While writing for Alquimie magazine, I got to spend some time with Andrew Marks, founder and master distiller of The Melbourne Gin Company Dry Gin (MGC)
Andrew comes from a winemaking family, his parents were one of the first to plant vines some 30 years ago in the Yarra Valley.
Andrew went into the wine business on leaving school, and it’s in Gembrook, at the family vineyard, where Andrew spends the majority of his time, tending the vines, but at weekends it’s all about distilling.
Andrew is self-taught, but in a way that highlights his skills as a vintner. He distills each botanical separately and then blends them together to make the gin.
Andrew explains “I wanted to understand the properties of each botanical. To create MGC I played with 15-20 different botanical distillates to figure out how they would go together. To me it was all about building the palate. Flavour, texture and aroma are very important and I’m not sure I could have achieved what I have by using the one-shot method.”
After the blend was decided, Andrew upscaled to this Portuguese still. It holds 130 litres, which is tiny by distilling standards. If filled to the top it would take days to distill but Andrew prefers to run small batches, typically taking 8 hours.
Once each botanical is distilled, Andrew stores them in kegs in an insulated warehouse where they remain until needed. He’ll blend a small batch which is then cut with Gembrook rainwater collected from the roof before bottling. Andrew explained the intricacies of blending the botanicals with different alcohol strengths and I marvelled at the maths involved!
Before I left, Andrew proudly showed me some juniper bushes (Junipers communis) that he’d planted a few years ago. Juniper needs cold alpine conditions and Andrew is hopeful that he’ll get to harvest his own juniper for the gin soon. We discovered three berries but that doesn’t dissuade Andrew.
“I’d love to have a botanical garden growing all my ingredients, wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
Visits to Melbourne Gin Company Distillery at Gembrook are strictly by appointment only. Email [email protected]
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