As imbibers of liquorous delights, we’re increasingly seeking spirits with authenticity, made by fiercely proud local distillers who lovingly obsess over the tiniest details, don’t compromise on raw materials or techniques and who strive to create the very best.
The Australians making fine drink to sip on is a trend mirrored around the world, particularly in the UK and US. In the US alone, the number of small-batch distillers has grown from around 15 ten years ago to over 500 today – incredible numbers. In Australia, while craft spirits are on the rise, it’s a lot harder to make headway, with red-tape making things difficult for would-be distillers.
“We spent years researching the best still to use – only after we had gone through the process of custom-designing and importing our still could we actually apply for a license to distill commercially,” says Cameron Mackenzie of Four Pillars. “But the results are worth it – we believe we’ve created the perfect example of a truly modern Australian Gin”.
And therein lies the crux of Australian spirit-making – what exactly do modern Australian spirits look like? Unshackled by tradition, these master distillers create spirits that often show a keen sense of Australiana about them – whether their inspiration is from native botanicals or in challenging the status quo of techniques from around the world.
For Four Pillars, it’s the unusual step of using fresh oranges and lemon myrtle in their blend to create a citrus note in their gin, as well as local lavender and Tasmanian Pepperberry leaf. While for Starward Whisky, it’s the Rutherglen Apera barrels and the influence of the highly-variable Melbourne climate that makes their single malt stand out.
Boutique, hand-crafted Australian spirits are definitely worth your time and effort to seek out. The craftsmanship alone is second to none, and some of the gentle tweaks of technique used to introduce a modern Australian twist to small-batch spirit production are creating waves both here and overseas.
Some up-and-coming Australian spirits producers to look out for.
From Victoria’s Yarra Valley, this exceptional gin features high notes of fresh oranges, lemon myrtle and Tasmanian Pepperberry leaf. It’s made in a way that is at once classic but with modern stylings. [RRP $70]
Tasmanian barley and Cape Grim Water make an incredibly pure vodka, and their rare Autumn Butter flavoured vodka uses butter from the dairy farm next door. [RRP $58/$84]
A London Dry style at heart, but with rosemary from distiller Andrew Marks’ Yarra Valley garden and grapefruit from his winery to add a citrus-herbal twist [RRP $69]
‘The Sabre’ is West Winds’ classic gin, while ‘The Cutlass’ is a 50% abv gin enhanced with Australian bush tomatoes, making it irresistibly headstrong and aromatic [RRP $55/$85]
This delicately complex whisky with stone fruits, orange peel zing but also dried fruits such as raisins and figs giving way to warming caramel, vanilla and spice notes [RRP $80]