Kilderkin Distillery

The opening of Kilderkin Distillery in Ballarat restores the historical connection the town has with distilling. Warrenheip Distillery was based nearby from 1864. By 1894 it was the only distillery making whisky in Victoria. It continued to do so until just after World War One when production moved to the Corio Distillery in Geelong.

I recently visited Kilderkin distillery where I met the owners Chris Pratt and Scott Wilson-Browne as well as Scott’s partner Vanessa.

Chris, a psychologist by trade, and Scott, renowned craft brewer and the man behind  Red Duck Brewery, met over their shared love of beer. Chris confided in me that he had a project to drink a different craft beer every day of the year, and he and Scott kept bumping in to each other over the years at different beer events.  With Chris hailing from Scotland, the chat soon turned to making whisky and eventually, gin.

Why Kilderkin Distillery?


A kilderkin is a cask, usually 16 or 18 gallons. Chris and Scott thought the name suited their background in beer and their plans to make whisky.

The Stills

The stills were made by Peter Bailley at Knapp Lewer in Tasmania. It was to Peter that Bill Lark first went when he wanted to open his distillery 25 years ago, requesting that they look as close to Macallan stills as possible. Knapp Lewer stills can also be found at Archie RoseShene Estate & Distillery and Stone Pine Distillery. Chris and Scott’s assisted with the design and included the option for the botanical basket to be removed, allowing greater flexibility.

The gins

Kilderkin Distillery

Like a lot distilleries, Kilderkin have started out making gin. There are two Kilderkin distillery gins, ‘The Larrikin’ and ‘The Scoundrel’.

‘The Larrikin’ is a contemporary Australian gin made with native botanicals, including lemon myrtle. I find that lemon myrtle can often overwhelm gins (less is definitely more), but ‘The Larrikin’ is tasty and well-balanced. ‘The Scoundrel’ is a more traditional London dry style and a delicious one at that. There is also an aged gin that has been rested for three months in American oak bourbon barrels. They hope to have their whisky ready by 2019.

Kilderkin Distillery, 11A Michaels Drive, Alfredton Ballarat, VIC 3350.

Cellar Door open 10am-4pm Monday – Friday and 12-5pm on Saturdays.

You can follow them on Facebook.



Four Pillars Distillery

It’s hard to believe that Four Pillars Gin launched less than two years ago (around the same time The Gin Queen was born). In that short time the Four Pillars brand has taken the gin world by storm, both here and overseas, winning several accolades along the way.

All of this has been achieved within a small space generously loaned to Four Pillars by Rob Dolan wines, but with 3 different gin styles and Cameron Mackenzie’s creativity to house, it was time to expand into their own Four Pillars Distillery, and last week I had the pleasure in joining the team at the official opening.

Four Pillars have invested in two new Carl stills, Jude, named after Stuart Gregor’s mum, and Eileen, (a much smaller still, arriving soon) named after Matt Jones’ mum.

Cam told me in no uncertain terms that opening the distillery was not part of a plan to become contract distillers. “Far from it!”, he said “Collaboration is what we have always been about and having Jude and Eileen will offer us increased flexibility to create unique gins with selected partners”.

Wilma and Jude side by side
Studs mum, Jude, commissioning the new still, named after her.

In spite of the shed’s vastness (and very high ceilings!) the team have created a welcoming bar space with a fantastic team behind it, including Troy (St. Ronan’s cider maker and formerly of Innocent Bystander up the road) and Scott Gauld. The bar is stocked with some great local tipples as well as Four Pillars aplenty.

The bar

A small shop offers books, Four Pillars branded glassware and 200ml bottles of Four Pillars. Handy!

A very tempting box
Four Pillars French 75s!

I cannot wait to see what’s in store and am heading back to take a peek at Eileen when she arrives!

The distillery welcomes walk-in tasters ($10 per head, refundable with any retail purchase) Thursday- Monday 10.30am-5.30pm and from November 16th Thursday-Sunday 10.30am-5.30pm and Friday and Saturday 10.30am-9.00pm. For more information click here.

Four Pillars Distillery, 2A Lilydale Road, Healesville.

Melbourne Gin Company Dry Gin

The Melbourne Gin Company Distillery

While writing for Alquimie magazine, I got to spend some time with Andrew Marks, founder and master distiller of The Melbourne Gin Company Dry Gin (MGC)

Andrew comes from a winemaking family, his parents were one of the first to plant vines some 30 years ago in the Yarra Valley.


Andrew went into the wine business on leaving school, and it’s in Gembrook, at the family vineyard, where Andrew spends the majority of his time, tending the vines, but at weekends it’s all about distilling.

Andrew is self-taught, but in a way that highlights his skills as a vintner. He distills each botanical separately and then blends them together to make the gin.

Andrew explains “I wanted to understand the properties of each botanical. To create MGC I played with 15-20 different botanical distillates to figure out how they would go together. To me it was all about building the palate. Flavour, texture and aroma are very important and I’m not sure I could have achieved what I have by using the one-shot method.”

melbourne-gin-company-still After the blend was decided, Andrew upscaled to this Portuguese still. It holds 130 litres, which is tiny by distilling standards. If filled to the top it would take days to distill but Andrew prefers to run small batches, typically taking 8 hours.

Once each botanical is distilled, Andrew stores them in kegs in an insulated warehouse where they remain until needed. He’ll blend a small batch which is then cut with Gembrook rainwater collected from the roof before bottling. Andrew explained the intricacies of blending the botanicals with different alcohol strengths and I marvelled at the maths involved!

Before I left, Andrew proudly showed me some juniper bushes (Junipers communis) that he’d planted a few years ago. Juniper needs cold alpine conditions and Andrew is hopeful that he’ll get to harvest his own juniper for the gin soon. We discovered three berries but that doesn’t dissuade Andrew.

“I’d love to have a botanical garden growing all my ingredients, wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

Visits to Melbourne Gin Company Distillery at Gembrook are strictly by appointment only. Email INFO@MELBOURNEGINCOMPANY.COM

You can follow Melbourne Gin Company on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Loch Brewery and Distillery

Loch Brewery and Distillery, South Gippsland, Vic

If I was ever going to do a tree change, I might be tempted to move to Loch. Only 90 minutes from Melbourne, it’s home to the recently opened Loch Brewery and Distillery, where they are making beer, single malt whisky and gin.

For Craig and Mel, the owners, this project has been 7 years in the making. Neither of them come from an industry background, but have always dreamed of making whisky. During a period as a stay-at-home Dad to their daughter, Craig started to think more seriously about making their dream a reality. From only making whisky they decided to expand their plans and make real ale and distill gin.

They bought the old bank building (see above) in Loch. It’s a wonderful building, rich with historical detail. Craig showed me the old butcher’s cottage in the garden and the bank vault where they keep their gin botanicals.


For distilling they chose traditional alembic pot stills, and had them commissioned and made by hand in Portugal. Distilling is prohibited while people are on the premises, but you can open each one and take a quick sniff. The whisky still had completed a run early that morning and smelt deliciously malty.

The Gin Still

The cellar door is so warm and cosy, even on a rainy day. I think it’s the sight of all the copper that warms you. I can think of nothing nicer than passing an afternoon drinking gin and tonics while Mr GQ samples the beer. (FYI he has tried them all and they got a huge thumbs up).

Mel and Craig

Mel and Craig are wonderful hosts who delight is sharing their passion with guests. Mel even dashed out in the pouring rain to grab us coffee and cake before we settled down to chat. It’s clear that they adore being part of the community and with the local pub closed, I imagine the community is glad they chose Loch for their home.

They currently have three gins available. Loch Gin, Loch Gin Liqueur and The Weaver.

You can follow Loch Brewery and Distillery on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.



Bass & Flinders Distillery Visit and Gin Experience


An hour away from GQ HQ is the Bass & Flinders Distillery. Founded in 2009 by Bob and Wayne it is the only distillery on the Mornington Peninsula. Here they produce a range of spirits, including Gin.

Unlike most gins which are produced using alcohol from grain, Bass & Flinders, being surrounded by vineyards (they share premises with  Darling Park winery) use grapes.

Bob is very knowledgable and after a glimpse at the still, we settled down to chat and taste gin.

I loved the fact that we began the tasting with a gin and tonic (City of London Gin & Fever tree tonic) as we talked about our tastes, different botanicals and favourite gins.

Bob and Wayne had invited me for one of their Gin Experiences, where you create your own gin using a wide range of botanicals.

I was slightly overwhelmed at the range of botanicals to choose from as I am so indecisive!

First, we tried each distillate separately : juniper, coriander, cardamon, bitter almond, angelica root, pepper berry, ginger, lime, chilli, and raspberry.

It was very interesting to taste them individually and while I initially expected juniper to give me that “ginny” flavour, it was only when it was combined with coriander that I recognised the smell.

We began by working out the juniper and coriander ratio (I decided not to add cardamon as I didn’t want a particularly aromatic gin).

I then added pepper berry, lime, chilli, bitter almond and angelica root. The ginger distillate was far too fiery (in fact I could only manage a drop on my finger) and while the raspberry distillate wasn’t as fruity as I anticipated, I wasn’t sure how it was going to combine with my other ingredients.

Having made a note of the mls of each ingredient added, Bob proceeded to make up a larger amount so we could see if we liked the outcome.  I was pleasantly surprised and both Bob and I laughed at how aromatic it was given that I thought I was aiming for a “dry” gin.

The true test was making a G&T, which we sipped while deciding what to call my gin, which will be delivered in a week.


The best bit? If I run out I can call Bob and order another bottle as he keeps a record of everyone’s gin!

The Gin Experience is $120 per person, including your bottle of gin. It’s a great way of spending an afternoon while supporting a local producer.

You can follow Bass & Flinders on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Disclosure: Bob and Wayne kindly gifted me my Gin Experience.

Four Pillars Gin ~ Distillery Visit

Craft gins produced in small batches are increasing in number, and Australia is getting in on the act.

When I first heard that a new gin was being distilled on my doorstep, in the Yarra Valley, I was really excited.

The guys behind the new gin, are rightly proud of their project, which has been 3 years in the making.

The fact that this project was crowd funded on Pozible gives you an insight into what they are hoping to achieve. A Four Pillars community. And with that in mind they welcome visitors to the distillery to meet their still “Wilma” (named after distiller, Cam’s late mum).

“Wilma” is an absolute beauty. And so clean!


Cam talked me through the process of producing the gin, including how they selected the botanicals. The surprise ingredient for many is the use of fresh oranges, as opposed to dry. The result is a smooth drinking gin with hints of citrus, lavender and spice.


There aren’t many gins you can sip neat, but this is definitely one of them.

Cam’s passion was infectious and I stayed much longer than I intended, so keen was I to hear of future plans for “Wilma”, including a Barrel-aged gin and the experimentation of using the discarded oranges from the distilling to create marmalade and bitters.

For more information on Four Pillars Distillery Visits click here.