Mel and Mike Sheard are the brains behind Imbue Distillery, a micro-distillery just outside Melbourne.
I first met them at Junipalooza in 2018, not long after they launched. Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength and carved out a niche for themselves in the industry.
I caught up with them (via email – thanks Co-Vid!) to learn more about their story.
Did you always want to work in open your own distillery?
Not at all! It wasn’t a life-long dream, rather a journey that developed from being in hospitality.
What is your background?
We have both been in hospitality (F.O.H., chef, pastry chef, baker) for years and at home we’ve always loved pickling, preserving, fermenting and brewing in addition to cooking.
In 2015 we started experimenting with distillation and just couldn’t shake the idea, so we kept working on it until we launched Imbue Distillery in 2018 with Suburban gin and it’s Barrel-Aged counterpart.
Did you create your gins together or as individuals?
Definitely together! One of us may be the first to suggest a narrative or flavour profile, but the result is ultimately born out of trialing, testing and tasting together.
What do you enjoy most?
The wonderful moment of a new product coming together – seeing the label for the first time and how it unites with the flavour profile and its’ story is pretty magical.
What is the most challenging thing about distilling gin?
Balancing juniper with more unique flavours – particularly Indigenous Australian ingredients is tricky.
How do you choose which botanicals to use for each gin?
Nostalgia is an element that’s really important to us as it’s both universal, and very personal. It’s highly linked to flavours and aromas, so a memory is often the inspiration behind a certain flavour combination.
We try to use as many locally grown ingredients as possible – not just to save food miles, but to support local growers and other small businesses, which is really important to us.
What inspires you?
In addition to memory and nostalgia we are influenced by Australia – although it’s a young country it has been built essentially on layers on Indigenous and Immigrant cultures, and that is an endless source of inspiration for us.
Imbue Distillery gins
Mick and Mel produce three gins; Suburban, Journey and Suburban Barrel-Aged.
Suburban was the first gin in the Imbue range. A true Australian contemporary gin with botanicals foraged from the area close to where Mel and Mick live.
It’s a spicy little number with piney juniper married with coriander and citrus from lemons. Fennel brings the herbaceous notes while ginger creates a warm finish.
I really enjoy the delightful melon notes from the prickly pear. Perfect in a gin and tonic garnished with cucumber.
700ml ABV 40% $78
In a recent interview for Fever-Tree, Mel confessed that creating a London Dry gin was not on her agenda at all, but I’m glad she changed her mind.
The Journey is Imbue’s take on a London Dry style. Juniper forward with nice touch of citrus. Mel and Mick have also introduced crisp apple and local muntries (Indigenous fruit, a little like cranberries).
This gin is a versatile addition to your gin cupboard, great in a martini, negroni or a gin and tonic.
700ml ABV 40% $75
I’m not usually a fan of barrel-aged gin as the juniper tends to be subdued by the time in the barrel.
However, this is a great example. Aged in Sherry casks, Mel and Mick manage to retain the delicate melon and cucumber notes of Suburban gin, but with added depth and warmth.
Try it in an old-fashioned or a Martinez.
Keep an eye out on on future releases of Imbue’s aged gin as the as they are experimenting with a variety of barrels.
700ml ABV 40% $85
As with many Victorian businesses, Imbue Distillery is being impacted heavily by CO-VID 19. Please consider supporting their business.