In late 2016, Damien Anderson’s wife Manda asked him “If you money wasn’t an issue, and you could do whatever you wanted, what would you do?”
His answer? “Open a distillery”. And the seeds of Tiny Bear Distillery were planted.
Why Tiny Bear Distillery? Well, the distillery is tiny (indeed, one of the smallest I’ve visited – Never Never Distilling Co. is smaller) and at the time Damien sported a huge bushy beard, which gave him a bear-like appearance!
As a former biochemist and teacher, simply buying in neutral grain spirit didn’t really appeal to Damien. Instead, he experimented with different vegetables to see if he could produce his own neutral base on which to build his recipe. Lots of trial and error issued, until finally he settled on using Kale.
Locally grown kale is mixed with a sugar wash , fermented then distilled before being “stripped” through the 6 plates in the column of Damien’s still to create a neutral base. In my opinion, the results are amazing, with none of the congeners apparent in some gins where the base spirit has been made in a pot still.
A 6 plate copper column still built in Ballarat by the same still-maker that made Fossey’s and Ambleside Distillers stills.
The Tiny Bear Distillery gins
There are 3 gins in the core range, but Damien has also been busy creating collaborative gins with local bars and restaurants.
He has eschewed the use of native botanicals in these gins, but has not ruled out using them in the future. Each gin is 100% vapour-infused.
The Doctor 42%, ABV $75 700ml.
This is a herbaceous gin, packed with interesting flavours. Damien has used juniper, coriander, dill, basil, Vietnamese mint, sage, liquorice root, cinnamon, and hibiscus.
The Gypsy 43% ABV, $77 700ml.
One of my Top 10 Australian gins of 2018, The Gypsy is a spicy gin made with juniper, coriander, 6 different peppers, cardamom, cumin, clove, lemon lime and cucumber. It makes for a very satisfying G&T but would also work well in a Gin Gin Mule or a Red Snapper.
The Sailor 58% ABV, $85 700ml.
A deliciously smooth Navy Strength, made with juniper, coriander, orange, clove and cardamom. It delivers a nice, punchy flavour. Clove can be notoriously difficult to work with – it can overpower, but Damien has handled it well.
Damien has done as great job establishing his distillery in such a small space, but has managed to create a welcoming cellar door with regular gin classes. while he is experimenting with whisky, gin will always be his first priority.
Tiny Bear distillery is open Monday – Friday : 10am – 5pm (no booking required) and on selected dates at the weekend.