whisky”. A lightbulb went on. Between 2006 and 2010 I spent most of the time doing research and educating myself. Oh and convincing the family that the move was a good idea!
So you originally set out to make whisky?
Yes, that was the plan. But I was pragmatic enough to know that for the business to work, I’d need cash flow and gin was a way of achieving that as it’s so much quicker to produce (aside from our Barrel-aged and Sloe gin which take 12-18 months). Protecting the business through diversification was also a key objective.
(note: William released his 10 year old Three Capes whisky to great acclaim this year.)
What is the most challenging thing about making gin?
I think the biggest challenge in the beginning was getting the recipe right. I continually bounced ideas off my wife, Ali, who has a very different palate to me. Every time I presented her with what I thought was the winning recipe, she didn’t like it. We just couldn’t agree. It was extremely frustrating, but I think in the end, having the combination of two contrasting tasters like ourselves meant we created a gin with a much broader appeal than if I had just gone with what I wanted. The gin is all the better for both our inputs.
How did you choose which botanicals to use?
You have to remember that back when I started the gin landscape was dominated by imported gins. There wasn’t the support for Australian gins as there is today, so I wanted to create a classic gin that could stand up to the international competition and hold its own.
I remember watching a booze program with James May and Oz Clarke where they visited Plymouth distillery and were talking about cardamom. I hadn’t seen much of it in gin, so I started with that. I also knew I wanted to use star anise, as I like the flavour. Then I added coriander, juniper (obviously) and orris root to the list. Our citrus comes from Valencia oranges that we peel and dry ourselves.
What the best thing about your job?
Two things really. Meeting people who love gin. I’m a natural extrovert, so I really enjoy it when people drop in to find out more about what we do, as well as converting those who don’t see themselves as gin drinkers.
The other thing is the sheer joy of making something that people like to drink!
Who or what inspires you?
My family. When I set the distillery up, it was with a simple purpose, to eventually gift the business to my three children. I would like to think that McHenry distillery will be passed on through the generations and that in 2090 that my children’s children will still be working in the business. I’d like to leave a legacy.
What is you favourite gin cocktail and why?
My two favourite drinks would have to be a G&T and a Negroni. Nothing beats a G&T on a hot summer day, I’ll always choose that over a glass of white wine. As for Negroni, that’s my drink. I love the combination of bitter, sweet and orange.
Which are your favourite bars (anywhere in the world)?
Oh that’s a difficult one. I think I’d have to go with Bad Frankie in Fitzroy, Melbourne because they have my picture on the wall! Seriously though, Seb has been a great supporter of the Australian distilling industry and it’s a great bar.
The other is the The Henry Jones Art Hotel in Tasmania. Anthony has been amazingly supportive of what we do. If you come to one of my “Make your own gin” workshops, and then take your bottle to him, he will design you a bespoke cocktail using your gin for $10 or for free if you are staying at the hotel.
What’s next? Any future plans?
So many! It’s a really excited time for us as we move into the next stage of the business. We’re about to take delivery of a new 1500l still and we’re redeveloping the cellar door area. There is a new a pavilion being built specifically to host the gin-making workshops and some additional bothys for so people to stay at the distillery. Plus we’re realigning a road on the property in order to build a tunnel, which will be used to mature our whisky.
On top of that I’m working on some exciting new gin projects, but I’ll keep that under my hat for now!
If you’d like to meet William yourself, he will be at the Australian Drinks Festival (order your tickets with promo code QUEEN10 for get $10 discount) on the 16th and 17th July, where he will be running his “Make your own gin” workshops. Book here.