2018 was another massive year for Australian gin lovers, with more distilleries to visit and more gins to try. It’s been exciting to watch the Australian gin distilling industry going from strength to strength, winning medals overseas and pushing our status as gin producing country to watch.
Picking my Top 10 Australian gins 2018 was SO DIFFICULT! There were so many good gins that enjoyed this year, it was really hard to get it down to just 10. I’ve picked gins that I consider well-made, well-balanced and that work in a variety of cocktails. Obviously, all lists are subjective, these are just my favourites, I am sure you have your own!
Melbourne Moonshine ‘Memo’ gin
Andrew and Ben, the team behind Melbourne Moonshine resisted making gin for many years, instead focusing on their producing their popular moonshines and laying down whisky. The boys readily admit that they were taken aback by the success of Australian gins, so decided to have a go. After a successful Cascara (the dried husk of the coffee cherry) moonshine collaboration with Campos coffee, they decided to use cascara as one the key botanicals, alongside other traditional gin ingredients (no Australian natives in this one).
The result is, in their words, a no-gimmicks gin. It’s well balanced, with plenty of juniper on the nose and palate, and a hint of sweetness on the finish.
Seppeltsfield Road Distillers ‘Barossa Dry’
Distiller Nicole is a former police officer and professional horn player. While on secondment to the UK with her husband Jon for his job, she was caught up in the gin renaissance and they hatched a plan open a gin distillery in the Barossa Valley.
There are three gins in the range, House gin, Barossa Dry, and Savoury Allsorts.
They are all grape-based spirit gins, well made, with beautiful flavours, but I especially liked Barossa dry. Full of juniper and coriander, it’s a classic martini gin, and also features one of favourite botanicals, pink peppercorns.
RRP $66 (500ml)
Brogan’s Way Every Day Salvation
Head Distiller at Brogan’s Way Distillery, Brogan Carr is one to watch. The former medical laboratory scientist has recently completed the much-lauded Heriot Watt University MSc in Brewing and Distilling. The three gins she launched at the opening of the distillery (in partnership with her dad, Simon) were submitted as part of her thesis.
All three are designed to appeal to different gin drinkers.
Evening Light is a fresh and fruity gin, made with fresh mangos and raspberries and organic white grapefruit juice alongside more traditional botanicals. Brogan says this is her easy drinking gin.
Royal Blood is Brogan’s navy strength gin. Made with cardamom,rosemary, bay leaf, Australian sea parsley, saltbush and roasted wattle seed , at 57.2% it has a bit of a kick!
Every Day Salvation is a classic dry style with strawberry gum, cinnamon myrtle and native pepper berries to give it a distinctly Australian flavour.
For me, it was a dead heat between Royal Blood and Every Day Salvation, as my favourite, but in the end I picked the Every Day Salvation. It’s a classic dry gin, with subtle use of Australian botanicals that don’t overpower the juniper backbone.
78 Degrees Sunset gin
Most pink gins I’ve tried either cloying or taste so artificial that it was hard for me to discern whether it really was gin. So, in conclusion, I’m not a fan.
When I heard that Sacha from Adelaide Hills Distillery was releasing a pink gin, I’ll admit my shoulders sagged a little. However, knowing Sacha’s ability to create show-stopping gins – (Green Ant gin was in my Top 10 of 2017) I hoped that I thought that this could be a pink gin I could get behind.
How right I was. Another masterpiece in “less is more” when using Australian native botanicals, Sunset gin has 78 degrees gin as the base and Sacha has added bush apple, strawberry gum and rosella.
On the nose it’s full of bright berry notes which contrasts beautifully with the flavour which is dry and herbaceous. It’s fabulous in a gin and tonic but I’d also recommend adding some prosecco and strawberries to create a fabulous spritz!
Kalki Moon Navy Strength
Distiller Rick Prosser and his wife Kylie have worked tirelessly since opening their distillery to prove that there is more to Bundaberg than rum!
Their gins Classic and Premium gins have won quite a few medals this year, so I was excited to learn from Rick at Junipalooza that a Navy Strength gin was coming. Long time readers will know that I love a high-proof gin. It’s not because it’s boozier!The higher the proof, the more intense the flavour which makes it better in cocktails
It’s a skill to create a high-proof gin that doesn’t blow your head off, or overwhelm your palate. I always taste gins neat when doing a tasting and I was impressed at the smoothness of this gin, in spite of its ABV. It’s everything a good Navy Strength should be: packed with juniper, bold and with a great lengthy finish.
If you like your gin and tonic with a bit of a kick, this is the gin for you!
RRP $100 approx
Tiny Bear Distillery ‘The Gypsy’
Tiny Bear Distillery caught my eye this year with their unusual name and the unique branding of their 3 gins. I headed off to the distillery recently and was surprised to learn that they are making their base spirit from kale. Kale! Their 3 gins, ‘The Doctor’, ‘The Sailor’ and ‘The Gypsy’ are all 100% vapour-infused and have a different flavour profile and story behind them.
‘The Gypsy’ is my favourite of the three. The recipe has juniper, six different peppers, cardamom, cumin, clove, lemon lime and cucumber. Damien has managed the bold botanicals well – clove in particular can quickly overpower. The result is a bold, spicy gin, with the peppers lifting the juniper to create a nuanced gin that suits a variety of cocktails. Definitely one to seek out.
Imbue Distillery Suburban Gin
Suburban gin is one of the most intriguing releases of 2018, partly due to the botanicals used. Mel and Mick, the couple behind Imbue have gathered features dandelion, prickly pear, blackberry and fennel, from the suburb where they live (hence the name)
There is lots of juniper which pleases the purist in me, but there is warmth and a little grassiness from the fennel . The gin become more delicate when mixed, with subtle melon notes from the prickly pear. I would love to see a higher proof version at some point!
Ambleside Distillers Big Dry Gin
All three Ambleside Distillers gins are really tasty, however, my favourite of the three was the Big Dry gin.
Aside from juniper berries, distiller Matt has incorporated jalapeño peppers, kaffir lime leaf, thyme, rosemary, and coriander seed. There is lots of juniper on the nose, with citrus from the coriander and kaffir lime also noticeable. The fresh, piney flavour develops into herbal notes , but it’s also fresh and grassy which I put down to the jalapeño pepper. Matt has skillfully captured the freshness of the pepper without the heat.
Melbourne Gin Company ‘Single Shot’
Melbourne Gin Company launched in 2013, at the very beginning of the current Australian gin craze. Distiller, Andrew Marks has a long and successful career in wine-making, giving him an incredible palate, perfect to make gin.
Long-time readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Melbourne Gin Company Dry gin, it’s my go-to in a martini. Andrew uses fractional distilling, meaning all the botanicals were distilled separately before he blends them together, making the most of his wine-making skills. It’s won many awards and since it’s release many have been waiting patiently for Andrew to release another gin.
All I can say is it was worth the wait! ‘Single Shot’, as the name suggests, is made using the one-shot method of distillation, meaning all the botanicals are put in the pot at the same time and distilled together.
It has seven botanicals; juniper, orange peel, angelica, Australian bergamot, cardamom pods, Tasmania Leatherwood honey and lavender. It’s a beautifully balanced fresh, bright, savoury gin. The flavour completely fills the mouth, has great feel and a great, lengthy finish. If I thought the original Melbourne Gin Company gin was the best martini gin, I’m now torn between the two!
Before it was released Andrew sent Single Shot off to various competitions, just to see if he was on the right track. He need not have worried! It picked up Double Gold at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Awards, Gin Master at the 2018 Gin Masters Awards London, and a Gold Medal at the 2018 World Gin Masters – Asia (Hong Kong), making it the most awarded gin that no-one (save the judges) had tasted.
This is my Gin of 2018.
Patient Wolf ‘Summer Thyme’
The boys from Brunswick have firmly positioned themselves as one of Melbourne’s best-loved gins and have gained a new legion of fans with the release of Summer Thyme gin, which they launched at Junipalooza in October.
Lemon and thyme have been vapour-infused to retain maximum flavour. The other botanicals, juniper, coriander, tonic beans, green cardamom, angelica, orris and cubeb are distilled all our together in the pot. The result is a bright, fresh gin and the team have nailed the summer gin brief!