The winners of the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards were announced at Ormond Hall in Prahran last Thursday.
I have attended every awards ceremony since their inception in 2015 but in 2017 and 2018 I was fortunate enough to be asked to join the judging panel in the gin category as well as host the awards ceremony. Both are duties I don’t take lightly!
There were over 300 spirits submitted across all categories this year and judging is managed and organised under the tightest of conditions.
As judges we don’t see any bottles over the two days and the spirits are presented pre-poured in tasting glasses ready for judging. Judging sheets simply have spaces to give marks for colour/appearance (/10), nose (/20), palate (/40), balance (/10) and finish (/20) and no other information, including the ABV to avoid spirits being identified.
Medals are presented as follows:
Gold (90 – 100 points) A Gold Medal Exhibit is an outstanding spirit, liqueur or bitters for the type of product that it is.
Silver (82 – 89.9) points) A Silver Medal Exhibit is an excellent spirit, liqueur or bitters for the type of product that it is.
Bronze (74 – 81.9 points) A Bronze Medal Exhibit is a very good spirit, liqueur or bitters for the type of product that it is.
There were 7 categories for gin and the results were as follows:
LONDON DRY CATEGORY
Kalki Moon Premium London Dry Gin, Kalki Moon Distilling & Brewing Company, QLD
Poor Toms Fool Strength, Poor Toms Distillery NSW
Suter & Sons Dry Gin, Victoria
Sin Gin No 5 Greed The Murray Hotel, Western Australia
Animus Macedon Dry Gin, Animus Distillery, Kyneton, Victoria
Manly Spirits Australian Dry Gin, Manly Spirits Co., NSW
Triple Juniper Gin, Never Never Distilling Co, SA
1829 Gin, Old Youngs Distillery, WA
Poltergeist Gin – Unfiltered, Shene Estate & Distillery, Tasmania
Sin Gin No 2 Lust~ The Murray Hotel, Western Australia
Sin Gin No 6 Gluttony The Murray Hotel, Western Australia
Prohibition Gin ~ Applewood distillery, South Australia
Kalki Moon Classic London Dry Gin ~ Kalki Moon Distilling & Brewing Company, QLD
Classic Dry Gin ~ McHenry Distillery, Tasmania
Original Classic Dry ~Original Spirit Co., Victoria
Poltergeist Gin True Spirit ~ Shene Estate & Distillery, Tasmania
Spring Bay Gin ~ Spring Bay Distillery, Tasmania
Sin Gin No 1 Pride ~ The Murray Hotel, WA
Sin Gin No 3 Sloth ~ The Murray Hotel, WA
36 Short Original Gin ~ Virginia Spirits Pty Ltd, SA
Animus Arboretum Gin Animus Distillery, Kyneton, Victoria
Lawrenny Van Diemen’s Gin, Lawrenny Estate Distillery, Tasmania
Six Seasons Gin Old Young’s, Western Australia
Anther Gin ~ The Craft & Co, Victoria
78° Gin ~ Adelaide Hills Distillery, South Australia
Small Acre Gin ~ Ambleside Distillers Pty Ltd, South Australia
Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin ~ Cape Byron Distillery, NSW
Fossey’s Gin Fossey’s Gin, Victoria
Four Pillars Spiced Negroni Gin ~ Healesville Distilling Co., Victoria
Hellfire Bluff Distillery Piquant ~ Hellfire Bluff Distillery, Tasmania
Hellfire Bluff Distillery Summer Gin ~ Hellfire Bluff Distillery, Tasmania
Kis Wild Gin ~ Kangaroo Island Spirits, South Australia
Lawrenny 1818 Settlers Gin ~ Lawrenny Estate Distillery, Tasmania
Cooper’s Best Gin ~ Mark Moran Group, New South Wales
Settlers Zuzu Gin ~ Settlers Spirits, South Australia
Red Hen Gin ~ Small Batch Distilling T/A Red Hen Gin, South Australia
Dasher + Fisher Ocean Gin ~ Southern Wild Distillery Pty Ltd Tasmania
Suter&Sons G&Tea ~ Suter & Sons, Victoria
Balcombe Dry Gin ~ The Craft & Co, Victoria
Twenty Third Street Distillery Signature Gin ~ Twenty Third Street Distillery, SA
Aqua Vitae Modern Gin ~ 7K Distillery, Tasmania
The Abel GIN co-Essence Gin ~ Abel Distillers, Tasmania
Adams’ Turbo Gin ~ Adams Distillery, Tasmania
Something Wild Beverage Company Green Ant Gin ~ Adelaide Hills Distillery, South Australia
Chamomile Dry Gin ~ Alchemy Distillers, Victoria
No. 8 Botanical Gin ~ Ambleside Distillers Pty Ltd, South Australia
Big Dry Gin ~ Ambleside Distillers Pty Ltd, South Australia
Animus Ambrosian Gin~ Animus Distillery, Victoria
Applewood Gin ~ Applewood Distillery, South Australia
Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin ~ Archie Rose Distilling Co., New South Wales
Archie Rose Distillers Strength Gin ~ Archie Rose Distilling Co New South Wales
Gin 10 – Wild & Spicy ~ Bass and Flinders Distillery Pty Ltd, Victoria
Gin – Soft & Smooth ~ Bass and Flinders Distillery Pty Ltd, Victoria
Angry Ant Gin ~ Bass and Flinders Distillery Pty Ltd, Victoria
Hippocampus Bangkok Gin ~ Boatrocker Brewers & Distillers, Victoria
Cedar Fox Distilling Co. Gin ~ Cedar Fox Distilling Co. Pty Ltd, Victoria
OLD TOM GIN
Kis Old Tom ~ Kangaroo Island Spirits, South Australia
NAVY STRENGTH GIN
OTHER (UNLISTED GIN) – does not fit into any other category
On the final day of judging, all the gold medal winning gins are evaluated alongside each other and an overall winner selected by the judges.
This CHAMPION GIN trophy was won by Anther gin!
Gin distillers also did well in the Smaller Scale Production Trophies, with Suter & Sons winning Champion Australian Micro Batch Spirit:
While Animus Distillery was awarded Champion Australian Small Batch Spirit for their Arboretum Gin.
Gin and vodka distiller, James Young from Old Young’s Distillery in WA picked up the Champion Distiller award for the second year running for achieving the highest total score across his entries.
It was wonderful to watch the response of the winners, it obviously means so much. All the entrants receive a score as well as constructive feedback. Everyone I spoke to saw the awards as a way of benchmarking themselves within our fledgling spirits industry.
For full results across all the categories head here.
I first met Lorelle and Russ at the inaugural Junipalooza in 2016 where they were busy conducting research for their distillery. Since then I’ve caught up with them a few times and followed their journey to opening the first distillery on the Bellarine Peninsula, where they are both from. I recently visited, and fell in love with the beautiful location, the gin, and of course, Teddy!
The tale of how they found the property is a little spooky! During a drive around looking at properties, Lorelle saw a ‘for sale’ sign, but little else as it was completely surrounded by dense pine trees. She told me that she “just had a feeling” about the place, which was a formerly a chicken farm. Russ stopped the car and they approached the house to speak to the vendor…and this is where I get goosebumps…the gentleman selling the land, whom neither had met before, turned out to have been the best man at Lorelle’s parents’ wedding. Talk about fate!
It’s taken months and months of clearing the land and digging trenches for the various amenities. They’ve unearthed an old watering hole for coach horses, almond, fig and walnut trees and the perfect spot for their distillery.
The plan was always to create a tasting room and a space for people to have a bit to eat. The only existing building was a corrugated tin shed, which needed some serious attention.
The Whiskery, (named after Russ’ impressive moustache) is the cosiest of cellar doors!
The Bellarine Distillery will launch whisky in the next year or two, but in the mean time, Lorelle and Russ have been busy creating their gin, Teddy and the Fox.
They named the gin after their beloved dog because during all the building work a fox caught Teddy’s eye and he did a daring dash across the field (and the road!) in hot pursuit. The image caught both Lorelle and Russ’s imagination and makes for a stunning label!
Teddy and the Fox gin
Lorelle’s uses fractional distillation (all the botanicals are distilled separately before being blended together)and grape based spirit ( Melbourne Gin company also uses this base) which gives a great mouth feel and a super neutral canvas that allows the botanicals to shine.
The botanicals are juniper, orange, lemon myrtle, coriander, star anise and orris root.
On the nose the orange aromas abound with sherberty lemon myrtle in the background. To taste the orange and juniper are at the fore before more citrus zest notes from the coriander and lemon myrtle evolve. There is a good dose of warmth and spice on the lengthy finish. It’s well-balanced, with a great mouthfeel.
Drinking Teddy and the Fox gin
It works well in a gin and tonic garnished with rosemary – fennel would also work. Try it with soda as this would open out the flavours even more. Martini (with an orange twist) and negroni are fabulous, but if you really want to play up the orange notes go for something like an orange blossom cocktail or a Florodora.
Lorelle and Russ set a great example to future Australian distillers with their passion, tenacity (dealing with councils is no easy ride) and attention to detail. I cannot wait to get back and sit out on the deck.
Teddy and the Fox gin is available direct from the distillery at the moment, but you can contact them via Facebook and instagram to place an order, while they finish their website.
I am so excited about the first Victorian Gin Queen on Tour 2018!
First stop is newly opened Animus Distillery in picturesque Kyneton, where we’ll hear from the team about how they came up with the idea for Animus gins, while tasting all three! before enjoying lunch from one of the local Piper Street eateries!
Then it’s back on the gin bus as we head off to meet the boys at Patient Wolf. Matt and Dave are super excited to share a Gin and tonic with everyone as they share their story.
And if that isn’t enough excitement, we’ll be rounding off with a mini-martini at Bad Frankie, Melbourne’s number one destination for all things Aussie Spirits!
Full itinerary for Gin Queen on Tour ~ Animus Distillery and Patient Wolf
- 10.00am meet the Gin Bus at Federation Square
- 11.30am arrive at Animus Distillery get up close with their still, enjoy a tasting three of the gins produced and enjoy a light lunch.
- 1.30pm Depart Animus Distillery
- 2.30pm Arrive at Patient Wolf for a G&T with Matt and Dave
- 4.00pm Depart Patient Wolf
- 4.30pm Arrive at Bad Frankie
What’s included in the ticket price?
- Fully escorted tour hosted by Caroline Childerley, The Gin Queen!
- Luxury Bus Charter from Federation Square to Animus Distillery, and then Patient Wolf before finishing the tour at Bad Frankie.
- Meet the distillers at two of Victoria’s newest distilleries
- Gin tasters
- Gin and tonic on arrival and lunch at Animus Distillery (limited dietary options available)
- Gin and tonic at Patient Wolf
- A mini-martini at Bad Frankie
When are we going?
Saturday 24th February 2018
$150 will get you a spot on the tour.
Terms & Conditions
Attendees must be over 18.
No refunds or exchanges.
Please drink responsibly.
Nikka Coffey Gin
Roku – Suntory
Ki No Bi
Ki No Bi gin (‘The Beauty of the Seasons’) comes from The Kyoto distillery which was only founded in 2015, but is already making a name for itself. Head Distiller, Alex Davies, has a strong gin pedigree. After finishing his studies at Heriot Watt he went on to Chase and then Cotswold Distillery before heading off to Japan.
Ki No Bi Botanicals
Wa Bi gin
Drinking Japanese gin
Verdict? My pick of the bunch has to be Ki No Bi, followed closely by Roku. It will be interesting to see what Japan will bring to the gin category over the next few years as the existing whisky distilleries expand their portfolios.
Which Japanese gins have you tried?
I wasn’t familiar with yuzu until I began exploring Japanese Gins. A type of citrus, yuzu is common in Japanese cooking and is one of the key botanicals in Japanese gin. The flavour is part lime, part grapefruit and you know how much I love grapefruit and gin together!
The Collins is a classic cocktail from the late 1800s having been first recorded in Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide in 1874. A Tom Collins is usually made with gin and lemon juice , but I thought a yuzu collins made with Ki No Bi Japanese gin would work well. And I was right!
Ingredients for a Yuzu Collins
45ml gin (I used Ki No Bi)
30ml yuzu juice (found in Asian supermarkets)
15ml sugar syrup
How to make a Yuzu Collins
Shake the gin, yuzu juice and sugar syrup together in an ice-filled shaker. Add ice to a high ball glass, strain contents of shaker into the glass and top up with soda water. Enjoy!
I’ve never been one for Valentine’s Day, so I’m celebrating my one true love, gin, with four Valentine tipples to woo your (gin) lover.
Rosie Lee (main picture)
Infusing gin is a not-so-secret hobby of mine (check out my recipes for Earl Grey tea infused gin or Rhubarb). This stunning cocktail inspired from a recipe in the PDT cocktail book uses rose tea infused gin.
The Usual Suspects
I love martinis, but not everyone does. This version from Hendrick’s has the addition of Lillet Blanc, making it much more approachable.
What’s your favourite Valentine’s Day cocktail?
Ingredients for the Chocolate Negroni
30ml gin (I used Beefeater)
¾ oz Campari
¾ oz sweet vermouth (I used Antica Formula)
2 dashes chocolate bitters (optional – I used orange bitters)
¼ oz white crème de cacao
Orange twist and/or a wedge of chocolate orange (for garnish)
Stir down the ingredients over ice. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish as preferred.
Le Tribute gin has one of the most gorgeous bottles I’ve ever seen. It’s made by MG Destilerias, a family owned distillery founded in 1835 and situated just outside Barcelona in Spain. They began as producers of syrups and medicines, hence the apothecary style bottle. Their first gin, Gin MG, launched in 1940 and remains a strong seller in Spain. Spotting the rising gin boom, the family launched Gin Mare in 2007, to huge success (it’s certainly one of my favorites!).
Now the distillery has created Le Tribute – the LE is an abbreviation of Liquid Experience – gin, mezcal and tonic water.
I am fortunate to have someone who could bring me a bottle from overseas as it’s not readily available in Australia (yet!)
Le Tribute gin botanicals
Le Tribute gin contains; juniper, lime, kumquat, pink and green grapefruit, tangerine, cardamom, sweet and bitter oranges and lemongrass.
MG Destilerias uses fractional distillation to make Le Tribute gin. This highly complex process involves distilling all the botanicals separately before blending them back together – Melbourne Gin Company also uses this method. Lemongrass is the only botanical distilled in water, creating a hydrosol, to retain freshness, while the others are distilled in neutral wheat spirit.
Tasting Le Tribute gin
Just by reading the ingredients you can tell this will be a citrus forward gin, but to be honest that’s an understatement! The juniper takes a back seat to the fresh, juicy citrus flavours that abound. They’ve even written ‘fresh’ on the label!
On opening the bottle the aroma of sweet orange blossom hits you before the other citrus powers through, I found grapefruit and tangerine the most dominant.
Flavourwise it’s a bold, full-bodied gin with a delicious citrus tang. I thought it was almost lemon sherbet-like. There are also herbaceous notes from the juniper and lemongrass.
This gin falls firmly into the ‘contemporary’ group of gins with a less juniper dominant flavour, but is a great example of taking the spirit to its furthermost boundaries.
Drinking Le Tribute gin
Le Tribute gin makes a great gin and tonic, but the bold citrus flavour means that it works just as well with soda water (good news for all the tonic haters). It’s so full of juicy citrus flavour that you really don’t need a garnish either, unless you want something pretty to look at!
It makes a deliciously dry martin – I used a 60/30ml ratio and garnished with orange peel and an olive. Why? Because sometimes I like both!
As you’d expect from a gin with strong citrus orange flavour, it was heavenly in a negroni, with the mandarin and bitter orange emboldened by the campari.
If you are looking for something a little different with a bottle to die for, Le Tribute would be a good choice!
Country of Origin: Spain
Jon Hillgren, owner and distiller of Hernö gins headed off for London in the late ’90s to become a bartender. It was while learning his craft that he fell in love with gin and returned to Sweden with dreams of opening a gin distillery. Supported by friends and family he realised this dream in 2011 when Hernö Distillery became the first gin distillery in Sweden. It’s a real family affair. Both Jon’s parents work at the distillery (up until recently, his mum used to number each bottle by hand) as does his twin sister Elin.
Since launching, Jon has created a range of gins that are some of the most awarded in the World, paving paved the way for other Scandinavian gins using local botanicals like lingo berries, caraway and dill. What sets Hernö apart is that all the botanicals used are certified organic.
These include (naturally), juniper berries, coriander, fresh lemon peel, lingon berries, meadowsweet, black pepper, cassia and vanilla.
All the gins are produced using a one-shot method on a copper still and cut with water from Hernö distillery’s own well.
I tried this gin nearly three years ago now, and fell in love with it straightaway. It’s easy to see why it’s the most awarded gin in Europe (2013–2017) and the World’s best Gin 2017. It’s a traditional London dry style with plenty of juniper and citrus. Fresh and bright, it has a subtle sweetness on the finish. A cracking gin and tonic gin!
Hernö Navy Strength
Hernö Navy Strength in uses the same base at the original gin but is only diluted down to 57.7% ABV. Rich and bold, but not overwhelming, it’s superb in a gimlet.
Hernö Old Tom
Vying for one of my favourite labels, Hernö Old Tom is a wonderful interpretation of this style of gin. Using the original Hernö gin as a base, Jon sweetens it with meadowsweet and honey, creating a deliciously well-balanced Old Tom. I love the honey notes on the finish. Try it in a Martinez.
Hernö Juniper Cask gin
Long-time readers will know I am extremely picky about barrel-aged gins. Much of the juniper character than I love so much is lost through aging. Jon’s unique method of using small juniper casks (39.25 liters) and only ‘resting the gin for 30 days, retains and deepens the juniper flavour while adding warmth and spice. Enjoy over ice or enjoy in an Old-Fashioned.
Hernö Sloe gin
Organic sloe berries are macerated in original Hernö gin for three months before sugar is added. It’s not as sickly or cloying as some sloe gins can be and retains fresh fruit flavours. Sip neat over ice or in a Sloe Gin Fizz or Charlie Chaplin cocktail.
There are also couple of limited edition Hernö gins but the batches are too small to get any here in Australia. Hernö Blackcurrant is a fruity, jammy sensation but my favourite is the High Coast Terroir gin which changes recipe every year. All the botanicals are hand-picked by Jon in the UNESCO World Heritage Area of the High Coast, Sweden. Only 400 bottles were made last year so it sold out super quickly. Fortunately Jon brought some with him when he came to Australia for Junipalooza Melbourne and I had a taste then. It was incredible!
Hernö gins scream quality, whichever style you choose. If you want to check out the full list of awards, check out the awards page on their website! Jon’s care and attention to detail is obvious and it’s no accident that he has been the recipient of the Gin producer of the Year award by the IWSC ~ he’s also a great guy! The Hernö stand was very popular at Junipalooza Melbourne 2017 – the team completely sold out of stock in two days – so I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll see him again this year!
For stockists contact Vanguard Luxury Brands.
I’m very excited to share this interview with Tim Stones, Head Distiller at Manly Spirits with you. Long time readers will recognise Tim from this article I wrote a couple of years ago when Tim was Global Brand Ambassador at Beefeater. During my 2016 trip to Tales of the Cocktail, Tim confided that he was moving to Australia and was looking for a change of career.
How long have you been a distiller?
I’ve been distilling on and off for a few years, but finally made the move to full-time when I relocated to Australia in January 2017.
Did you always want to work in distilling?
It wasn’t something I had really considered in my previous bartending life, but once I started at Beefeater and spent more time around distilleries, I grew more and more fascinated by the whole process.
How did you become a distiller?
While working at Beefeater I had the pleasure to work with Desmond Payne, and Sean Harrison from Plymouth. Working with those guys made me realise it was something I wanted to pursue. During my time as Beefeater Global Ambassador I studied for my General Certificate in Distilling and completed hands-on training with the teams both in London and Scotland. Then, as fortune has it, a certain Melbourne-based gin blogger (GQ: that’s me!) then put me in touch with Manly Spirits Co., and here we are.
What is the best thing about your job?
When a recipe finally clicks. It’s a good feeling.
What is the most challenging thing about distilling gin?
The balance of the botanicals. A gram, or even a fraction of a gram, either way can really change the profile of the product. Also, I’m now working with native Australian botanicals, so there’s a whole load of stuff I’ve never tried before and using those can be challenging at times.
How do you choose which botanicals to use?
Using the Aussie botanicals is pretty inspiring. As I mentioned, there are flavours that I’ve never come across so there are plenty of things to experiment with. The hardest part is choosing what not to use!
Who/what inspires you?
Desmond (Payne, Master Distiller at Beefeater) and Sean (Harrison, Master Distiller at Plymouth gin) have been my two mentors so obviously, them, and I really admire some of the Aussie producers. Also, caffeine.
Your favourite gin cocktail and why?
The Dry Martini. Because the gin has nowhere to hide.
Which are your favourite bars (anywhere in the world)
I really miss Happiness Forgets in London, but am enjoying reacquainting myself with the Sydney scene. High Five in Tokyo, Mother’s Ruin in NYC, and The Gin Joint in Athens are always first on my list if I’m in town.
What’s next? Any future plans?
The gin and botanical vodka recipes are sorted and winning awards! And we’ve just started making whisky so I’m super excited about that. It’s going to take up a lot of my time, but I’ll be constantly on the lookout for botanicals to make some interesting new gins.
You can meet Tim on Saturday 10th Feb as part of Gin Queen on Tour ~ Sydney. Get your tickets here.