2017 was another massive year for Australian gin and the passion evident from our eager guests at Junipalooza Melbourne shows that there is a great appetite for local gins. Which is fantastic as 2018 will see even more gin distilleries opening!
For now, though, I’ve put together my Top 10 Australian gins for 2017. It was a tough job to limit my list to just ten. Obviously, making a list like this is very subjective and I know many of you will have your own favorites. Note, I’ve only included gins that are readily available to the exclusion of some limited editions.
Why did these gins make the list? Excellent quality base spirit is a must. The more neutral the better as it allows the botanicals to shine. All of these gins have great balance. During my event in September with Leslie Gracie, master distiller of Hendrick’s gin, she spoke passionately about balance in gin making, creating a ’roundness’ of flavours without ‘spikes’ of dominant botanicals.
Interestingly, and not deliberately, three out of the ten are all from Adelaide, showing the dominance South Australia is showing within the industry.
Loch Brewery & Distillery G&T gin
Craig and Mel from Loch Brewery and Distillery have already created two great gins; with their original and ‘The Weaver‘, which is one of my favourite gins using native botanicals. Craig has been tinkering with a recipe for a gin and tonic gin for some time before releasing it this year. Featuring juniper, bergamot, pepper berry, aniseed myrtle, roasted wattleseed and coriander, this is a wonderfully balanced addition to the Loch range.
Wild Brumby The Stallion Navy Strength gin
Wild Brumby’s origins lie in making schnapps, but their foray into gin making this year has yielded impressive results. Out of the three gins, Stallion got my vote. At 57% it’s a bold gin but easily sipped over ice. Citrus forward with a mouth-watering pepper berry finish, it’s perfect as a G&T but fabulous as a gimlet.
Distillery Botanica Rather Royal Gin
Philip Moore, one of Australia’s most distinguished distillers, collaborated with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney to produce the Rather Royal Gin, a fancier version of his Garden Grown Gin. As you’d expect from Philip, it’s a beautiful, floral gin, bursting with delicate flavours, so be careful not to drown it with an overpowering tonic.
Anther (formerly Artemis) Cherry gin
Anther’s original gin is a delicious juniper forward spirit and they use this as a base for their Cherry gin. Tasmanian cherries are macerated in the gin for three weeks before being removed and soaked in water to get the last of their juice. This cherry water is then used to cut the gin (dilute) to bottling strength. Surprisingly complex, fruity but with an expectedly dry finish. I like it with soda water.
Dasher & Fisher Ocean gin
Distiller, George Burgess at Southern Wild Distillery in Devonport has a background in food science and set out to create gins that can be enjoyed alongside food. All three gins contain a base of Tasmanian pepper berry, locally sourced lavender and wakame seaweed that are dialed up or down in each variety. My favourite is the Ocean gin which is driven by the wakame seaweed which fills your mouth with umami before moving onto a delicate somewhat floral finish. George has succeeded in creating a gin that captures the Tasmanian seascape.
McHenry Federation gin
William McHenry selected botanicals from each State in Australia; Kakadu plum from the Northern Territory, lemon myrtle from Queensland, strawberry gum from New South Wales, mountain pepperleaf from the ACT, cinnamom myrtle from Victoria, celery top pine from Tasmania, wattleseed from South Australia, and quandong from Western Australia and distilled them individually before blending them together to create this tasty, vibrant and quintessentially Australian gin!
Red Hen Dry gin
A group of friends who caught the old Red Hen trains to school together decided to make a gin together in the Adelaide CBD, while continuing with their day jobs. Less than a month after launching Red Hen Gin it took out the ‘Champion Small Batch Spirit’ at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards! This vapour infused gin contains native muntrie berries, citrus and peppercorns but is a wonderfully traditional London dry style gin.
Green Ant gin
Adelaide Hills’ collaboration with Something Wild beverages, is a bright, citrus forward gin that uses green ants as a botanical. More than just a gimmick, Green Ant gin supports Indigenous communities from where the green ants are harvested and illustrates how native botanicals can be used imaginatively and sustainably.
Manly Spirits gin
Manly Spirits gin burst on to the Australian gin scene with its beautifully designed bottle and interesting use of native botanicals that include locally foraged sea lettuce. They’ve recently added a Coastal gin to the line-up and I would also include this edition in my pick of 2017 gins.
Never Never Triple Juniper gin
I fell hard for Never Never Triple Juniper gin when it was released in August. Yes, they’ve used native botanicals but this gin shrieks juniper, juniper and more juniper and is everything a great gin should be. Without a doubt, my Australian gin of 2017. The Southern Strength and Juniper Freak versions have also proved popular at GQHQ and I can’t wait to see what the team have in store for 2018.