Never Never Distilling Co Triple Juniper Gin

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.

The Never Never Distilling team, from L: R George, Tim and Sean

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!

Never Never gin

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.

Never never gin
A stunning Dry Martini made its Triple Juniper Gin at Maybe Mae, 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.

Army & Navy Cocktail made with Never Never Southern Strength gin

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!).

Origin: Australia

ABV: 43/53%

Price: Medium

You can follow Never Never Distilling on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

They will also be joining us at Junipalooza Melbourne in October. To get your tickets click here.

Patient Wolf Gin

Patient Wolf Gin

“A gentleman is simply a patient wolf “~ Lana Turner

Lana’s quote is an apt one for Dave and Matt at Patient Wolf gin. Plenty is required when setting up a distillery. Like many before them it took the team almost three years to set up in Brunswick, Melbourne. Finally in October last year they welcomed Sebastian Mueller, 4th Generation still maker, to Melbourne to help them build their stunning Mueller still and what a beauty she is!

Patient Wolf Gin
Patient Wolf Gin Still

Matt and Dave then had the tricky task of taking the recipe they had created on their tiny desk-top still and making it work on the full-size one. Not an easy feat as many distillers will tell you. The team spent hours with several of Melbourne’s top bartenders like Trish Brew at Gin Palace and Seb Costello at Bad Frankie sharing their test batches and looking for feedback. They were finally happy with the recipe in December and launched Batch 1 on crowd funding site, Pozible.

Matt Argus and Dave Irwin from Patient Wolf Gin

The botanicals

The gin features both native and traditional botanicals. Steeped overnight and distilled in the pot are juniper berries, coriander seeds, orris root, angelica root, cardamom, cubeb pepper and the interesting (and extremely expensive) tonka bean. Tonka bean is a relatively recent inclusion in gins, but it’s long been used as a replacement for vanilla, in perfumes and tobacco. Fresh local organic ruby grapefruit, fresh organic oranges and aniseed myrtle (from northern NSW) are vapour infused in the botanical basket. Dave found the aniseed myrtle too overpowering to use directly in the pot still!

Patient Wolf Gin
Tonka Bean. (Image via Hidden Souk)

Tasting Patient Wolf gin

I was fortunate to taste some of Matt and Dave “gins in progress” while they were refining the recipe and it’s exciting to see how far they have come from the initial batches. I recently received Batch No. 5 to taste and trial.

On the nose Patient Wolf has hints of citrus, light vanilla and earthy/musky notes. To taste, citrus starts us off before moving into floral, earthy notes with a faint touch of parma violet (I’m guessing from the orris root and angelica) followed by a lengthy spicy finish. It has a wonderfully smooth feel on the mouth.

Drinking Patient Wolf gin

patient wolf gin
Patient Wolf gin Negroni

Patient Wolf makes a fine gin and tonic, not as juniper forward as I like, but delicious with a wedge of ruby grapefruit as per their recommendation. For martini lovers, I’d try it in a wet rather than a dry. Where Patient Wolf really stood out for me was in a Negroni. The musky, earthy notes provide a good backbone against the sweetness of the vermouth and bitterness of the Campari.

Patience has certainly paid off for Dave and Matt. Producing a quality gin is not as easy as you’d think! Patient Wolf was a worthy recipient of a Silver Medal at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards in 2017 and I’m looking forward to watching what the team does next.

Country of Origin: Australia

Price: Medium

You can follow Patient Wolf gin on Facebook, instagram and twitter.

Manly Spirits Gin

Manly Spirits Gin

Manly Spirits gin comes, unsurprisingly, from Manly Beach in New South Wales. Owners David and Vanessa, first floated the idea of opening their own distillery in 2015 during a visit to Tasmania. David has a background in chemical engineering and Vanessa’s is in marketing and design (more on that later), so a pretty useful combination!

Two years later they welcomed Tim Stones (former Global Brand Ambassador for Beefeater Gin) as Head Distiller and Production Manager and launched their Pozible campaign. During his time at Beefeater, Tim learnt from Desmond Payne, (the longest-serving distiller in the world) and Sean Harrison, Master Distiller at Plymouth Gin as well as studying for his General Certificate in Distilling and completing hands-on training with the teams both in London and Scotland.

Manly Spirits gin still
Manly Spirits gin Holstein still

David and Vanessa are Manly locals with a deep connection to the area, in particular to the sea (both are keen swimmers, divers and surf lifesavers). The team approached established forager Elijah Holland (who worked with renowned chef René Redzepi at the Noma pop-up in Sydney last year) to assist in selecting botanicals for the gin.

Elijah recommended sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) which clings to rocks and can be readily harvested at low tide (it’s the only seaweed that can be harvested freely, everything else has to be foraged under license).

Manly Spirits Gin
Sea Lettuce (image courtesy of Kirsten Bradley @milkwood.net)

Manly Spirits Gin Botanicals

Aside from the sea lettuce, Manly Spirits Gin contains; juniper, angelica root, coriander seed, orris root, orange peel, cardamom, finger lime, aniseed myrtle, and mountain pepper leaf. Tim says he found working with Australian botanicals challenging, but “inspiring”.

Tasting Notes

On the nose Manly Spirits gin has bright citrus notes, delicate pine aromas juniper and the merest hint of ozone. Tasting it, the citrus comes through as well as fresh pine. It has a savoury characteristic, not quite umami but getting there, and rounds out with a white peppery finish. Well balanced, delicious flavours and a good length, Manly Spirits Gin is a quality spirit that will serve you well in a variety of drinks.

Manly Spirits Gin
Manly Spirits gin martini. Made with Dolin vermouth and served with a twist of lemon.

How wonderful does this martini look? You’ll be pleased to know that it tasted just as good. A cracker in my opinion. Bright citrus flavours and aromas are drawn out by the vermouth and  a good peppery finish.

Aside from being a delightful gin, I must mention the attention to detail that has gone into the packaging of Manly Spirits Gin. In an increasingly crowded gin market, standing out from the other brands on the shelf is as important as making a tasty liquid. Vanessa’s design skills are apparent in the custom-made bottle. The fibonacci sequence pattern  gave her inspiration for the textured base and represents balance and perfection in nature, the blue glass is a nod to her connection to the sea and the eye-catching lid features the Eastern blue devil fish, the Manly Spirits emblem. 

Manly Spirits Gin
The lid of the Manly Spirits gin bottle.

Manly Spirits Gin

ABV: 42%

Price Medium

Follow Manly Spirits Distillery on Facebook, instagram and twitter.

You can also visit their cellar door.

Red Hen Gin

Red Hen Gin

Red Hen Gin is made at the first urban distillery in Adelaide. Created by four school friends, Luke Page and brothers Michael, Anthony and Daniel Vallelonga, the gin is named after the train that they used to catch to school together.

Red Hen Gin
Red Hen train

The boys grew up in the gateway to the Barossa and they are all passionate about South Australian produce. The Vallelonga brothers have made their own wine with their Nonno (grandfather) from grapes they grew themselves, and together with Luke have also brewed beer as a fun side project. Since they began distilling they’ve uncovered some family connections with the booze industry in Australia. Both grandfathers were Publicans in Gawler, where they grew up, and Luke’s Great Aunt was the first woman to hold a Publican’s License in Australia.

It took the Red Hen team two and a half years to perfect their recipe while they battled through the council regulations and licensing requirements (a common theme that crops up regularly when chatting to distillers!). The time was obviously well spent with Red Hen Gin immediately winning a gold medal in the Contemporary Gin category at the 2017 Australian Distilled Spirit Awards, and it was also crowned Champion Small Batch Spirit in Australia!

Red Hen Gin

Botanicals

Made from grape based spirit from the heart of the Barossa valley, Red Hen gin is 100% vapor-infused in a 100-litre still. There are 15 botanicals, including juniper, coriander, orris root, licorice root and cassia bark. Although the team wanted to created a London dry style gin they have used some native ingredients like Muntrie berries which are indigenous to the South Australian coast and give off a sweet crab apple flavour. The inclusion of fresh celery leaf offers a herbaceous peppery note.

Red Hen Gin
Muntrie berries

Tasting Red Hen Gin

On the nose there are lime zest and sherbet aromas with fresh pine coming through from the juniper. Flavour-wise there is no mistaking Red Hen gin is citrus forward. There is a good juniper flavour and a subtle hint of apple. The finish is lengthy with a pleasant hit of white pepper cutting through the citrus.

Drinking Red Hen Gin

A good gin will work in a variety of drinks. Red Hen gin is excellent in a gin and tonic and I highly recommend it in a dry martini with Maidenii dry vermouth.

Red Hen Gin
Red Hen Martini

The team is planning to create a Navy Strength Gin next as well as a secret spiced rum. They are also collaborating with a local brewery to create the first locally distilled whisky.

You can follow Red Hen gin on Facebook and instagram.

Green Ant Gin

Green Ant Gin

At the last count (with Seb from Bad Frankie) there were 105 Australian gins on the market. I know for a fact there are more to come this year, and beyond. Such exciting times to be a gin lover in Australia!

I’m particularly intrigued by the increasing research into, and use of, native ingredients in some of these gins. This month, two gins launched that broadened the scope of native ingredients from plants to insects. Sacha LaForgia, from Adelaide Hills in South Australia, released his Green Ant gin followed swiftly by a gin of the same name from Applewood Distillery, also in South Australia.

Using ants as a gin botanical is not a new idea. Celebrated chef René Redzepi, owner of NOMA, launched Anty Gin in 2013. Formica rufa, the red wood ant, use chemical compounds to communicate with each other and defend themselves from predators. Redzepi’s discovered that these compounds are delicious when mixed with alcohol. Similarly, Bass & Flinders in Mornington launched their Angry Ant gin in 2016.

Why green ants?

Green Ant Gin
Green Ants.
(Copyright David Paul, University of Melbourne.)

I chatted to Sacha about his collaboration with Something Wild (who also supplied NOMA) and how he came to launch Green Ant gin. One of the first things that became evident was the concern that native ingredients are often foraged from land owned by Indigenous communities without permission. Sacha explained “Richard (Gunner) from Something Wild was keen to work together in helping grow the business of the Motlop family of the Larrakia people, establish new opportunities, as well as help raise awareness of how native Australian ingredients are sourced.”

Early in 2016 Richard, who is best mates with Sacha’s business partner Toby, gave him some green ants to pass on to Sacha. Sacha admitted that with the expansion at Adelaide Hills, distilling ants wasn’t high on his list of priorities. When he finally got around to tasting a green ant he said he was blown away by the flavours “limey, coriander with herbaceous notes, I knew it was a perfect gin botanical”.

How do you distill ants?

Sacha is a fractional distiller meaning that each gin botanical is distilled individually before being blended together (Andrew Marks at Melbourne Gin Company also does this). Sacha’s gins are 100% vapour infused as he feels this best protects the delicate botanicals. When it came to distilling the green ants (which come frozen!), Sacha says he ran the still much more slowly to preserve the flavours.

Green Ant gin botanicals

Sacha created an entirely new gin recipe for this project. Alongside the green ants you’ll find native finger limes, pepper berry, lemon myrtle, strawberry gum, boobialla (native juniper), and juniper.

Flavour

In aid of research I fished one of the ants out of the bottle and ate it. Yes, I ate an ant, so you don’t have to! Lime flavours (a mix between citrus and kaffir lime) burst out of the ant followed by some herbaceous notes which come through when you are chewing. Surprisingly, eating an ant was not that bad. I’m not sure I’d do it on a regular basis, mind you.

Green Ant gin is a fresh, citrus forward gin with lots of green lime notes on the nose and palate. The botanical flavours and ‘zing’ from the ants definitely comes through and there is a hint of pepper to cut through the citrus. As with all of Sacha’s spirits, it’s of great quality, smooth with an excellent finish.

Green Ant gin
Green Ant Gin & Tonic, garnished with lemon and thyme.

The best part of the project is that a share of the profits on sales of Green Ant gin go back to the Larrakia people, so you can enjoy a tipple while supporting a great social enterprise! For more information on green ants, watch this video from ABC Landline.

Country of origin: Australia

ABV: 42%

To purchase Green Ant gin click here.

Brookie's gin

Brookie’s Gin

I first met Eddie Brook when he was work for the Australian distributors of  The Botanist gin. Now Eddie and his family have launched Brookie’s gin in collaboration with Jim McEwan, creator of The Botanist. How’s that for serendipity?

Brookie's Gin
Brookie’s Gin Co Creators Eddie Brook & Jim McEwan (image supplied)

The Brook Family moved to Byron Bay, where the distillery is located, 30 years ago.  Then, it was little more than a run-down dairy farm with degraded land and poor soil. However some remnants of the rainforest remained and they set about planting macadamia trees and bringing the rainforest back to life. To date, they have planted over 4000 macadamia trees and over 30 acres of subtropical rainforest. Brookie’s Gin is part of their continuing commitment to supporting the environment around Byron Bay.

It was during Jim’s trip to Australia two years ago that he and Eddie hatched a plan to create Brookie’s Gin. Eddie confessed to me that he had been a long-time admirer of the man known as ‘The Cask-Whisperer’ and had avidly watched Jim’s YouTube videos.  Jim was captivated by Eddie’s stories about the family farm and plans to rebuild a rainforest. When Eddie began to talk about the various native botanicals within the area around Byron, Jim saw the opportunity to create a gin together.

Two years later and the dream is now a reality. The Brook family have built Cape Byron Distillery where you’ll find a 2000 liter pot still created by Peter Bailly at Knapp Lewer in Tasmania at the heart.

Brooke's Gin still
George, Brookie’s Gin still

Brooke’s Gin Botanicals

Of the 26 botanicals (interestingly The Botanist also has 26), 18 are native to Australia. The traditional botanicals, juniper, coriander, cassia, angelica and orris root form the backdrop for the gin. Then comes the extensive list of native Australian botanicals – Sunrise finger limes from Byron Bay, kumquat, blood lime, aniseed myrtle, cinnamon myrtle, White Aspen, riberry, the young leaves of the lilly pilly leaf, macadamia nut, native raspberries from Brook Farm, Dorrigo pepper leaf, river mint and native ginger. (If you want a little more information on some of these botanicals, check out this post).

Distillation

Brookie’s Gin is made using the one-shot method of distillation with a botanical basket to vapor infuse the gin with native ginger. The traditional gin botanicals go into the main body of the still, but because of the volatility of some of the native ingredients, these are placed inside a muslin ‘Babylon bag’ which is dangled over the alcohol inside the pot.

The taste

On the nose you are greeted with citrus followed by juniper and coriander and hints of cinnamon in the background. The flavour is initially citrus forward followed by some delicate fresh raspberry notes, but these are quickly replaced with bold spice flavours from the native ginger and aniseed myrtle and an intense peppery finish. As you’d expect from such a botanical rich gin, Brookie’s is complex and each sip reveals another facet of the spirit.

Drinking Brookie’s Gin

Brookie’s makes a fine gin and tonic with plenty of citrus and juniper flavours. I garnished with mint, lime peel and raspberries to complement the botanicals.

Brookie's Gin

With my martini I went for a 50/50 ratio (45ml gin to 45ml vermouth) as I wanted to let the botanicals shine. Maidenii Dry vermouth made an excellent partner and the martini was a botanical flavour bomb!

Brookie's Gin

Making my Negroni, I went full Aussie and used Applewood’s Distillery’s Okär (in place of Campari) and Maidenii vermouth. The result was a slighter sweeter Negroni than I usually drink, but was a good contrast to the spicy notes of Brookie’s gin.

Brookie's Gin

Brookie’s gin could not be anything but good with the distilling knowledge behind it. However, using lots and lots of native botanicals is risky and can result in an unbalanced gin (easy on the lemon myrtle people), but Eddie and Jim’s skills have created a tasty gin with a true sense of place.

ABV: 46%

Price: Medium

Follow Brookie’s gin on Facebook, instagram and twitter.

Artemis Gin

Australian distilling is growing at quite a pace and it’s thrilling to see so many people having a go at making gin, but when a renowned bartender and all-round industry legend like Seb Reaburn throws his hat into the ring, you know it’s going to be good.

Seb and his partner (and scientist) Derv, have set up shop at Craft & Co., a unique venture on Smith Street Collingwood. With a beautiful Carl still on the shop front, a brewery at the back, a deli, a bottle shop and the facilities to make cheese and cure meat on site, it’s a one stop shop for foodies!

Seb was clear in the intentions for Artemis gin. “It had to work with the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book“, he told me. Classic cocktails are dear to his heart and the inspiration for his gin.

The Botanicals

Artemis gin gets its name from Artemisia absinthium (wormwood), one of the key botanicals. Booze geeks might recognise this as an ingredient in absinthe and vermouth. It gives a herbal, sometimes bitter flavour to spirits.

Artemis Gin
Artemisia absinthium (image Giuseppe Mazza)

Artmesia dracunculus (French tarragon) is there to give some licorice and vanilla notes. Seb has used two Australian natives, Eucalyptus radiata (river peppermint) and Eucalyptus citriodora (lemon-scented gum).

There are two types of Juniper – Macedonian and Hungarian, together with a combination of Egyptian and Indian coriander, the latter to provide more “lemony” flavours according to Seb.  Angelica and orris root are included as fixatives, alongside Vietnamese cassia which give hints of lavender and rose. Also included are grains of paradise, finger limes, clove, nutmeg and ginger. The last three create a softer finish to the gin.

It’s an interesting, complex group of ingredients that require careful management to create a balanced spirit. Some of the botanicals, like clove, nutmeg and ginger are used in almost minuscule quantities, but according to Seb, the gin wouldn’t work without them.

Tasting Artemis Gin

On opening the bottle there is the welcome smell of juniper with plenty of citrus and a little anise in the background. I could also detect the faint aroma of indian spice. On the palate I could taste fresh, minty herbaceous notes with lime, licorice and anise coming through. The flavour builds with grains of the paradise and ginger providing a warm, spicy and lengthy finish.

Sweet Martini
Sweet Martini made with Artemis gin

Artemis does exactly what Seb and Derv set out to achieve, it offers a great base for the old style cocktails they adore, and with the clever use of Australian natives, they’ve created a truly classic Australian gin.

It’s been on high rotation in drinks at GQHQ since my bottle arrived after they successfully achieved their Pozible campaign target. Whatever I’m drinking it stands up well in and that is the mark of a great gin.

ABV: 44%

Price: Medium

You can follow Artemis gin on Facebook, and Instagram.

Don’t forget to book your Gin Queen on Tour ~ Urban Melbourne tickets to meet Seb and Derv and taste their wonderful gin. Tickets available here.

Poor Toms Fool Strength Gin

At the beginning of the year I was chatting to Jesse from Poor Toms and he was quizzing me on my favourite overproof gin. Generally, I try not to play favourites. Asking me to pick my favourite gin is like asking someone to choose between their children. However, we both agreed that Sipsmith VJOP is as close to heaven in a glass as you can get. Jesse revealed that he and Griff had plans to create an overproof (not Navy strength) gin at the request of bartenders who like a little more oomph to their gin as it stands up better against other ingredients in cocktails.

After lots of R&D,  Poor Toms Fool Strength (Poor Tom is a crazy man in Shakespeare’s King Lear, so it seems appropriate) was born, cloaked in one of the best gin labels I’ve ever seen. Designed by the same designers who created the original label, it continues on the theme of the Garden of Earthly Delights, this one even takes a swipe at “Casino” Mike Baird.

poortomsfoolstrengthlabel

 

Fancy packaging aside, it’s the flavour that counts, and Poor Toms Fool Proof is right up my juniper-loving street.

I chatted with Griff to find out more about how they created their new gin, “When we blended our original dry gin to 50% we realised it wasn’t going to do the job. The botanical array was simply not suitable for an overproof. So we went back to the drawing board”.

Going back to the start involved sampling lots of gins in their original and overproof forms. Griff went on, “The ones we preferred had significantly changed their botanical mix, rather than using the same gin at a higher ABV. A higher ABV changes all the flavour profiles in the botanicals, essentially making a different gin, so we thought why not make something specifically for the ABV we wanted.”

Griff and Jesse put aside every ingredient they’d used in the original (gone are chamomile, granny smith apples, lemon myrtle and strawberry gum leaf) and went back to a classic base of  juniper, coriander, green cardamom, cubeb pepper and angelica. Liquorice root was added to provide richness. Griff explained that it wasn’t a conscious decision to exclude Australian natives from their list of botanicals, but that nothing they tried gave the desired result.

Both of them were really happy with the results using the 6 botanicals, but felt the gin lacked a final something. Griff told me “Mitch from the Gin Palace in Melbourne was visiting and thought it needed citrus and suggested  grapefruit peel. And he was so right!”, so grapefruit became the final botanical.

Aside from creating a completely different gin from scratch, they Poor Toms team have used a different process in making the gin. Juniper, cardamom and cubeb are steeped in alcohol in the still overnight. They then add additional juniper with the other ingredients before distillation commences. The juniper and grapefruit peel are also vapour infused to give additional depth of flavour.

Poor Toms Carl still
Poor Toms Carl still

There is plenty of juniper and coriander on the nose, while on the palate I got delicious piney juniper and citrus with a little spicy kick from the cubeb. It’s a very well-balanced gin with a smooth mouthfeel.

Poor Toms Fool Strength Gibson Martini
Poor Toms Fool Strength Gibson Martini

Poor Toms Fool Strength makes a robust, but not overpowering, gin and tonic, but it really shines in cocktails. I tried it in a Gibson martini and a Last Word and both were outstanding.

Poor Toms Fool Strength Last Word
Poor Toms Fool Strength Last Word

If navy strength gins aren’t your thing, but you want a gin that is bolder than most and has great versatility, Poor Toms Fool Strength is an excellent choice.

ABV: 52%

Origin: Sydney

Price: Medium

You can follow Poor Toms on Facebook, instagram and twitter.

Weaver gin and tonic

The Weaver Gin

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).

Mel and Craig, Loch Brewery and Distillery
Mel and Craig

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.

Purl

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.

weavermartini
The Weaver gin martini

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.

 

Botanic Australis Navy Strength Gin and Capi Dry Tonic

Botanic Australis Navy Strength Gin

Fans of Botanic Australis Gin will be delighted to hear that Mark Watkins has developed a Botanic Australis Navy Strength. Mark had been busy perfecting the recipe when I visited in December, but he wanted to wait until he was completely happy with it, before sharing it with me!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long and it was certainly worth the wait. I was intrigued to see how Mark would match those bold native botanicals with an equally bold ABV (Navy Strength must be at least 57%). Working with native ingredients is a delicate balancing act and the original Botanic Australis recipe required some fine tuning to work with the stronger alcohol.

Mark explained “In the original we replaced the lemon peel component with lemon myrtle and lemon scented gum. The reason for this is that lemon myrtle is heavy and tends to hang on the palate, while lemon scented gum is very aromatic yet doesn’t stay on the palate. Combining the two you get a very balanced “lemon peel” like effect. So in the Navy strength we ramped up the lemon scented gum so you get a big lemon nose which fades away on the palate quickly to combat the higher ABV. We also increased the level of Bunya Nut which gives the Christmas fruits and spices flavour, as well as the ginger and pepperberry”

 

Botanic Australis Navy Strength Gin and Tonic
Botanic Australis Navy Strength Gin and Tonic

 

While Botanic Australis Navy Strength has it foundations in the original, it certainly has a different flavour profile. On the nose, as Mark wanted, there is plenty of lemon, but this fades quickly on the palate. We being with piney juniper and bright citrus notes , with a small spike of the river mint and eucalyptus,  leading on to spicier notes from the peppery berry and ginger through to a lingering warm finish. Some of the more herbaceous and earthy notes found in the original Botanic Australis have given way to a more citrus forward gin.

It makes a wonderfully refreshing gin and tonic. You’ll note in the image above, the louching (cloudiness) that comes with an increase in oils from the botanicals.

 

Botanis Australis Navy Strength Southside
Botanis Australis Navy Strength Southside

 

I also gave it a whirl in a Southside and it worked brilliantly with the lime and mint. I should warn you that it would be very easy to forget the higher ABV!

This is a very limited edition gin and certainly worth

Origin: Walkamin, Queensland

ABV: 57.7%

Price: High

Available from Mt Uncle Distillery