Checking In With the Australian Gindustry
Gin is in! Especially when it comes to the land down under.
Australia’s distilling culture is really coming into its own. Despite a difficult tax structure and smaller overall population, plenty of native Australians are eager to make their own craft spirit, and in their fast-growing distilling industry gin is king.
All photos by Devon Trevathan.
While most producers wait the compulsory two years for their brown spirits to mature, they’ve chosen gin as their first release, and some, like Four Pillars Distillery in Yarra, Kangaroo Island Spirits, Seppeltsfield Road Distillers in Barossa (the latter two are both gold medal winners in the 2018 Melbourne International Spirits Competition) and Adelaide’s Never Never Distilling Co., are so smitten with the versatile spirit that they’ve committed to producing it exclusively. If you’re inclined to think that any of the distillers over there are treating their gins as a stopgap product to make a quick buck, think again: their passion and commitment to quality make it clear that Aussie producers are in this business for the right reasons.
While Americans tend to skew contemporary with much of their craft gin, our Australian counterparts seem to enjoy exhibiting more traditional flavors like those experienced in London dry gins, albeit doing so with native Australian botanicals.
At the Spring Gin Fling, a spirits event held in Adelaide, much of the gin I tasted was juniper-forward with influences from other usual suspects, such as coriander and angelica seed. Imperial Measures Distilling offered three products that day: their signature Ounce Gin, a bold Ounce Gin, and a Ruby Bitter aperitif. The signature gin was easy on the palate, showcasing juniper, coriander, and angelica root mindfully melded with orange, vanilla, and cardamom, while the bold gin excited the senses. In it, the IMD team had upped the Juniper content and incorporated savory botanicals such as thyme, sage, and pepper.
Many of Australia’s producers choose to introduce a distinguishing flavor profile by using regional botanicals otherwise unheard of in the piney spirit. Lemon Myrtle, Finger Limes, and actual ants are among some of the more interesting and successful options. That last ingredient is courtesy of Adelaide Hills Distillery in Adelaide, SA.
Sacha La Forgia, the founder of Adelaide Hills Distillery, tells me that, “the Green ants happened because we were using a lot of native foods, and the boys at Something Wild approached us and asked if we were doing the right thing.” Something Wild is a game meats and native foods supplier in Australia owned by Daniel Motlop, a former AFL star turned foodie and proud Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander man.
“We thought we had been doing the right thing, but they described to us how some middlemen and women would buy Australian foods from remote indigenous communities for not very much money and then sell it in the cities for huge markups, with very little money flowing back to the communities who harvested it and kind of own it!”
Australia’s diverse flora contributes much to its regional spirits industry. From dry desert to tropical rainforests, the country’s six states offer incredible botanical variety, which native distillers will continue to use to create delicious spirits that capture the flavor of their landscape.