Today is International Women’s Day, and in the current wave of attention that our distilling industry is receiving globally, I wanted to shine a light on the women creating some of our most beloved Australian gins.
Gin distilling in Australia is seen as male-dominated , but with lots of young women pursuing the growing career opportunities, we are seeing a shift. There are 56 female distillers listed (up from 37 in 2021 and 29 in 2020).
The women featured come from a variety of backgrounds, but each one if driven to succeed in this exciting industry.
What they each have in common is a sense of adventure, creativity and bucket loads of passion!
Here they are:
Nat Fryar, Abel Gin, TAS
Nat is a celebrated wine-maker, specialising in sparkling wine. Her wine label is Belbonne.
Michelle Burns, Aisling Distillery, NSW
Michelle has Dutch heritage and this inspires her to create gins for Aisling.
Alicia Rheeston-Stewart AmberChes Spirits, WA
Alicia had to return to Australia after her Univerisity in the UK closed due to Covid. It was from her research into ethanol production that the idea of “wouldn’t it be nice to have our own distillery” emerged. At the start of 2021 Alicia produced her first batch of gin, AmberChes Botanical, a few weeks after her 24th birthday making her one of the youngest distillers in Australia.
Trudy Dickson, Ambleside Distillers, SA
Ambleside Distillers is a family affair with Trudy working alongside her husband Steve and son Matt to create their award-winning gins. Their Botanical 8 gin is Trudy’s own recipe (and the best-seller at the cellar door, so she tells me!)
Dervilla McGowan, Anther Spirits, VIC
That’s DOCTOR Dervilla to you! Dervilla has a PhD is microbiology and this scientific background shows in her meticulous approach to making her gins.
Joey Tai, Anther Spirits, VIC
Joey has a long career in the hospitality industry. She has been a Brand Ambassador across a wide range of spirits and has recently opened her own bar – Clooney.
Laura Carter, Applewood Distillery, SA
Laura is an award-winning wine-maker and set up Applewood Distillery with her husband Brendan, where they focus on highlighting the flavours of Australian Native botanicals.
Lisa Truscott, Archie Rose Distilling Co., NSW
After a brief stint as Assistant Distillers at Old Kempton Distillery in Tasmania, Lisa is now Senior Distiller at Archie Rose Distilling.
Ed Svela, Banks and Solander, NSW
The idea of starting a distillery came back in 2014 after Ed and her husband Marty experimented with a home still. A trip to Tasmania made Ed realise this was something she wanted to pursue and together they built their own distillery.
Holly Klintworth, Bass & Flinders Distillery, VIC
One of only two second generation distillers in Australia. Holly inherited her love of distilling from her dad, Wayne, who set up Bass & Flinders with his best friend, Bob Laing.
Lorelle Warren, Bellarine Distillery, VIC
Lorelle and her husband Russ, have created a very special little spot on the Bellarine Peninsula, where they make Teddy and the Fox gin and yes that it Teddy in the photo!
Catherine Crothers, Big Tree Distillery, VIC
Catherine was an Advertising Executive at The Age newspaper in her previous life. She made the tree-change to the Macedon ranges with husband Gary so he could pursue his dream of setting up and sheep farm, and now makes award-winning gin.
Brogan Carr, Brogan’s Way Distillery, VIC
Brogan is the on of the youngest Australian distillers and possibly the most qualified. A former trainee hematologist, Brogan completed her Masters in Distilling from the prestigious Heriot Watt University. She wrote dissertation on Australian botanicals.
Liane Darby and Paige Norris, Darby-Norris Distillery, TAS
Liane and Paige together with their husbands gave up life on the mainland to pursue their gin making dreams in Tasmania.
Rebecca Bullen, Darwin Distilling Co. NT
Rebecca is an experience entrepreneur and is the brains behind Charlie’s of Darwin, a cocktail lounge and restaurant in the heart of Darwin. In 2021 made it on the Top 20 bars to visit in the world by UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph.
Vivienne Shorter, Emerald Island Distillery, NSW
Viv grew up near Emerald beach but left to forge a career in Sydney. As much as she enjoyed the buzz of living in a city, she missed the countryside and returned. Inspired by nature and the local produce, Viv decided to begin a new career as a gin distiller.
Corinna Kovner, Ester Spirits, NSW
With a background in kitchens and food, Corinna’s refined palate is instrumental in the flavour profiling of Ester gins. products. She is also the creative director and the brains behind the branding direction.
Neddy Bedwell, Distil on the Hill, QLD
Neddy is the marketing brains behind this young, award-winning gin brand.
Kylie Sepos, Farmer’s Wife Distillery, NSW
The original Farmer’s Wife, Kylie is the creator and distiller of her eponymous gin, while husband Gavin, runs on the family’s chicken farm.
Natasha Faulkhead, Fossey’s Gin, VIC
A self-confessed foodie, Natasha loves working with native botanicals to create unique Fossey’s gins.
Berni Woods, Frankly Gin, SA
Berni is a successful businesswoman who has teamed up with her brother to launch Frankly gin.
Rose Kentish, Full Circle Spirits, SA
Rose is an award-winning winemaker who brought her fermentation skills to Sparkke’s brewing team.
When Sparkke’s operations were severely impacted by CO-VID but Rose refused to pour beer down the drain, so she began a small distilling pilot and Full Circle Spirits was born.
Bec Cooper Ginny Pig Distillery, SA
Bec is a palliative care nurse who with her husband Craig (also a nurse) wanted a more creative career. Both passionate gin lovers, they began their journey by combining Bec’s two loves, hot cross buns and gin!
Ann Houlihan, Great Ocean Road Gin, VIC
Ann has over 20 years experience in the food and beverage sector. I met her at the RASV Spirits competition which I was judging and she was running!
Mei-Lin Ford, Happenstance Distillery, SA
Mei-Lin had a successful career in workplace rehabilitation before setting her Happenstance with her friend Tim.
Marcelle McEwan, Heaps Good Gin, SA
Marcelle has an interesting career history, including a stint in the army, before deciding to move into gin production.
Ruby Daly Hellfire Bluff Distillery, TAS
Ruby drives the gin programme at Hellfire Bluff Distillery which was set up on her family’s potato farm.
Liz Beech, Here’s Looking at You Kid Gin, VIC
Liz is a former chef who had a dream to create her own gins.
Mel Sheard, Imbue Distillery, VIC
Mel and husband Mick have over twenty years in the food industry. Together they make gins inspired by their local suburb.
Ally Ayres, Karu Distillery, NSW
Ally was sick of office work and wanted to flex her creative muscles. She set up Karu with husband Nick, who manages the business while she creates gin!
Ally was recently nominated for the Emerging Talent in Spirits Award.
Kristy Lark Booth, Killara Distillery, TAS
Kristy is the first, second generation Australian Distiller. She remembers a still sitting outside her bedroom growing up and began assisting her parents aged 17. (Her dad Bill and mum Lyn, owned Lark Distillery).
Heidi Weitjens, King Island Distillery, TAS
Odelia Potts, Kings Cross Distillery, NSW
Odelia used a recipe dating back to 1937 to create Kings Cross Australian Classic Dry gin.
Melinda Davies, Loch Distillery & Brewery, VIC
Mel and her partner Craig, took huge gamble when they ditched their life in Collingwood to buy an old bank building in Loch to house their brewery and distillery. The gamble paid off and their cellar door and garden is packed out every weekend.
Vanessa Wilton Manly Spirits Company, NSW
Vanessa’s passion, enthusiasm and never-say-die attitude is a huge asset to award-winning brand, Manly Spirits Co.
Crystelle Evangalista, Margaret River Distillery (Giniversity), WA
Crystelle has significant experience in the wine industry and after a short stint at Archie Rose, moved to WA to further her career with Giniversity
Trish Davidson, Moontide Distillery, WA
Trish made a seachange to Broome and built Moontide distillery with her husband.
Kayla Grigoriou Needle and Pin Spirits, SA
Kayla uses “spent” wine from her family’s vineyards and neighbouring’ vineyards to create her initial base spirit. Her objective is to support local farmers, producers and neighbours in order to keep her gin as local as possible, and that is reflected in the botanicals she uses.
Jess Hodge, Never Never Distilling Co., SA
Jess has a Bachelor in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Adelaideand was a shining light at Yangarra Estate in McLaren Vale, before moving across to Never Never Distilling Co. Head Distiller Tim Boast credits Jess with the success of their Ginache gin.
Kristin Lemura, Noble Bootleggers Distilling Co. VIC
Fun Fact, Kristin was Miss Pin-Up Australia in 2014! She and her husband Dan ran The Noble Experiment bar in Fitzroy, before the distilling bug bit!
Karen Touchie, North of Eden Gin, NSW
Karen and Gavin set up their distillery on a farm just outside Bega.
They may be one of the newer kids on the block, but they have already picked up a Silver medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition.
Debra Clayton, Puss & Mew Distillery, VIC
Debra has given up a 20+ year career in teaching to launch Puss & Mew with her husband. Deb is chief taster and the master toaster of the coconut that stars in their Honey Coconut gin.
Rachel Reed, Reed & Co. Distillery, VIC
After many years as a chef, Rachel and her husband Hamish decided to close their restaurant in Bright to focus on making gin.
Tess Eaglesham, Riverina Gin, NSW
Born and bred in Riverina, from a long line of farmers Tess is passionate about promoting rural Australia. As well as building the new business, Tess works full-time and is raising her two daughters with her husband Jake.
Nicole Durdin, Seppeltsfield Road Distillers, SA
Nicole’s fascinating past includes 10 years as a Police Officer and a (continuing) successful career as a professional French Horn player. A brief stint living in London, just as the gin craze was taking off ignited a dream of making her own. Together with husband Jon, they built their distillery in the Barossa and haven’t looked back, gaining recognition not just for their gin, but also a tourism hot spot.
Danielle Costley, Souwester Spirits, WA
Danielle is an internationally acclaimed wine, food and travel writer. Whilst studying winemaking, she discovered a passion for distillation and started experimenting with gin and whisky.
While writing her book, Beyond the Farm Gate, she discovered native botanicals that reflect the flavours of the South West region and began infusing them in barrel-aged gins.
Suzy Brett, Spring Bay Distillery, TAS
Suzy had a twenty year career in nursing before turning to distilling. Together with Her husband Cam they set up Spring Bay (probably one of the loveliest destinations for a distillery) to make whisky and gin.
Kate Gibney & Megan Coffey Steampunk Distillery, QLD
Kate and Megan are two theatre nurses who decided to swap hospital instruments for a gin still.
Sarah Gunn, Summerleas Distillery, TAS
After a trip to Scotland to learn the art of distilling, Sarah found herself in Amsterdam on World Gin Day and discovered a new passion for Gin. She decided to continue her travels around Europe doing distilling courses and learning all she could about making gin.
Carrie Thierry, Swiftcrest Distillery, VIC
Swiftcrest Distillery is a traditional farm style producer – they make their own base spirit from scratch using organic grain. Together with her husband, Hank, she is working towards becoming an organically certified paddock to bottle producer.
Natalie Smith, Taylor & Smith Distilling Co, TAS
Natalie was a chef before a career in academia beckoned – she has a degree in Environmental Science and a PhD in Cultural Geography. She and her equally creative husband Ben, dabbled in beehives making their own cheese, sourdough bread, Kombucha, Kefir, jams and preserves, before settling on gin production.
Alarna Doherty, Tara Distillery, NSW
After a 20 year career in Human Resources and getting to the top of her field, Alarna wanted a career change. She dreamed of opening distillery and fortunately for all of us, her husband Ben told her to “Go for it!”
(Alarna’s first gin was one of my Top 10 Australian gins for 2020)
Emma Wright, Tiny Bear Distillery, VIC
Emma is the latest recruit to the distilling team at Tiny Bear.
Laurie Bilby, Two Accents Gin, SA
Laurie is an enigma! She combined a career in finance with one in netball – she is currently the General Manager of the Southern United Netball Association. She’s set up Two Accents gin in McLaren Vale and loves the contrast with her other jobs!
Megan Donsky, Winston Quinn Gin, QLD
Megan’s worked hard to create a range of gins that stand out from the crowd, with distinct packaging and flavour profiles.
Carla Daunton, Young Henry’s, NSW
Carla learnt distillation at an ethanol facility before shifting to brewing at Young Henry’s. When the previous distiller moved in, Carla seized the opportunity and became their Head Distiller.