There is no need to go over the sh*t show that is 2020, we all lived it.
I have been inspired by the resilience of our Australian gin distillers, some who were put in peril by the bush-fires in January, others who opened new distilleries only to have them closed by CO-VID restrictions and those who had grand launch plans that were completely scuppered.
Given the circumstances, you’d think that there would limited options from which to choose my top 10 Australian gins for 2020. Well, I got that wrong!
Remember, this list is entirely subjective. I do not accept payment from brands to appear on the list and the majority of gins featured have been paid for by me.
How do I choose?
As my good friend Emma (Gin Monkey) says, “When you know, you know”. And that’s pretty much true for me. First impressions count.
I’m looking for juniper (it’s not gin without it), balance, good alcohol integration (alcohol should warm, not burn) and versatility in cocktails.
So, without further ado. Here are my top Australian gins for 2020
Earp Distilling Co. Just Juniper (NSW)
Earp Distilling Co. made my 2019 list with their No. 8 Dry gin, and I’m also a big fan of their Portside Navy Strength.
When I they added ‘Just Juniper’ to the range, I was first in line to buy it.
You might expect it to be one dimensional and dominated by those top pine notes. Instead you are treated to a rich juniper experience. Yes, there is pine but there is a touch of forest floor too! To taste it’s rich and resinous, making your mouth water all the way to the intense peppery finish.
One for the juniper-lovers. This makes a banging martini!
Price $69 (500ml)
Ok, I’m cheating a bit here by counting these two gins from Applewood as one entry on the list. I couldn’t pick between them OK?
Applewood is the first distillery to have two gins on the same list and it’s well-deserved as Brendan and Laura consistently produce outstanding gins.
She might be pink, but she is mighty. A complex character with a delicate berry fruit aroma and flavour with a saline/savoury backbone.
Whichever way I choose to drink Coral gin, I’m never disappointed!
Price: $70 (500ml)
Available at The Ginporium
Absolutely everything that you could want from a Navy strength gin.
Packed with juniper which is balanced with citrus from desert limes and Asiatic yuzu.
Rich and smooth in spite of its bold ABV.
Price: $90 (500ml)
Available at The Ginporium.
Turner Stillhouse Three Cuts Distillers Release (TAS)
Three Cuts Gin Distiller’s Release from Turner Stillhouse in Tasmania, was one of a handful of Australian gins to receive a Gold Medal from the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London this year.
It’s very aromatic with notes of juniper, cardamom and a hint of white pepper immediately noticeable.
At first sip, it’s spicy, but as the gin develops on the mid-plate, the beautiful, rose flavours emerge. Those delicate notes roll on to a lengthy, herbaceous finish.
You can read more about Turner Stillhouse here.
Available at The Ginporium.
Saint Felix Distillery Wild Forest gin (VIC)
Xavier Nalty’s plans to launch his distillery in Mordialloc have been hampered a bit this year, but fortunately this hasn’t impacted his ability to make this gorgeous gin!
While many Australian distillers look to native botanicals, Xavier gives a nod to the Mediterranean communities that are part of the fabric of our country by using Greek mastic gum to embolden the juniper flavours.
The addition of rosemary, bay leaf and lemon myrtle create a distinctive, herbaceous gin with a lingering finish and a lovely hint of lemon sherbet.
If you love Negronis, check out their Aperativo too!
Tara Distillery Pot Still Gin (VIC)
This is the baby of the group having only launched a month ago, and it’s a delight!
The team behind Tara Distillery; Alarna, Ben, Bridie and Cory wanted to create a very traditional gin, but reflective of their heritages.
They sourced botanicals from the area around the disitllery in Shoahaven – sea lettuce, pepperleaf and pepperberry, macadamia, and lemon myrtle have been married with more traditional botanicals, with juniper as the hero.
In addition they selected rowan berry and heather as a nod to Ben and Alarna’s connection to Ireland and Newfoundland Savoury for Cory who is from there.
Wow, you might be thinking, there seems to be a lot going on. However the botanicals combine well to create a juniper forward gin that is beautifully soft with rich herbaceous flavours and a lingering peppery finish.
I could sip this neat over ice until the cows come home.
Four Pillars Olive Leaf gin (VIC)
For those of us mourning the loss of Cousin Vera (the collaborative gin Four Pillats made with Santamania in Madrid) Olive Leaf is the gin we were all waiting for.
As you’d expect from distiller Cam, this is a masterclass in balancing complex ingredients.
Three types of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and olive leaf tea from Victoria’s Cobram Estate complement rosemary and bay leaf to create a distinctive Mediterranean gin. Macadamia nuts create a delightful mouthfeel while lemon myrtle gives this textural gin a citrus lift.
The perfect martini gin.
Naught Distilling Dry gin (VIC)
Chris Cameron is another distiller to weather 2020 while launching a new gin.
Naught gin has been in the works for 3+ years, constantly refined by Chris who admits to being a perfectionist.
It’s stunning in its simplicity. Juniper, citrus, toasted wattle seed and star anise are combined to create this elegant Australian Dry gin. Flavours of orange citrus are balanced with the sweetness and warmth of star anise, while toasted wattleseed brings depth and a pleasing mouthfeel.
I paired it with Fever-Tree’s Spiced Orange Ginger Ale as it elevates the citrus and star anise to new heights. Naught is my new go-to Negroni gin.
Sunshine & Sons Original Dry Gin (QLD)
Based a short stroll from the Big Pineapple in Queensland, Sunshine & Sons set out to create traditional gin but with distinct local flavour and sense of place.
Traditional botanicals have been blended with Pomegranate seed powder which adds tangy, sweet and sour notes, organic pink rose petals and lavender flowers. Tasmanian Pepperberry rounds out the recipe and gives a warm, lengthy finish.
Juicy and fruity, without being sweet, this is the gin you want in your tonic on a hot summer’s day.
Available at The Ginporium.
Moontide Distillery White Pearl Gin (WA)
Opening in June, Moontide Distillery almost slipped under my radar until they kindly sent me a bottle of their White Pearl gin.
Thank goodness it didn’t, because this gin needs to be firmly in the spotlight.
Trish and Andrew have used locally sourced fruits – Gubiny (Kakadu Plum) and White Berry Bush alongside juniper, coriander seeds, mango, tamarind, sandalwood, and lemon myrtle to create White Pearl.
You get the subtle aroma of mango on the nose alongside juniper. The palate bursts with rich fruit flavours with a hint of sweetness that is counterbalanced by bold spice and heat on the finish.
To make one thing clear, White Pearl is no mango-flavoured gin. It’s a skilful balance of traditional and native ingredients that results in a gin that I returned to over and over again during my tasting. Absolutely lovely.
Adelaide Hills Distillery Better Gin (SA)
The inclusion of Adelaide Hills Distillery’s Better Gin* on this selection is a hat trick for distiller Sacha La Forgia, whose gins also appear on my 2018 and 2019 lists!
I promise that it’s not because he produced a gin for my football team, the Dees this year.
As with all Adelaide Hills Distillery gins Australian native ingredients are at the heart of the recipe. Blood lime and lemon myrtle create a beautiful aroma and a crisp, clear flavour to complement the juniper and coriander. Herbal notes are present on the finish, courtesy of native pepperberry.
A classic gin that works in any cocktail as great gin should.
*Sales from 78˚ Better Gin will have a portion of the profits going back directly to local communities and charities. With the collapse of the hospitality industry due to the coronavirus pandemic they are currently working directly with CoVid-19 Employee Assistance Directive (CoVid-19 E.A.D).