To mark my forthcoming event “An evening with Lesley Gracie, Master Distiller, Hendrick’s gin”, I’m launching a new series called ‘Women in Gin’, where I’ll be featuring female distillers and other high profile females within the gin industry.
First up is Kristy Booth-Lark, who I had the privilege to meet when I spoke at the Asia Pacific Whisky & Spirits Conference in Adelaide last month. Kristy has distilling in her blood (her parents are Bill and Lyn Lark who founded the Australian spirits industry.)
Kristy is a talented distiller in her own right and is keen to promote women in the Australian Spirits Industry, so much so that she has recently formed the Australian Women in Distilling Association, Lyn Lark and Genise Hollingsworth (Blackgate Distillery are also on the committee)
Kristy opened Killara Distillery in July 2016 where she makes Apothecary Gin, Single Malt Whisky, brandy and other spirits
How long have you been a distiller?
I started distilling in 2005 at my parent’s distillery (although started working there in 1997).
How did you become a distiller?
Initially I wanted to be an Air Traffic Controller, I even applied to go to air traffic control school! and was lucky enough to be offered one of the 10 spots they had available. But, my eyes began to open to the (distilling) industry and I decided that air traffic control school was not for me and that I would rather be involved in the family business. So I began to take on more of a production/distillation role. My parents were very supportive and threw me straight into it! I learned heaps about whisky how to make it from my Dad, Bill, and heaps about gin and liqueurs and how to make those, from my mum, Lyn. Learning from them was a great experience, and one could say it was destined as I grew up with a 500 litre still outside my bedroom door!
What is the best thing about your job?
I love being able to create things and have control over the whole process.
When my parents distillery was sold and I was made redundant. I knew I wanted to open my own distillery. I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty again! Being able to experiment and create new things is so rewarding.
What is the most challenging thing about distilling gin?
Probably the hardest thing is creating the recipe. There are so many botanicals to choose from and people have such different preferences for how they like their gin to taste. At the end of the day you have to go with a recipe that you love which is what I’ve done. Although, I must admit the end recipe is different from how it was t the beginning. When I first started to develop the recipe, I had it in my head that I would definitely use rose, but it just didn’t work, it interacted in an unpleasant way with the other botanicals I decided to use. So it’s not in there!
How do you choose which botanicals to use?
When I started I distilled a wide range of things, probably about 50 in total, a mixture of herbs, spices and fruit. I then started mixing them together to see how they sat with other botanicals. Some things taste great on their own but when combined with other things will taste terrible (like the Rose I mentioned earlier). In the end I decided on a fairly juniper driven gin with citrus and an Australian twist.
Who or what inspires you?
Both my parents inspire me. My mum with the way she has quietly done things in the background all her career and has made some amazing spirits. Her knowledge and understanding of how flavours go together is fantastic. My dad is so passionate about whisky and the industry in general and is always so generous with his time and knowledge, I hope to be like him.
I am also inspired by people who get out of their comfort zones and to do something to follow their truth, whether it be to start a blog, write a book or walk the Camino (all of which I’d love to do!!)
Name your 3 favourite gins
- Apothecary Gin!! Of course
- The Botanist Gin (Islay, Scotland)
- None Such Sloe Gin (Tasmania, Australia)
What’s your favourite gin cocktail and why?
Negroni, every single time! I love the hints of bitterness and how Campari and vermouth combine with gin to create something so delicious
Which are your favourite bars?
The House of Whisky on Bruny Island (TAS) has it is one of the best gin and whisky collections I have ever seen. Society (Salamanca, TAS) is great as well, with a focus on Tasmanian spirits and a fantastic cocktail list.
Bad Frankie Bar in Melbourne, Seb has done so much to support Australian distillers.
The London Gin Club, and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society rooms in Edinburgh.
What advice would you give to women wishing to become a distiller?
Start, just start! Approach someone in the industry, see if you can intern somewhere and definitely read as much as you can.
One of the reasons I started the Australian Women in Distilling Association (AWDA), was to promote awareness of the industry and to support women looking to become distillers. I’m hoping the organisation will become a place for women to find support, encouragement, inspiration and to celebrate other like-minded women in the Australian distilling industry.
You can follow Killara Distillery on Facebook and instagram.
If you are interested in finding out more about joining the AWDA, please email Kristy.