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…