Tasmania continues to lead the way in the growth of distilling in Australia. Last week, I was the guest of Southern Wild Distillery, makers of Dasher & Fisher gin, who invited me to their home in Devonport.
Master Distiller, George Burgess’ previous career as a food technologist involved removing the variation of seasons and ingredients. With his gins, he’s done a complete about-face and is using locally foraged ingredients and embracing the seasons when they are available. George explains every sip should “give the drinker a sense of time and place; that the drinker should almost smell and taste the season and the landscape.”
George is passionate about supporting local people and their businesses. All of the ingredients he uses in his spirits are a stone’s throw from the distillery and he thinks nothing of cruising around Devonport checking out the fruit and plants growing in people’s gardens before hopping out, introducing himself, and asking if he can take some away.
He could be perceived as a botanical stalker, but judging by the warm welcome from Andy, whose garden houses the magnificent bay tree that George regularly harvests, they are happy to be involved in supporting a local business.
Named after the local rivers, Dasher and Fisher gins come in three styles, Mountain, Meadow and Ocean each feature the same three botanicals: pepperberry, lavender, and wakame (seaweed).
George created ‘Mountain’ for those who prefer a very traditional style of gin. In addition to the juniper and pepper berry it features 11 botanicals including cardamom and liquorice.
‘Meadow’ contains 15 botanicals, including bay, rosemary, sage and fresh oranges, nearly all of which are picked from local gardens and fields.
‘Ocean’ is the most delicate of the three. In addition to the wakame, George has incorporated rose, chamomile, and orris root to create a floral gin with hints of ocean spray.
Devonport is in the midst of the largest urban renewal project ever undertaken in regional Tasmania. The Living City project is a new multi-purpose civic building, convention centre and will boast a new Food Pavilion showcasing regional Tasmanian products.
The Living City project approached George about the distillery when the original building he had selected became unavailable. He jumped at the chance and Southern Wild Distillery has taken a temporary space while the site is built. On completion, (November 2017), George will be adding two additional stills, an 1800 litre and a 3600 litrefor his whisky.
George has exciting plans for a different style of whisky and seasonal gins, so it looks like Devonport will be another fantastic spirit designation to add to your ‘to do’ list!
Southern Wild Distillery is open to the public daily from 9.30am-5pm (later on Friday and Saturday evenings).
Many thanks to George and the team at Southern Wild Distillery and Georgia at Cru Media for organising my visit.
A class gimlet is a fine drink indeed and is hard to go past when you are after something simple and refreshing. This turbo version combines sweet, savoury, bitter and sour flavours that balance surprisingly well together to create a herbaceous riff on a citrus forward cocktail.
I’ve made a couple of adjustments to Naren’s recipe, but you can try the original here. I’m obsessed with Rutte Celery gin at the moment so have used that, but this cocktail would work just as well with a bold juniper forward gin like Tanqueray or Junipero.
Ingredients for a Celery Gimlet
45ml Rutte celery gin
7.5ml green Chartreuse
20ml freshly squeezed lime juice
15ml simple syrup
5ml white wine vinegar
2 dashes celery bitters
Pinch of salt
Put celery leaves with salt in a cocktail shaker and muddle briefly. Fill shaker with ice and add gin, Chartreuse, lime juice, simple syrup, vinegar, and bitters. Shake, then double strain into a rocks glasses filled with ice. Enjoy!
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?
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.
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.
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
To purchase Green Ant gin click here.
Death and Company in New York is one of the most influential bars to emerge from the craft cocktail movement since it opened 10 years ago. It won Best American Cocktail Bar and World’s Best Cocktail Menu at Tales of the Cocktail Spirited awards in 2010, and continues to win accolades. Obviously it’s high on my list of “bars I must visit before I die”, but as trip to NYC in not in the pipeline any time soon, I’ve been consoling myself with their cocktail book which I received from Santa.
To be fair, it’s more than just a cocktail book in spite of the 500 recipes stuffed into it’s funereal black cover. There are tips on stirring techniques and pairing flavours as well as notes on how to name a cocktail! Since I’ve been cheating on gin a bit with wine during my WSET course, the Summer Shack is the perfect cocktail to sip while I enjoy the autumn heatwave that has descended on Melbourne town.
The Summer Shack ticks all the boxes for me. It features one of my all time favourite gins, Martin Miller’s Westbourne strength, St-Germain elderflower liqueur and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s an approachable drink for those who haven’t quite given in to martinis.
The original recipe, created by Joaquín Simó, calls for Lillet Blanc, simple syrup and an orange twist which is discarded. I’ve replaced the Lillet with Dolin vermouth, omitted the simple syrup (I found it sweet enough for my taste), and kept the orange twist! Experimenting until you find the flavour profile you prefer is the best thing about making drinks!
Ingredients for a Summer Shack
45ml Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength gin
20ml Dolin dry vermouth
15ml Sauvignon Blanc
7ml St-Germain elderflower liqueur
orange peel for garnish
Stir all the ingredients together over ice. Double strain into a coupe and garnish with a twist of orange.
Napue (pronounced Na-pu-eh) and Koskue (Kos-ku-eh) gin hail from Finland and like all good Nordic stories, the idea for making rye whisky came to the founders while they were taking a sauna. The five friends, Kalle (master distiller), Miko, Mikko, Mikka and Jouni set out to create the best Rye Distillery in the world, their motto being “In Rye We Trust”.
Rye whisky is traditionally American, but when you understand the deep cultural significance of rye to the Finnish, it’s entirely appropriate that the team from Kyrö Distillery should choose to create spirits from it. Rye has been growing in Finland for over 2000 years. It’s well suited to the climate as it ripens quickly during the short Northern summer and is adaptable in difficult soil conditions.
A former dairy factory in Isokyrö is home to the Kyrö Distillery. Isokyrö itself is a mysterious place. Archeologists have found ancient human remains in the local Leväluhta well which turns red every spring. Weird.
Like many distillers before them, the challenges of cash-flow while whisky matures gave rise to the creation of gin. Experience has taught me that using spirit bases most generally associated with whisky production (like malt) when making gin, does not always create a positive outcome, with most tasting more like genever than anything else. After trying to create the base for the gin themselves without success, the Kyrö team sourced a 100% un-malted neutral rye spirit from elsewhere.
London dry botanicals including juniper from Slovenia, angelica, and lemon and lime peel form the base of Napue. These ingredients are macerated overnight before distillation.
In addition, foraged local botanicals: sea buckthorn, wild cranberry, meadowsweet and birch are individually distilled and then blended with the other distillate. Using this method, the seasonal variations encountered using foraged ingredients are countered slightly.
How does it taste?
A nice whiff of juniper and fruit on the nose. On the palate, fruit, pine from the juniper and birch followed by citrus notes and a little jam before a punchy peppery finish. Mouthwateringly good. Napue won the inaugural Best G&T gin at the IWSC in 2015 and it’s easy to see why. Great mouth feel, great flavour and finish plus a 46% ABV means it stands up well mixed, but is also delicious over ice.
I went full gintonica (Spanish style gin and tonic) for my G&T using my favourite garnish of rosemary with a wedge of fresh grapefruit.
After winning the IWSC accolade, the team decided to created a barrel-aged gin. They use Napue for the base minus the sea buckthorn and with fresh orange peel and black pepper added. The gin is rested in new American Oak barrels for 6-12 weeks.
On the nose, as you’d expect, there is plenty of vanilla, but also orange. Taste-wise there is the familiar oakiness associated with aged spirits, with vanilla, orange and a pleasing peppery finish. I found a freshness in flavour that isn’t always apparent in longer aged gins. If I had to pick a signature cocktail for using Koskue, it would have to be a Negroni (although it’s been suggested that it’s also good in a breakfast martini). Koskue gin is also delicious over ice or in an old-fashioned.
Undoubtedly, a great gin success story from Finland, Kyrö Distillery only produced 5000 bottles in 2014. Last year their total gins sales topped 350,000 bottles! Keep your eyes out for future projects, this is certainly a distillery to watch.
Country of Origin: Finland
ABV: 46% (Napue), 42.6% (Koskue)
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?
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 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).
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
Gin and Jonnie GastroGin is one of the more intriguingly named gins I’ve come across recently! The choice of name becomes obvious when you discover that the recipe was created by Dutch chef Jonnie Boer. Jonnie became the youngest two Michelin-starred chef in the Netherlands and in 2004, his restaurant De Librije, receive 3 stars, only the second in the Netherlands to do so.
A die-hard gin and tonic fan, Jonnie sought the expertise of Onder de Boompjes, to collaborate on his passion project, a gin that would “captivate my favourite flavours, ones that are fresh, real and genuine“. Onder de Boompjes have been making genever since 1658 and is the second oldest distillery in the Netherlands. Together with his chef Maik Kuipers, master distiller Justus Walop and Johan Kersten from Onder de Boompjes, Jonnie took over a year to create the recipe for the world’s first “GastroGin”.
Gin and Jonnie GastroGin contains an abundance of citrus and pepper botanicals. There are four citrus ingredients: Lemon verbena, grapefruit, lemon and orange peel, and five types of pepper: Jamaican (flavours reminiscent of cinnamon and nutmeg), Szechuan, Voatsiperifery (aromatic with a subtle sweetness), Long, and Sarawak (black) pepper. They have also used fennel seed and fennel flowers, against a background of more traditional gin ingredients – juniper, cardamom, licorice, angelica and caraway seeds.
Citrus, citrus, citrus on the nose and palate. If you love a citrus forward gin you’ll love this. As the flavour builds the citrus gives way to some interesting aniseed flavours before those peppery botanicals come through and deliver and good blast of spicy warmth.
Drinking Gin and Jonnie GastroGin
Jonnie nailed the brief when it comes to making a gin that is made for tonic. It’s a great drink and the pepper and anise prevent it becoming overly sweet.
I used Lillet Blanc in place of vermouth to soften my martini and garnished with grapefruit peel to bring out those citrus elements. It was slightly sweet with a good peppery punch at the finish.
With my Negroni I used Antica Formula instead of sweet vermouth. With an ABV of 45% Gin and Jonnie GastroGin was a good choice, the spice and pepper notes work well with the bitterness of the Campari.
Gin and Jonnie GastroGin recently came 33rd in The Spirit Business Top 50 Innovative Spirits Launches of 2016, and if you like a bold gin with lots of flavour, then this is right up your gin lane!
Country of Origin: Holland
House of Correction opened last week and what a welcome addition to bar life in Melbourne. Industry legend Alex Ross has turned a former porn cinema into a sleek yet welcoming space, with seats aplenty at the bar, or cosy booths where you and your mates can catch up and work your way through the bar menu.
I was fortunate enough to score an invite to the opening night where we sampled a range of the cocktails available. Dave Smillie has put together an delicious list of drinks with a mix of boozy and light (in ABV) and intelligent twists on classics. Dave is a long time admirer of Iain Griffiths and Ryan Chetiyawardana, so expect to see lots of house-made ingredients and a drive towards creating a sustainable bar.
The cocktail that caught my eye (and my tastebuds) was the House of Correction #2 (all the drinks are numbered rather like the menu in a Chinese restaurant). Maidenii vermouth, Four Pillars Navy Strength gin, hopped grapefruit bitters are all stirred down and then topped off with Capi pink grapefruit. Garnished with a piece of grapefruit, this is a light, refreshing tipple that stops short of being too bitter at precisely the right moment.
I recreated it at home during the warmer weather and it was spot on in delivering a perfect summer cooler with masses of flavour.
Ingredients for the House of Correction #2
45ml Maidenii Dry vermouth
15ml Four Pillars Navy Strength gin
2 drops Bittermans Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
60ml Capi Pink Grapefruit
Place a couple of ice cubes in a wine glass. Add vermouth, gin and bitters. Stir gently. Add a little more ice and top up with Capi pink grapefruit. Stir again and garnish with a wedge of pink grapefruit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.