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.


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 – 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


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 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?


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)