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.



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.

Gifts for the gin loving dad

Gifts for the Gin-loving Dad

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



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

waterford crystal tumblers

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

Cocktail Kingdom Shaken 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

The Australian Spirits Guide


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

Four Pillars 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

Jo Malone 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)

East London Liquor Company Dry Gin

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.

Tom Hills, ELLC Distiller
Tom Hills, East London Liquor Company Gin Distiller in front of one of the custom-designed, custom-built Arnold Holstein copper stills.

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.

East London Liquor Company Dry Gin and Tonic
East London Liquor Company Dry Gin and Tonic


East London Liquor Company White Lady
East London Liquor Company White Lady

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.

East London Liquor Company Premium Gin
East London Liquor Company Premium Gin

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

ABV: 40%

Price: Medium

You can follow East London Liquor Company on Facebook, twitter  and instagram.

Note: I received this bottle for the purposes of review. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

My first Tales of the Cocktail

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.

First impressions

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!

New Orleans

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.


The seminars

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).

Genever from 1700 specially created by the distiller for the event.
Genever from 1700 specially created by the distiller for the event.

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.

The Bars

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?

French 75 Bar
French 75 Bar (image via Arnauld’s)


A French 75 at the French 75 (made the house way, with cognac!)
A French 75 at the French 75 (made the house way, with cognac!)

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.

Dante New York Pop-up
Dante New York Pop-up

The parties

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.

William Grant 'Party on your Palate'
William Grant ‘Party on your Palate’ (image via @blindleadingblind on instagram)


Bacardi Block Party
Bacardi Block Party


Cedar smoked Bombay Sapphire Negroni at the Bacardi Block Party.
Cedar smoked Bombay Sapphire Negroni at the Bacardi Block Party.

The People

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!

Meeting Dave Broom
Meeting Dave Broom
Meeting Desmond Payne, Master Distiller, Beefeater Gin
Meeting Desmond Payne, Master Distiller, Beefeater Gin
Two of my favorites Erik Lorenz, American Bar at the Savoy and our own Jack Sotti, Boilermaker House, Melbourne.


The motley Australian crew
The motley Australian crew (you have no idea how hard it was to make them stay still)

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!


Australian Gins awarded medals at the IWSC

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)

Botanic Australis Gin

Silver – Contemporary Gins (Australia)


Four Pillars Rare Dry

Four Pillars Modern Australian

Four Pillars Spiced Negroni

Botanic Australis Navy Strength

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

Distillery Botanica (NSW) (Also a Gold Medal awarded in the Best Packaging category)

Distillery Botanica

Bronze – Contemporary Gins (Australia)

Hobart No. 4 (TAS)

Noble Cut (NSW)

For more information on the IWSC visit their website here.

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.


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.

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.


Monkey 47

Monkey 47

When Monkey 47 first hit the shelves several years ago, there were many who just couldn’t fathom why there were so many botanicals. 47!

I wondered whether it was a gimmick, something to grab attention, and while it was certainly a talking point, would it be a guarantee of a good gin?

So, I sort of avoided it. I wasn’t sure it was for me, the die-hard juniper-junkie.

As time has passed and the gin craze shows no sign of abating, my puritanical views have come under fire a little (through some good-natured teasing by some of my bartender buddies) and I have learned to appreciate the contemporary and avant-garde gins available.

While celebrating a few exciting things happening at GQHQ, I decided to splurge and bought a bottle.

Monkey 47 is made in Germany, the Black Forest, to be precise and came about in one of most complicated ways.

Monty Collins was an RAF Wing Commander who was seconded to the Western part of Berlin in the late 40’s. After he left the service he moved to the Black Forest region as he wanted to learn how to make watches. When that didn’t work out he turned his hand to running a guest house. As the region is well-known for its fruit liqueurs, Monty decided to have a go at distilling and made Schwarzwald Dry Gin. The recipe was rediscovered about 40 years later and passed on to Alexander Stein one of the founders.

So where does the Monkey come from? During his time in Berlin, Monty sponsored an Egret Monkey named Max.

Monkey 47 Botanicals

Before you count them, there are not the full 47 listed here, there are several types of pepper that I’ve just listed as pepper.

But still, 47! The first 5 are all native to the Black Forest region. (FYI Lingonberries also appear in Hernö gin, and spruce is found in Pink Spruce gin).

  • angelica root
  • acacia flowers
  • bramble leaves
  • lingonberries
  • spruce
Monkey 47 botanicals
From l:r Dog rose, Lingonberries and Scarlet Beebalm

The others are: juniper berries, pepper, acacia, Sweet Flag (often used as a substitute for ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg), almond, orange, blackberry, cardamom, cassia, chamomile, cinnamon, lemon verbena, cloves, coriander, cranberries, cubeb, dog rose, elderflower, ginger, Grains of Paradise, hawthorn berries, ambrette, Rose mallow or  rose of Sharon (hibiscus syriacus), honeysuckle, jasmine, Kaffir lime, lavender, lemon, lemon balm, lemongrass, licorice, Scarlet bee balm, nutmeg, orris, pimento, pomelo, rosehip, sage, and sloe.

You’ll notice the high volume of fruit and floral botanicals, but lots of spice too.

Aroma and tasting

As you’d expect Monkey 47 is highly aromatic. I noted citrus, floral and jam-like fragrances. On the palate it is very complex. Light citrus with stone fruit flavours and a warm lengthy finish with spice notes coming through. It’s a rich, full, smooth gin.

And if you were wondering if could I pick out all 47 botanicals? The answer is no.

However, I was amazed at the balance of the spirit that Christoph Keller, the master distiller, has achieved.

Drinking Monkey 47

Monkey 47 cocktails

As usual, we tried Monkey 47 in a G&T, a Negroni (1:1:1) and a Martini (3:1).

The Gin and tonic (we used Fevertree) was light and refreshing. We brough out the floral notes with a lavender garnish. In a Negroni, while a delicious drink,  it struggled to stand up to the Campari. I think I’d play with the ratios next time, or swap the Campari for Aperol. I made the martini dryer than I usually do to give the gin a chance. It was a lovely drink, but I did miss the little punch of juniper. Both Mr GQ and I think this is a great sipping gin.

If you like contemporary gins that are full of flavour, but not heavy on the juniper then Monkey 47 is a good choice. The higher than average price point is worth it for the quality.

Country of Origin: Germany

ABV: 47%

Price: High

the gin queen's guide to australian gin botanicals

The Gin Queen’s Guide to Australian Gin Botanicals

One of the most exciting aspects of the current gin boom is how distillers are seeking out new flavours by using locally sourced ingredients. Australia is at the forefront of pushing the flavour boundaries by the use of native plants and herbs to give a distinct terroir to their gins.

Many of the ingredients appearing in Australian gins have been used as “bush foods” by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years, indeed many of you may already use some of these already.

As I’m from the UK, I hadn’t heard of many of these ingredients before I started The Gin Queen. After getting a few questions during masterclasses, I put together this guide. There is a little information about each botanical, the region where it originates and the gins that feature it as an ingredient.

Inspired by my UK friends, Gin Foundry (and my partners in Junipalooza Melbourne), I’ve had a go at putting together a flavour-wheel for the botanicals too. Let me know your thoughts!

australian gin botanicals

I’m still learning and researching, and will continue to update the list.

The Gin Queen’s Guide to Australian Gin Botanicals

Anise or Aniseed Myrtle

anise myrtle

The leaves impart liquorice and aniseed flavours.

Regions: predominantly in the Nambucca and Bellinger Valleys in the subtropics of New South Wales

Used inBotanic Australis, Loch Brewery & Distillery “The Weaver”gin

Bunya Nut

Bunya Nut cone
Bunya Nut cone

Native to south-eastern Queensland,  The bunya nut tree only bears a crop only after the tree is around 100 years old, and then it crops once every 2 or 3 years. The large cones contain the edible nuts (seeds) which are encased in a shell. The nut resembles a chestnut in looks and flavour.

Regions: Queensland

Used in: Botanic Australis

Bush Tomato

Bush tomato

They taste a little like sun-dried tomato. Closely related to the aubergine.

Regions: Central Australia

Used in: West Winds Cutlass

Cinnamon Myrtle

Used where cinnamon would normally be called for.

Regions: New South Wales, Queensland

Used in: Botanic Australis, Loch Brewery & Distillery “The Weaver” gin

Dorrigo pepper

Dorrigo pepper
Dorrigo pepper

Offering cinnamon and pepper notes, the Dorrigo pepper leaf has only been used in cooking since the mid-1980s.

Regions: Northern Tablelands of New South Wales

Used in: Archie Rose Signature Gin



Synonymous with Australia, Eucalyptus has a strong, astringent aroma and flavour that needs to be managed carefully during distillation.

Regions: All over Australia (only 15 species occur outside Aus.)

Used in: Botanic Australis

Finger Limes

finger limes
Finger limes (image from the Lime Caviar Company)

Also known as citrus caviar, finger limes are used in Australian and Asian cooking, offering a fresh burst of citrus flavour.

Regions: Queensland

Used in: Stone Pine Dry gin, Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof gin

Lemon Myrtle


Known as the Queen of the lemon herbs, lemon myrtle has the highest level of the compound Citral (more even than lemongrass) that gives gin a lemon aroma and flavour.

Regions: Queensland

Used in: Four Pillars Rare Dry gin, Ink gin, West Winds Sabre, 1827 Wild Swan gin, Brocken Spectre, Poltergeist, Stone Pine Dry gin

Lemon Scented Gum

A strongly fragranced tree that smells like citronella with a slight lemon aroma.

Regions: Queensland

Used in: Botanic Australis

Lilly Pilly/Riberry


The Lilly Pilly/Riberry have a tart cranberry-like flavour

Regions: Eastern Australia

Used in: Lilly Pilly gin

Macadamia Nut

Macadamia Nut
Macadamia Nut (image from www.crackingmacadamias.com.au)

Macadamia have a delicate, buttery flavour.

Regions: North Eastern New South Wales, Central & Southern Queensland

Used in: Melbourne Gin Company, Poltergeist gin

Meen (Bloodroot)

Meen (bloodroot)
Meen/Bloodroot (image: Science Network WA)

A relative of the kangaroo paw Meen has a hot and spicy flavour.

Regions: Western Australia

Used in: Great Southern Distillery gin


Murraya Paniculata

Beautiful white petalled flower that gives off the scent of jasmine.

Regions: Far North Queensland, Northern Territory and North Western Australia,

Used in: Distillery Botanica Garden Gin

Native Ginger

Freshly foraged Native ginger

Regions: Queensland

Used in: Botanic Australis

Peppermint Gum

Highly aromatic with a peppermint fragrance and flavour.

Regions: South Eastern Australia

Used in: Botanic Australis

River mint

river mint
(Image John Broomfield, Museums Victoria)

A subtle herb with the taste and aroma of spearmint. Indigenous Australians also used this herb for medicinal purposes.

Regions: The Murray Darling river basin (Eastern Australia)

Used in: Botanic Australis, Archie Rose Signature Gin


A distinctive warm fragrance, sandalwood is highly prized, particularly the oil.

Melbourne Gin Company Dry Gin

Andrew from Melbourne Gin Company sources his sandalwood from Western Australian, foraged with permission from the Indigenous land owners. He uses the wood and the roots, which is where the sandalwood oil is more highly concentrated.

Regions: Western Australia.

Used in: Melbourne Gin Company

Strawberry Gum

Also known as Eucalyptus Olida, Strawberry gum has a fruity flavour with a hint of cinnamon and often appears in fruit teas.

Strawberry Gum Leaf

Regions: Northern Tablelands of New South Wales

Used in: Poor Toms gin, Brocken Spectre

Tasmania Mountain Pepperberry

Tasmania Pepperberry

Regions: Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales

Used in: Four Pillars Rare Dry gin, Lark Forty Spotted  gin, Ink gin, Poltergeist gin


The Wattle flower is the national emblem of Australia. Wattle seeds have hard husks, and will last for up to 20 years in their natural environment, usually only germinating after bushfires. Roasted ground wattleseed has lots of culinary uses and a nutty/coffee aroma and flavour.

wattleseed gin
Wattleseed. ( Photograph: Mark Lucas @theguardian)

Regions: Australia-wide

Used in: Ironbark Distillery Wattleseed  gin, West Winds Sabre, Nonesuch Dry gin

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

The Gin Queen’s Guide to Navy Strength Gin

Gin, like rum, has a long association with the British Royal Navy. While the sailors were given rum rations as part of their wages, gin was strictly for the officers.

Battle of Trafalgar by Justin Sweet
Battle of Trafalgar by Justin Sweet (image via National Geographic)

During the Napoleonic Wars, Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson ordered barrels of Plymouth Gin for his officers. However, there were concerns that spilt gin could rend gunpowder impossible to light, so the founder of Plymouth Gin, Thomas Coates, created Navy Strength gin, strong enough to pass the British Royal Navy’s ‘proof’ test. This involved soaking grains of gunpowder in alcohol. If the alcohol still lit this was ‘proof’ that it was above 57% ABV, and it was allowed on board the ship. By the mid-18th century, Plymouth Distillery was supplying 1,000  barrels of Navy Strength per year to the Royal Navy!

Navy Cocktails

Pink Gin

Angostura bitters were used by sailors in the 1800s to help settle their stomachs while at sea. To make the bitters taste a bit nicer they would mix them with their daily rations of Plymouth gin, turning it pink. It wasn’t long before sailors took it ashore, and this classic became a bar favourite.

The Gimlet

To counteract scurvy, lime juice was given to sailors. To stop the juice going off it was mixed with rum! Laughlin Rose realised that by preserving the juice with sugar it opened up the product to a wider audience and he patented his idea in 1867 and so Rose’s Cordial was born.

Rose’s Cordial mixed with gin became an officer favourite, The Gimlet, named after the Navy’s Surgeon General Sir Thomas Gimlette or a gimlet corkscrew used on board to open barrels, depending on who you speak to.

Gimlet corkscrew
Gimlet corkscrew

Raymond Chandler, in his book, The Long Goodbye, says “a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else”. Unfortunately, Rose’s cordial is not readily available in Australia, (weirdly, their marmalade is), so I’ve resorted to making my own and it’s not bad!

Gimlet, made with West Winds Broadside and homemade lim cordial.

The days of gunpowder and cannons are long gone, but Navy Strength gins remain a staple of a good cocktail bar. The reason? Because Navy Strength gin stands up better against other ingredients in cocktails, than it’s lower-proof counterpart.

I chatted with celebrated bartender Jenna Hemsworth about using Navy Strength. “When opting for a navy strength gin, you have to remember that the increased strength will hinder the perception of taste of the botanicals (you’ll be tasting more alcohol ‘burn’ and less of the delicate flavours in the gin) so I tend to only use those bigger gins in longer cocktails with more non-alcoholic ingredients in order to bring the final ABV of the cocktail down.”

Her recommendations? “I adore a gimlet with the Four Pillars Gunpowder proof gin, an obvious choice considering the finger lime utilised in the gin, however the combination of sweet lime cordial, sour lime juice and the tangy spicy gin is a great mixture. An Aviation cocktail with Plymouth Navy Strength has always gone down well for me, the roundness of the gin cuts through the sometimes “too floral” combination of violet and maraschino. Lastly, the West Winds Broadside, the super strong, super salty savoury gin goes amazingly in a martini. The key is to really up the dry vermouth to 50:50 proportions in my opinion, in order to get that gin to come down to a more approachable ABV and get the most out of it.”

It’s also worth remembering that Navy Strength gins fall into two camps. First come those that are just higher proof versions of the original gin (think Plymouth), the others are new recipes, with differing botanical profiles from the original.

7 Navy Strength Gins for you to try

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

Botanic Australis Navy Strength gin

Botanic Australis gin with its 14 native botanicals is already a bold one and I was concerned about it coming in a higher ABV. Mark Watkins, Master Distiller, has changed the botanical profile and lifted the citrus component to great affect. You can read more about it here.

Hayman’s Royal Dock gin

Named after the Royal Dock in Deptford, records show that this gin was supplied to the Navy from 1863. It has lots of citrus and orange blossom aromas, an intense juniper flavour and a smooth mouth feel with a lingering finish. Traditionalists will love this.

The West Winds Broadside Gimlet
The West Winds Broadside Gimlet

The West Winds Broadside gin

This overproof gin is an absolute cracker and my go-to for a martini at Bad Frankie. Delightfully savoury, Broadside features sea parsley as a botanical and is seasoned with Margaret River sea salt.


Plymouth Navy Strength gin

Produced in the same still for the past 150 years, Plymouth Gin had Protected Geographical Indication within the European Union,until recently. It has a distinct flavour created by the more earthy botanicals and a subtle juniper flavour, however the Navy Strength has elevated juniper and spice notes. An absolute must for any discerning gin drinker.

Four Pillars Navy Strength dirty martini with blue-cheese stuffed olives
Four Pillars Navy Strength dirty martini with blue-cheese stuffed olives

Four Pillars Navy Strength gin

The addition of native finger limes to the botanical mix was a genius idea from the Four Pillars team that enhances the Asian spices they already used. A firm favourite at GQHQ, you can find the above cocktail here.


Sipsmith VJOP

V-ery, J-unipery, O-ver, P-roof needs little explanation. Master Distiller, Jared Brown has taken the juniper berry and made it the heart and soul of the gin by distilling it 3 ways. He describes as it as the equivalent of “running naked through a pine forest”. And it is just like that. A spectacular gin and probably my number one Navy Strength gin. Read more here.

McHenry Navy Strength Gin and Tonic
McHenry Navy Strength Gin and Tonic

McHenry Navy Strength gin

Taking this as his Dry Gin as the 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 to create an award-winning gin.

If all that talk of the Navy and gin has got you in a nautical mood then Raise the Gin Pennant and Splice the Mainbrace (crack open the booze)!

Raising a gin pennant shows that a ship is inviting officers from surrounding ships to drinks. The origins of the pennant are unknown but it was a small green triangular pennant with a white wine glass, later changed to a Starboard pennant defaced with a wine or cocktail glass. The aim was for the pennant to be as inconspicuous as possible, thereby having fewer ships spot it and claim the free drinks.

The gin pennant is still in regular use by Commonwealth Navies, such as the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Some junior officers of one ship to attempt to raise the Gin Pennant on another ship, forcing that ship to put on free drinks. If they are caught raising the pennant, then it is their ship that must put on free drinks. FUN TIMES.

And yes, I do have a gin pennant, don’t you?

gin pennant