Gin is the new whisky for Australian distillers, offering them a freedom to experiment that no other spirits can.
So while whiskey distillers have enjoyed critical success, a new breed of gin makers are having fun developing new styles, such as Victoria’s Four Pillars, which produced a sold out “Christmas” gin matured in Rutherglen Muscat barrels.
The most impressive newcomer Business Insider has encountered recently is Southern Wild Distillery in Devonport, Tasmania, which has released a trio of gins under the Dasher and Fisher label, which is taken from two rivers created from snowmelt off Cradle Mountain.
Named Mountain, Meadow and Ocean, they use local botanicals that make all three very different.
Mountain has the spicy kick of native pepperberry, Meadow has more of a warm, almost festive flavour thanks to lavender and Ocean, our personal favourite, enlists wakame seaweed for its distinctive flavour.
Distiller George Burgess, a food technologist by training, set out to create what he calls “eating gins”, designed to accompany food.
Burgess spent a decade tinkering with flavours based on the wild surrounding landscape, and even designed his own still, dubbed Emily, after his youngest daughter.
He opened up shop in Devonport – the southern port for the Bass Strait ferry Spirit of Tasmania – in late January.
He wanted to create gins that show seasonality and also vary from batch to batch, adding up to 15 botanicals to each brew.
“Divers harvest the wakame by hand, while the lavender and pepperberry are foraged on the remote hills of North East Tasmania. Some of these ingredients I was growing in my own garden when I was experimenting with recipes,” he said.
Here are Burgess’ tasting notes on the Dasher and Fisher range:
Tasmanian dry gin
A classic London Dry style with a Tassie twist has 11 botanicals that hero the native pepperberries and herbs found on the way to Cradle Mountain. The fragrant alpine freshness and woody juniper tastes of eucalypt with a bitter pepper undertone.
Tasmanian modern gin
15 botanicals showcase the lavender and oranges picked from local gardens and fields. Wild meadow florals like lavender and sage with overtones of freshly picked oranges remind you more of the Amalfi Coast than Bass Strait. The sweet, hot palate gives way to an echo of juniper.
Tasmanian coastal gin
12 botanicals that uncover an abundance of wakame seaweed from the chilly Tasman Sea. Complex and layered, it has aromas of seaweed, ocean spray, and fresh rose petal with nori, jasmine and roast peanut flavours.
The Dasher and Fisher gins are available online for $90 at Southern Wild Distillery.
Meanwhile in Sydney, Will Edwards at Archie Rose has been collaborating with tattoo artist Kian Forreal, who uses the traditional Japanese tattoo name of Shodai Horisumi, to launch Horisumi Autumn yesterday.
It’s the first in a series of four rare gins Edwards plans to produce annually under the Horisumi name as a celebration of Japan’s seasons.
“The beauty of gin, unlike whisky with its stricter rules and vodka which, by its very definition, is a fairly neutral spirit, is that it is the most open to interpretation and experimentation,” says Edwards.
For Horisumi Autumn, Edwards kept the juniper, but also wanted to accentuate Japanese flavours such as red miso, sesame seed and Sancho pepper.
“Usually it’s all about the botanicals and production processes, with the packaging developed to complement the spirit, so to flip that process on its head and have Horisumi’s illustrations lead the production was really exciting,” he explained.
Edwards says skip the tonic and try it with soda and a citrus garnish.
“Pomelo would be our pick. It also makes for a mean Negroni or get creative with a Martini and substitute Umeshu for Vermouth,” he said.
Archie Rose Horisumi Autumn is $99 from the distillery in Roseberry or online.
Finally, the most quirky local gin comes from two South Australian sources: Adelaide Hills Distillery and Applewood Distillery, in a demonstration that great minds – and winemakers – think alike.
Green Ant Gin is exactly what it says on the label. It showcases the intense, citrusy lime and coriander flavours of the insects used by Danish chef Rene Redzepi at his Noma pop up restaurant in Sydney last year.
Sacha La Forgia built his own still and kicked off Adelaide Hills Distillery in 2014. He’s collaborated with Something Wild, the Indigenous-owned native foods business to make Something Wild Green Ant Gin. At just $97.50 for 700ml, it’s a bit of a bargain. It’s currently on pre-order online and ships next week.
Something Wild is run by the Motlop family – yes of AFL fame – with former Port Adelaide forward Daniel Motlop harvesting the wild ants in the Northern Territory.
La Forgia also added boobiala, a native juniper, pepper berry and strawberry gum as well as finger lime and lemon myrtle to emphasise the citrus notes.
The ants are nearly as expensive as truffles, selling at upwards of $600kg, but at least they’re more appealing than a Mezcal worm drifting around in the bottle lime bright green flakes in a snow dome.
Winemakers Brendan and Laura Carter from Applewood have also produced 300 bottles of the insect-flavoured spirit, which, given current demand, is timely.
You can nab a 500ml bottle for $120, or try it at places such Gin Palace and Bad Frankie’s in Melbourne, or Tonic Lane and Bentley Restaurant & Bar in Sydney.
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