A few weeks ago I managed to squeeze in a trip to Adelaide. South Australia is fast becoming the gin state, so I was excited to see a few of the new distilleries popping up. Top of my list was Ambleside Distillers, who opened in November 2017.
I’d recently met Steve, Trudy, Matt and Matt’s partner Bella, when I hosted the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards. Their Small Acre gin had picked up a Silver medal, which they were naturally delighted about and I was keen to hear more about them.
Ambleside Distillers is a family business. Steve and Trudy’s son Matt was working in London just as Sipsmith opened in 2006. If you recall, Sipsmith was the first gin distillery to open in London for 200 years and played a huge part in the new gin renaissance. Seeing the response to the new wave of gins, when Matt returned to Australia he began discussing the idea of opening a distillery with his parents, where they lived in Hahndorf.
Although the weather was not kind (rain!), the distillery is in a beautiful location and Hahndorf is a major tourism centre, making it the perfect spot for a distillery to thrive. The distillery is on the main road into the town and Steve grinned and told me “If we don’t get you on the way in, we’ll get you as you leave!”. There was certainly plenty of interest when I visited. A steady stream of visitors began arriving immediately the doors opened.
The team have launched three gins, which might ambitious, but they just each made a gin that they really liked!
Trudy’s gin is the No. 8 Botanical, and is made with organic Riverland oranges, and Big Dry gin is Matt’s invention. Steve’s recipe is made with ingredients grown around the distillery, including apple, bay leaf and rhubarb. There is some healthy competition between the three, with Trudy saying, “Steve may have won a Silver medal, but mine sells the most!”
Like many distilleries in Australia (including Melbourne gin company, Ambleside Distillers have used grape based spirit from Tarac, while the still was commissioned from a company in Ballarat and is completely copper throughout. With the distillery industry growing, it’s wonderful to see traditional businesses like still-making, also receiving a boost.
All of the Ambleside gins are really tasty, however, my favourite of the three was the Big Dry gin made by Matt.
Big Dry Gin Botanicals
Aside from juniper berries, Matt has incorporated jalapeño peppers, kaffir lime leaf, thyme, rosemary, and coriander seed.
Tasting Big Dry Gin
Looking at the botanicals, you can guess that it will be savoury and herbaceous and it doesn’t disappoint. There is lots of juniper on the nose, with citrus from the coriander and kaffir lime also noticeable. The fresh, piney flavour develops into herbal notes , but it’s also fresh and grassy which I put down to the jalapeño pepper. Matt has skillfully captured the freshness of the pepper without the heat.
Drinking Big Dry Gin
Big Dry gin is perfect g&t material. Matt served it garnished with a slice of jalapeño and coffee beans, an absolutely delicious combination which I copied when I got home.