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.
When I first started the Gin Queen in 2013, gin distilling in Australia was very male-dominated (to some degree, it still is), so I’m thrilled that there are now 37 female gin distillers up from 29 in 2020!
The people features on the list come from all walks of life from winemakers and chefs, to office workers looking to make a complete career change. We even have a former policewoman and professional musician!
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 ia a celebrated wine-maker, specialising in sparkling wine. Her wine label is Belbonne.
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 creates gins with her husband, Sebastian. Their new distillery in Geelong is slated to open this year.
Gabrielle McKeon, Anther Spirits, VIC
You might recognize Gabrielle from The Gin Gals podcast that she runs with two girlfriends. She began her distilling life at Craft and Co, and is now Assistant Distiller at Anther.
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 Distillery, NSW
After a brief stint as Assistant Distillers at Old Kempton Distillery in Tasmania, Lisa is now a Distiller at Archie Rose.
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 her best friend, Bob.
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!
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.
Catherine Crothers, Big Tree Distillery, VIC
Catherine as 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.
Vivienne Shorter, Emerald Island Distillery, NSW
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.
Kerryn Ash, The Garden Distillery, VIC
Kerryn is the uses the cold-distillation process to create a bright, fresh 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.
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.
Sarah Lark, Kangaroo Island Spirits, SA
Sarah set up Kangaroo Island spirits in 2002 with husband, Jon. The goal was to create Australia’s first dedicated gin distillery. Their success has been incredible. In 2019 their O Gin was awarded Best Contemporary Gin at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London.
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!
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).
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.
Katie Lovis, Margaret River Distillery (Giniversity), WA
Katie had strong desire to move to WA, and approached Cam Syme, the owner of Margaret River Distilling looking for work. She started out on the bottling and packing line, but with her Science background, a move into distilling came quickly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.