Manly Spirits Gin

Manly Spirits Gin

Manly Spirits gin comes, unsurprisingly, from Manly Beach in New South Wales. Owners David and Vanessa, first floated the idea of opening their own distillery in 2015 during a visit to Tasmania. David has a background in chemical engineering and Vanessa’s is in marketing and design (more on that later), so a pretty useful combination!

Two years later they welcomed Tim Stones (former Global Brand Ambassador for Beefeater Gin) as Head Distiller and Production Manager and launched their Pozible campaign. During his time at Beefeater, Tim learnt from Desmond Payne, (the longest-serving distiller in the world) and Sean Harrison, Master Distiller at Plymouth Gin as well as studying for his General Certificate in Distilling and completing hands-on training with the teams both in London and Scotland.

Manly Spirits gin still
Manly Spirits gin Holstein still

David and Vanessa are Manly locals with a deep connection to the area, in particular to the sea (both are keen swimmers, divers and surf lifesavers). The team approached established forager Elijah Holland (who worked with renowned chef René Redzepi at the Noma pop-up in Sydney last year) to assist in selecting botanicals for the gin.

Elijah recommended sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) which clings to rocks and can be readily harvested at low tide (it’s the only seaweed that can be harvested freely, everything else has to be foraged under license).

Manly Spirits Gin
Sea Lettuce (image courtesy of Kirsten Bradley

Manly Spirits Gin Botanicals

Aside from the sea lettuce, Manly Spirits Gin contains; juniper, angelica root, coriander seed, orris root, orange peel, cardamom, finger lime, aniseed myrtle, and mountain pepper leaf. Tim says he found working with Australian botanicals challenging, but “inspiring”.

Tasting Notes

On the nose Manly Spirits gin has bright citrus notes, delicate pine aromas juniper and the merest hint of ozone. Tasting it, the citrus comes through as well as fresh pine. It has a savoury characteristic, not quite umami but getting there, and rounds out with a white peppery finish. Well balanced, delicious flavours and a good length, Manly Spirits Gin is a quality spirit that will serve you well in a variety of drinks.

Manly Spirits Gin
Manly Spirits gin martini. Made with Dolin vermouth and served with a twist of lemon.

How wonderful does this martini look? You’ll be pleased to know that it tasted just as good. A cracker in my opinion. Bright citrus flavours and aromas are drawn out by the vermouth and  a good peppery finish.

Aside from being a delightful gin, I must mention the attention to detail that has gone into the packaging of Manly Spirits Gin. In an increasingly crowded gin market, standing out from the other brands on the shelf is as important as making a tasty liquid. Vanessa’s design skills are apparent in the custom-made bottle. The fibonacci sequence pattern  gave her inspiration for the textured base and represents balance and perfection in nature, the blue glass is a nod to her connection to the sea and the eye-catching lid features the Eastern blue devil fish, the Manly Spirits emblem. 

Manly Spirits Gin
The lid of the Manly Spirits gin bottle.

Manly Spirits Gin

ABV: 42%

Price Medium

Follow Manly Spirits Distillery on Facebook, instagram and twitter.

You can also visit their cellar door.

Poor Toms Fool Strength Gin

At the beginning of the year I was chatting to Jesse from Poor Toms and he was quizzing me on my favourite overproof gin. Generally, I try not to play favourites. Asking me to pick my favourite gin is like asking someone to choose between their children. However, we both agreed that Sipsmith VJOP is as close to heaven in a glass as you can get. Jesse revealed that he and Griff had plans to create an overproof (not Navy strength) gin at the request of bartenders who like a little more oomph to their gin as it stands up better against other ingredients in cocktails.

After lots of R&D,  Poor Toms Fool Strength (Poor Tom is a crazy man in Shakespeare’s King Lear, so it seems appropriate) was born, cloaked in one of the best gin labels I’ve ever seen. Designed by the same designers who created the original label, it continues on the theme of the Garden of Earthly Delights, this one even takes a swipe at “Casino” Mike Baird.



Fancy packaging aside, it’s the flavour that counts, and Poor Toms Fool Proof is right up my juniper-loving street.

I chatted with Griff to find out more about how they created their new gin, “When we blended our original dry gin to 50% we realised it wasn’t going to do the job. The botanical array was simply not suitable for an overproof. So we went back to the drawing board”.

Going back to the start involved sampling lots of gins in their original and overproof forms. Griff went on, “The ones we preferred had significantly changed their botanical mix, rather than using the same gin at a higher ABV. A higher ABV changes all the flavour profiles in the botanicals, essentially making a different gin, so we thought why not make something specifically for the ABV we wanted.”

Griff and Jesse put aside every ingredient they’d used in the original (gone are chamomile, granny smith apples, lemon myrtle and strawberry gum leaf) and went back to a classic base of  juniper, coriander, green cardamom, cubeb pepper and angelica. Liquorice root was added to provide richness. Griff explained that it wasn’t a conscious decision to exclude Australian natives from their list of botanicals, but that nothing they tried gave the desired result.

Both of them were really happy with the results using the 6 botanicals, but felt the gin lacked a final something. Griff told me “Mitch from the Gin Palace in Melbourne was visiting and thought it needed citrus and suggested  grapefruit peel. And he was so right!”, so grapefruit became the final botanical.

Aside from creating a completely different gin from scratch, they Poor Toms team have used a different process in making the gin. Juniper, cardamom and cubeb are steeped in alcohol in the still overnight. They then add additional juniper with the other ingredients before distillation commences. The juniper and grapefruit peel are also vapour infused to give additional depth of flavour.

Poor Toms Carl still
Poor Toms Carl still

There is plenty of juniper and coriander on the nose, while on the palate I got delicious piney juniper and citrus with a little spicy kick from the cubeb. It’s a very well-balanced gin with a smooth mouthfeel.

Poor Toms Fool Strength Gibson Martini
Poor Toms Fool Strength Gibson Martini

Poor Toms Fool Strength makes a robust, but not overpowering, gin and tonic, but it really shines in cocktails. I tried it in a Gibson martini and a Last Word and both were outstanding.

Poor Toms Fool Strength Last Word
Poor Toms Fool Strength Last Word

If navy strength gins aren’t your thing, but you want a gin that is bolder than most and has great versatility, Poor Toms Fool Strength is an excellent choice.

ABV: 52%

Origin: Sydney

Price: Medium

You can follow Poor Toms on Facebook, instagram and twitter.

Ironbark Distillery Dry Gins

Ironbark Distillery Gins

Ironbark Distillery Gins launched in 2015 after 2 years of painstaking research and plenty of paperwork according the Master Distiller, Reg Papps. Last week they were awarded Silver Medals at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Reg knows a thing or two about distilling, having done the job within the petrochemical industry for 27 years. When I asked him if he is the longest-serving distiller in Australia, he laughed and replied that Bill Lark (from Lark Distillery) might have a few months on him!

Ironbark Dry Gins are both distilled using the vapour infusion method on a 100 litre stainless steel still with copper internals, ensuring the purest spirit possible.

Ironbark Distillery Gin still
Ironbark Distillery Gin still

Ironbark Distillery Dry Gin

Reg wanted, in his words, “to keep it simple” and has chosen only 5 classic botanical ingredients: juniper, coriander, fresh lemon zest, cardamon and vanilla. On the nose dry gin there is bright citrus notes and piney juniper. Initially, It’s smooth and fresh on the palate following on with some warmth and a spicy lift from the coriander. A smooth mouthfeel and great balance of flavours makes this a perfect G&T gin.

Ironbark Distillery Dry Wattleseed Gin

After creating the Dry gin, Reg wanted to create a version using native botanicals. Reg says “Plenty of gins were using lemon myrtle and pepperberry but none were using the famous Aussie emblem – wattleseed, so I thought I’d give it a go.” Ironbark Distillery Dry Wattleseed gin is made using the existing 5 botanicals from the Dry gin, plus wattleseed.

wattleseed gin
Wattleseed. ( Photograph: Mark Lucas @theguardian)

Wattleseed comes from the Acacia tree and is a very versatile bush food used as a thickening agent. By roasting the seeds they impart a coffee-like aroma and can be used as a beverage or an additional ingredients in desserts or chocolate.

Ironbark Wattleseed gin Gibson Martini
Ironbark Wattleseed gin Gibson Martini

Naturally I expected a gin with a hint of coffee, but fortunately this wasn’t the case! Wattleseed gives the gin an earthier flavour that mellows out the citrus notes of Ironbark Dry Gin on the nose and the palate. The flavour is very well-balanced and lingers well.

The Ironbark Distillery Wattleseed Gn is better with soda and lime, rather than tonic water, in my opinion. In a Gibson martini it created the perfect balance of savoury notes and in a ‘Little Ripper’  Negroni (with Red Økar and Maidenii Sweet Vermouth) it was deliciously different.

The 'Little Ripper' Negroni. Maidenii Sweet Vermouth, Ironbark Wattleseed Dry Gin and Applewood Distillery Red Økar
The ‘Little Ripper’ Negroni. Maidenii Sweet Vermouth, Ironbark Wattleseed Dry Gin and Applewood Distillery Red Økar

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: Both 40%

Price: Medium

Ironbark Distillery, North Richmond, New South Wales. Visits to the distillery are by appointment only.

You can follow Ironbark Distillery on Facebook, instagram and twitter.


Distillery Botanica Gin

Australian gins are coming thick and fast as we head towards 2016, but a new gin from Distillery Botanica had to be investigated immediately. Distiller Philip Moore has been in the game way before Aussie gins were featured on the back bar. His eponymous Vintage gin won a silver medal at the
IWSC back in 2009, and he is also the brains behind coffee liqueur Mr Black, which is currently winning the hearts and minds of caffeine fiends in the UK.

After learning that he uses a thousand-year old technique called “enfleurage” making Distillery Botanica gin, I knew I had to speak to Philip to find out more.

Philip explained that this technique is favoured by perfumers, as it captures the fragrance compounds at their best without using heat. This is achieved by putting solid coconut oil at the bottom of a jar and layering the floral botanicals on top. The jar is covered and the solid coconut oil soaks up the fragrant aromas. Afterwards, the flowers are discarded and the solid coconut is dissolved into alcohol before being cold-filtered to remove impurities. This floral essence is then blended with the other distilled botanicals


Philip uses juniper, Murraya, chamomile flowers, rose, sage ‘Berggarten’ ( a variety of sage that he says has less camphorous qualities than some other types) and orris root.

The juniper is used in two types of distillates – one created by macerating the berries and another by the 100% vapour infusion method (like Bombay Sapphire). The chamomile, sage and orris root are pot distilled, while the rose and murraya have their flavours extracted by “enfleurage”. The distillates are the all blended together to create Distillery Botanica gin.

Looking at the list of ingredients you’ll notice two things, the lack of citrus and the high volume of flowers. You’re probably expecting a highly-fragranced, floral gin and to a certain extent you are right. However, the juniper is still given prominence both in aroma and flavour. Philip explained “I like the juniper to have centre stage but it has to balance with the other flavours”.

Murraya Paniculata

Murraya Paniculata (the variety in Distillery Botanica gin) is actually part of the citrus family. It has small, white scented flowers and some varieties bear small fruit a little like a kumquat. While this in itself does not create a traditional citrus flavour we are used to seeing in our gins, the “enfleurage” method extracts jasmine, honeysuckle and orange blossom characters that are delightful. The sage and orris root add balance by balancing the floral tones with savoury, herbaceous notes.

Distillery- Botanica-gin-and-tonic
Distillery Botanica gin and tonic garnished with cornflowers and lavender

So far I’ve only tried Distillery Botanica in a G&T, but will be experimenting as part of a post on Summer Gin Spritz. In the meantime, if you live near Dead Ringer (fab bar!) in Sydney, cocktail legend Tim D Philips has created a signature cocktail called The Garden Martini with it that sounds divine!

Origin: New South Wales, Australia

ABV: 42%

Price: Medium

You can follow Distillery Botanica on Facebook and Instagram


Poor Toms Gin

Poor Toms Gin is made in the latest gin distillery to open in Sydney. Although they are both crazy about gin, Griff and Jesse (the two friends behind Poor Toms) conceded that without a science background, they weren’t in the best position to distil gin and called in gin expert Marcel Thompson to help them learn. A trained chemist, Marcel has worked in the industry for 28 years and has distilled Gordon’s and Tanqueray.

If you are wondering where the name Poor Toms comes from (aside from being a character in King Lear), both Jesse and Griff’s middle name is Tom and Griff reminded me that after they saved up for the copper still from Germany, they were both pretty poor afterwards!

The botanicals used in Poor Toms Gin are a cunning mix of traditional: juniper, coriander seeds, angelica root, cinnamon, cardamom, and cubeb pepper and some envelope-pushing ingredients too: freshly pressed granny smith apples, lemon myrtle, chamomile and strawberry gum leaf.

According to the Poor Toms team, they used Granny Smith apples in place of citrus, but added lemon myrtle to boost it and chamomile to bring out the apple notes.

Strawberry Gum Leaf (via wikipedia)

Strawberry Gum leaf (also known as Olida and Forestberry) is a highly aromatic native ingredient used in essential oil and perfumery (It’s also a botanical in Botanic Australis).


Poor Toms Gin is a lighter, floral style of gin. On the nose the juniper is clearly present, but is not dominating. The flavour is crisp, with a subtle sweetness and minimal heat. It’s very smooth on the palate and makes a delicious G&T garnished with strawberry or raspberry. It also worked very well in the Strawberry & Basil Gin Smash

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 41.3%

Price: Medium


Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin

Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin is made in Sydney by former Lark distiller Joe Dinsmoor, who began his distilling career aged 18 and has already built an impressive reputation. (You can read more about my visit to Archie Rose Distillery here).

Archie Rose use three different distillation methods to make their gin, making the most out of their custom-built still. Maceration (the botanicals are steeped in alcohol in the still), hot vapour infusion (botanicals are placed in a basket over the boiling alcohol), and cool vapour infusion (some botanicals are held in the still’s Lyne arm. These three methods ensure that the flavour of each botanical is preserved as much as possible through the process.

The Archie Rose Gin Still

The botanicals used in Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin, are a perfect mix of traditional: juniper, coriander, ginger, orange, angelica root, liquorice root, orris root, cardamom, cassia bark and native Australian: dorrigo pepper (a rainforest shrub from the tablelands of Northern New South Wales, river mint (from South Australia), lemon myrtle (know as the queen of the lemon herbs) and blood lime (a CSIRO created citrus fruit combining finger limes and Rangpur limes).

As you would expect from a ‘Dry’ the aroma is all citrus and pine notes. The flavour is very well-balanced with a decent juniper hit and warm, spicy peppery notes finishing with a lingering sweetness and a wonderful mouth-feel.

The blend of traditional and native ingredients, the triple distillation method and six-times filtered water results in a truly excellent gin that was magnificent in my Gibson martini.

Gibson martini

Not content with making one of the best Australian dry gins (in my humble opinion), you can visit Archie Rose Distillery and make your own, or perhaps sample their extensive gin collection in the bar. Whatever you choose to do, you won’t be disappointed.

Country of origin: Australia

ABV: 42%

Price: Medium

Archie Rose Distillery 85 Dunning Ave,Rosebery NSW 2018.

Follow them on Facebook, twitter and instagram.