Looking at the myriad of Australian gins currently available (600 and counting), it’s difficult to imagine a time when we weren’t championing locally made gins.
Sipsmith (founded in 2006) regarded as the UK pioneers of the craft gin movement and have inspired countless distilleries around the world. Speak to Australian gin distillers and nearly all of them will mention a visit to Sipsmith before they ventured forth into their own distilling journey.
We have the following Australian craft gin pioneers (and brands) for paving the way for other distillers to follow.
Lynn Lark~ Lark Distillery (1998)
Bill Lark maybe known as the Godfather of Australian Craft Distilling, but the contribution of his wife Lynn, is often overlooked.
Lynn launched Lark’s Pepperberry gin back in 1998 at Deloraine craft fair.
Cameron Symes ~ Great Southern Distillery (now Giniversity) 2005
Cameron Symes created Limeburners whisky and began distilling gin in Western Australia in 2005, likely the first gin distillery in that state.
Great Southern Distillery had two gins; London Dry gin and Margaret’s Gin. A barrel-aged gin named Ginnifer was launched in 2008.
In 2013 Cameron purchased a block of land on the banks of Margaret River where he spent 2 years building a new venue and distillery. Gin production moved there in 2015 and in 2016 the ‘Giniversity’ gin brand was launched.
Sarah and Jon Lark ~Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS) 2006
Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS) was the first dedicated gin distillery in Australia, opened on Kangaroo Island in 2006 by Sarah and Jon Lark.
It was an inspired choice of location – Kangaroo Island is well known for its produce and strong tourism base. (Visiting KIS distillery has been on my bucket list since I started GQ.)
KIS distillery uses local, fresh, seasonal ingredients and Jon and Sarah are moving towards becoming carbon neutral and aim for sustainability wherever possible.
They grow juniper, coriander, limes and mint on site as well as foraging Australian Boobialla berries (Myoporum insulara) which are considered to be “native juniper”. Boobialla are used in their Wild Gin (my favourite).
All up KIS have won over 70 medals for their gins, making them one of the highest awarded distilleries in Australia.
Ian Glen ~ Stone Pine Distillery (2008)
Ian Glen is a biochemist and holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Brewing & Distilling. He and his wife Bev, together with their children, moved to Australia in 2006 with the aim of setting up a micro-distillery in Bathurst.
He opened Stone Pine distillery in 2008, making a range of spirits including gin, vodka and spiced rum.
Philip Moore ~ St Fiacre Distillery (now Distillery Botanica) (2009)
After an extremely successful career as an herb grower, Philip wanted a change, and in 2005 bought a property in Erina to fulfil his dream of becoming a distiller.
He opened St Fiacre Distillery in 2007, and began by creating a range of native liqueurs.
In 2009 he launched Moore’s Vintage Dry Gin which won a Silver medal at the IWSC – the first Australian Gin to get a Silver Medal at this competition.
St Fiacre Distillery was renamed Distillery Botanica in 2010 and has produced some of the best spirits in Australia, including Mr Black’s Coffee Liqueur and Garden Grown gin.
In 2017 he won a Gold medal at the IWSC with Moore’s Dry Gin, the first Australian Gin to do so.
The West Winds gin (2010)
The West Winds gin was founded in Western Australia in 2010 by Paul White, Jez Spencer, Jason Chan and James Clarke.
West Winds Cutlass gin was the first Australian gin to win Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
It’s and amazing gin and still one of my Top 10 Australian gins.
Tasmanian Distillery Company (now Sullivan’s Cove)
Mt Wellington Gin was a simple compound gin produced from about 1997. It was a neutral base alcohol flavoured with commercial London gin essence sourced from a flavour company in Victoria. The original bottle was sold in a wooden box.
In 2004 the packaging changed, but the gin was discontinued in 2016 when Hobart No. 4 launched.
Tamborine Mountain Distillery
Tamborine Mountain Distillery opened in 1993 and makes a wide range of liqueurs. In 2010 they launched Lilly Pilly gin, which is still available today alongside their Davidson Plum and Rhubarb and Ginger gins.