Poltergeist-Gin-Tasmania

Poltergeist Gin

There are so many different facets to the story around Poltergeist gin, it’s difficult to know where to start. There’s the fact that it’s made in Tasmania, its unusual name, and it’s home, Shene Estate, the country residence of early colonialist Gamaliel Butler.

The Kernke family acquired Shene in 2007 and have been tirelessly trying to preserve this historic site. Obviously, a project of this nature requires financing and following the discovery of centuries old gin bottles on the site, the family hit upon the idea of building a distillery.

shene-estate-tasmania

As a result they’ve joined forces with Damian Mackey and at the end of 2015 will merge Mackey’s distillery with their own to create Shene Distillery where they will produce gin and whisky.

Damian learned his craft from the godfather of Tasmanian whisky, Bill Lark, and has been producing his own Irish style whisky since 2007, but when I spoke to him this week told me that even before he started distilling whisky he was playing with botanicals.

The result is Poltergeist gin, of which there are two varieties, ‘unfiltered’ and ‘a true spirit’ but before we get to that, let’s talk botanicals!

A pleasing mix of traditional and native, Poltergeist is made with distilled with juniper, coriander seeds, cardamom, cassia bark, angelica, orris root, liquorice root, star anise and lemon peel. The native ingredients are Tasmanian mountain pepper berry, lemon myrtle and macadamia nut. These botanicals are macerated for around 20 hours before distillation.

So why are there two versions and what does unfiltered mean?

When distilling botanicals oils are released. These are perceptible but sometimes when water (or ice) is added, the liquid might ‘louche’, i.e. cloud. Many spirits do this and while there isn’t anything wrong with the spirit, Damian and the team decided to play around a little with a unique carbon filtered system (made from organic coconut shells) to see whether they could reduce the looting.

When I first heard about the filtering, I was concerned as I knew this process had the potential to remove all the flavour, thus returning the gin back to base alcohol. Damian explained that filtering is done swiftly, so the flavour is retained. The result? Two gins with different flavour profiles, each adored by the Shene team who decided to launch both!

Poltergeist Gin – A True Spirit

Currently, my favourite (but unfiltered is gaining ground) this is an excellent example of a London dry style gin. Classic and versatile with a nice balance of juniper and citrus flavours with a good length and a tiny hint of spice at the end. Fresh and bright, this is a perfect G&T gin.

Poltergeist-True-Spirit-Gin-and-Tonic

Poltergeist – Unfiltered

On the nose juniper is there along with some earthy notes, almost forest floor smells. The flavours of the spicier botanicals are elevated and there is much more heat and the flavour stays in your mouth for much longer. I’m already dreaming of this one in a warmed Negroni on a cold winter’s night.

And the name Poltergeist? Let’s just say that the Shene is estate is a little on the spooky side…

Origin: Tasmania

ABV: 46%

Price: Medium

You can follow Shene Estate on Facebook, twitter and instagram

Strawberry-Basil-Gin-Smash

Poor Toms Gin

Poor Toms Gin is made in the latest gin distillery to open in Sydney. Although they are both crazy about gin, Griff and Jesse (the two friends behind Poor Toms) conceded that without a science background, they weren’t in the best position to distil gin and called in gin expert Marcel Thompson to help them learn. A trained chemist, Marcel has worked in the industry for 28 years and has distilled Gordon’s and Tanqueray.

If you are wondering where the name Poor Toms comes from (aside from being a character in King Lear), both Jesse and Griff’s middle name is Tom and Griff reminded me that after they saved up for the copper still from Germany, they were both pretty poor afterwards!

The botanicals used in Poor Toms Gin are a cunning mix of traditional: juniper, coriander seeds, angelica root, cinnamon, cardamom, and cubeb pepper and some envelope-pushing ingredients too: freshly pressed granny smith apples, lemon myrtle, chamomile and strawberry gum leaf.

According to the Poor Toms team, they used Granny Smith apples in place of citrus, but added lemon myrtle to boost it and chamomile to bring out the apple notes.

Strawberry-Gum-Leaf
Strawberry Gum Leaf (via wikipedia)

Strawberry Gum leaf (also known as Olida and Forestberry) is a highly aromatic native ingredient used in essential oil and perfumery (It’s also a botanical in Botanic Australis).

Poor-Toms-Gin-and-Tonic

Poor Toms Gin is a lighter, floral style of gin. On the nose the juniper is clearly present, but is not dominating. The flavour is crisp, with a subtle sweetness and minimal heat. It’s very smooth on the palate and makes a delicious G&T garnished with strawberry or raspberry. It also worked very well in the Strawberry & Basil Gin Smash

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 41.3%

Price: Medium

Archie-Rose-Distillery-Signature-Dry-Gin

Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin

Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin is made in Sydney by former Lark distiller Joe Dinsmoor, who began his distilling career aged 18 and has already built an impressive reputation. (You can read more about my visit to Archie Rose Distillery here).

Archie Rose use three different distillation methods to make their gin, making the most out of their custom-built still. Maceration (the botanicals are steeped in alcohol in the still), hot vapour infusion (botanicals are placed in a basket over the boiling alcohol), and cool vapour infusion (some botanicals are held in the still’s Lyne arm. These three methods ensure that the flavour of each botanical is preserved as much as possible through the process.

Archie-Rose-Still
The Archie Rose Gin Still

The botanicals used in Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin, are a perfect mix of traditional: juniper, coriander, ginger, orange, angelica root, liquorice root, orris root, cardamom, cassia bark and native Australian: dorrigo pepper (a rainforest shrub from the tablelands of Northern New South Wales, river mint (from South Australia), lemon myrtle (know as the queen of the lemon herbs) and blood lime (a CSIRO created citrus fruit combining finger limes and Rangpur limes).

As you would expect from a ‘Dry’ the aroma is all citrus and pine notes. The flavour is very well-balanced with a decent juniper hit and warm, spicy peppery notes finishing with a lingering sweetness and a wonderful mouth-feel.

The blend of traditional and native ingredients, the triple distillation method and six-times filtered water results in a truly excellent gin that was magnificent in my Gibson martini.

Gibson-martini
Gibson martini

Not content with making one of the best Australian dry gins (in my humble opinion), you can visit Archie Rose Distillery and make your own, or perhaps sample their extensive gin collection in the bar. Whatever you choose to do, you won’t be disappointed.

Country of origin: Australia

ABV: 42%

Price: Medium

Archie Rose Distillery 85 Dunning Ave,Rosebery NSW 2018.

Follow them on Facebook, twitter and instagram.

mchenry-navy-strength

McHenry Navy Strength Gin

William McHenry & Sons Distillery makes some of the best gin in Tasmania. The McHenry Classic Dry and Sloe gins have long been favourites in my collection, so I was excited that William has expanded the range to include McHenry Navy Strength.

Traditionally, these gins must be over 57% ABV to be called Navy Strength, and as a result they are notoriously bold. The higher alcohol strength can be off-putting, particularly to the novice gin-drinker, but for my money there is nothing better than a Navy Strength G&T. I would err on the side of caution when drinking 57% ABV gin, as they can be deceptive, and the hangover would be monumental.

All of William’s spirits are made with pure Tasmanian water from the distillery springs and this fresh spring water is certainly a factor in the clean, fresh flavours of his gins.

william-mchenry-natural-spring
William McHenry and the natural spring at his distillery.

McHenry Classic Dry Gin is as it suggests, a London Dry style gin with juniper and citrus notes balanced with coriander seeds, cardamom, and orris root. In addition, William has used star anise for a little extra spice.

Taking this as his canvas for the Navy Strength gin, William altered the recipe slightly and added limes, boosting the citrus notes and bringing out the warm, spicier notes provided by the coriander and star anise. McHenry Navy Strength has a good mouth feel and length (meaning the flavour of the drink stays in your mouth and develops).

Achieving a gin of this smoothness at this strength is no mean feat, and it’s no surprise that McHenry Navy Strength gin was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2015 Australian Distilled Spirits Awards.

I’ve served it as a G&T with lemongrass, lime and a chilli garnish to compliment the citrus notes, but you could serve with a wedge of lime or maybe some Thai basil?

McHenry-Navy-Strength-Gin-and-Tonic

If you want to up the ante of your favourite Martini and Negroni, McHenry Navy Strength is fantastic, when making your Martini, I would make it wetter (higher ratio of vermouth to gin).

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 57%

Price: High

Follow William McHenry Distillery on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

(Note: William kindly gifted me McHenry Navy Strength during my visit to Tasmania, this has not affected this review in any way)

Loch Brewery and Distillery Gin

Readers of the blog will know that I’ve been to Loch Brewery and Distillery a couple of times now, partly to drink a G&T with Mel and Craig, and partly to stock up on English beer for Mr GQ.

Aside from their excellent hospitality and fabulous location, Loch Brewery & Distillery are making very good gin.

Mel and Craig decided to go the traditional route for their Loch Brewery and Distillery Gin by shaping their recipe from poring over old distilling books and not using any native Australian botanicals.

The coriander, mace, cassia, angelica, liquorice, and other assorted botanicals (around 12-14 in total) are all ground by hand using a pestle and mortar. Craig says “We found this brought a fresh and balanced flavour profile to the gin.  We tried mechanically grinding once but we didn’t like the way the aroma profile worked so we went back doing it by hand.”

This ‘botanical powder’ is then added to the pot still with the juniper berries ready for distillation. The still is one of the smallest I’ve encountered and was made to their specifications in Portugal.

loch-distillery-gin-still

Mel and Craig set out to produce a gin that could be sipped neat and I think they’ve done well to achieve that.

On the nose there is pine and citrus with some fresh, floral notes, (possibly lavender?). Flavour-wise it has pine, citrus, and lightly floral notes with some spice and warmth, finishing with a little liquorice, and  is very well-balanced.

It makes a fabulous G&T but being well-balanced would suit most gin cocktails.

loch-distillery-gin-and-tonic

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 41%

Price: Medium

78 degrees gin

78 Degrees Gin

78 Degrees Gin is the latest Australian Gin to come to my attention. I was particularly interested to try it when I discovered the distiller, Sacha, built the still himself!

Made in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, 78 degrees gin is vapour-infused using a grape-based spirit. Using a grape-based spirit instead of grain results in a softer feel in the mouth (other grape spirit based gins include: Melbourne Gin Company, Bass & Flinders and G’vine).

Vapour-infusing is a gentler method of distilling the botanicals. Instead of sitting in the alcohol in the pot still, they sit in a basket above the liquid. As the alcohol boils, vapours pass through the botanicals. Hendrick’s Gin uses a mix of pot still and vapour-infused distillates, while Bombay Sapphire is 100% vapour-infused.

78-degrees-gin-adelaide-hills

78 Degrees (which gets its name from the boiling point of alcohol) is distilled with 12 botanicals: juniper, coriander, fresh citrus peel (orange, lemon and lime), star anise, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, black peppercorn, green peppercorn and orris root.

It has a juniper and fresh citrus aroma, with a tiny hint of cinnamon and coriander. On tasting it is a bright, citrussy gin. A bit grassy and fresh leading into some earthy, spicy flavours and finishing on lingering warm pepper notes.

When I first looked at the botanicals used, and noted clove, star anise and peppercorn,  I was expecting something much spicier and heavier, with an intense heat. However, the combination of grape spirit as the base and the vapour-infusion results in a gin with a good balance of flavours.

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 42%

Price: High

You can follow Adelaide Hills Distillery on Facebook and Instagram.

New World Projects Small Batch Seasonal Gin

New World Projects Small Batch Seasonal Gin is made by the distillers makers of Melbourne’s Starward Malt Whisky, which won the single malt category in the 2013 Australasian Whisky Awards, as well as Gold in the 2013 IWSC awards, not bad for its first year!

Only 175 bottles of the gin were made in this batch. The only other information on the label, is the description that reads, ‘Strawberry and Mint’.

new-world-project-seasonal-gin

I was intrigued.

The name New World is perfect in this instance as the seasonal gin is certainly forging a different path from the traditional London Dry style.

The aroma was very light on juniper, the mint was detectable, and with a certain amount of relief I couldn’t smell any strawberries as I was worried it was going to be sweet.

Tasting the gin neat drew mixed results across my panel of 3 (admittedly a small panel). One said it tasted of genever, the other that it tasted like vodka, while I was trying to keep an open mind, given that I am a complete juniper junkie.

We put the gin through its paces with a G&T, using Capi tonic water and garnished with mint and strawberries (of course!). All 3 tasters agreed it made a delicious, subtle gin and tonic. Perfect for the non-gin drinker in your life!

NWPG&T

I was keen to see how it stood up in a dry martini and picked out Dolin to go with it, which may not be the best choice as even in a 3:1 ratio martini, the vermouth still dominated. I’d like to see how it goes with Maidenii, which also uses native Australian botanicals. It made a decent enough martini, but I will admit I missed the juniper.

NWPMartini

These are interesting times for the gin category and these new style gins certainly attract the attention of those that shy away from the juniper juice. In the case of New World Projects, I think this is the first of many (she says hopefully) experiments in gin distilling.

kangeroo-island-spirits-wild-gin

Kangaroo Island Spirits Wild Gin

Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS) distillery is, as the name tells you, based on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. It’s well-known for its natural beauty and the inhabitants work hard to protect and conserve the environment. KIS distillery reflects this in its ‘slow spirits’ philosophy; using only local, fresh, seasonal ingredients and aiming to move towards carbon neutral and environmentally sustainable practises.

Wild Gin is distilled using a copper still and employing the basket still method (the botanicals are placed in a basket over the distilling alcohol and not in the pot itself). The pot is only capable of producing 45 bottles at a time, so this really is at the micro-distillery end of gin production.

Botanicals

In keeping with its love of all things local, the distillery grows coriander, limes and mint on site as well as harvesting Australian Boobialla berries (myoporum insular) which are considered to be “native juniper” and have a similar flavour (although they also use Italian juniper).

Wild Gin also features Cardamom, Mace, Cassia, Pink Pepper, Caraway, Lime zest, Fresh Ginger, and Mint are the other botanicals used in the distillation process.

Hints of Juniper and citrus from the lime are the first thing you will smell. In terms of flavour the spicy, herbal botanicals quickly come to the fore with the ginger offering some heat towards the finish. I think the inclusion of lime and mint keep the flavour on the fresh side. When drinking I’d lean towards the savoury end of the cocktail list as Wild Gin makes an excellent Negroni and martini. When drinking as a G&T play around with garnishes…mint or lime will balance out the spice.

Kangeroo Island Spirits welcome visitors to their cellar door (I’m looking forward to checking out their recently planted Aromatic Gin Garden) where you can also blend your own gin or take part in a masterclass. More information here.

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 43%

Price: Medium

 

McHenry Sloe Gin

I knew McHenry Sloe Gin was going to be worth waiting for. Chatting with bartenders about Australian gins, they’d wax lyrical, and lament the emptiness of their bottles. At The Lui Bar, the joyful expressions on the team’s faces when I told them more was being distilled was a lovely thing to see.

Sloes are seasonal,  so Sloe Gin is a limited release. The Tasmanian sloe bushes (blackthorn) were introduced by settlers so while not native, they obviously like the Tasmanian climate. Bill McHenry harvests the berries by hand which can be a prickly business!

William McHenry

Visually the McHenry & Sons Sloe Gin seems paler than other sloe gins I’ve tried, and it’s certainly less viscous. The initial aroma is slightly woody, (I swear I could smell tobacco).

The other noticeable difference is the lack of sugar. It isn’t as sweet and has a light, dry finish. I can see why it’s so popular with the bartender community. The dryness would lend itself better in cocktails than some of the heavier, sweeter sloe gins around.

It’s an extremely ‘sippable’ gin but you shouldn’t be afraid to mix into cocktails as you would a regular gin. There are plenty of Sloe Gin cocktail recipes about and the McHenry does well in a Sloe Gin Fizz.

Sloe Gin Fizz

I’m going to have to ration myself, because like all seasonal produce, stocks are limited!

Note: William kindly sent me a bottle of Sloe Gin as a gift, which I accepted on the understanding that any review would be independent.

McHenry Classic Dry Gin

Allegedly, Tasmania has more distilleries than Ireland, and since Sullivan’s Cove won the prestigious title of Best Single Malt Whisky in the world, it is certainly on the whisky map. How about the gin map?

McHenry’s & Son Distillery is the most southerly distillery in the world, and while it produces whisky, it also makes some very good gin.

McHenry Class Dry Gin has eschewed native ingredients and is distilled with botanicals more in keeping with an original London dry style – citrus peel, juniper, coriander and cardamom seeds which are blended with a small amount of star anise.

The citrus isn’t overpowering as an odour or a flavour, enough to remind you this is a dry style. The gin has an incredible smooth mouth feel and there is an earthy liquorice flavour at the finish which is delicious. It’s a clean, smooth, elegant gin which has been very well executed. It makes a superb gin and tonic, and would make a great additional to your home bar due to its versatility.

McHenry & Son aren’t just producing Dry Gin either. They also produce a Sloe gin using sloes that come from bushes introduced to Tasmania over 150 years ago by the European settlers. William McHenry, the distiller, kindly supplied the image below to prove that he harvests them himself. The 2014 batch of Sloe Gin should be available soon.

William McHenry

Country of Origin: Tasmania

ABV: 40%

Price: Low