One of the few craft gins made in Australia, Four Pillars Gin has its sights on exporting globally and becoming known as the standard bearer for Oceanic craft distillers. However – and yes “Four Pillars” pun definitely intended – are their foundations solid enough to deliver on their ambitions?
Four Pillars, created in 2013, is a craft distillery located in the Yarra Valley – close to Melbourne – and uses a CARL copper pot still called Wilma to produce its Dry Gin. Funded through Pozible – an Australian version of Kickstarter – Four Pillars is the brainchild of wine making and marketing duo Stuart Gregor and Cameron Mackenzie and brand guru Matt Jones, who want to produce the best craft spirits Australia has to offer.
Tasmanian pepperberry leaf and lemon myrtle make up two of the more interesting botanicals in the lineup, and the result both from a flavour and a design perspective, is something Australian gin fans should be proud of. The Four Pillars story began in 2012 where the concept took initial shape but skyrocketed when the team decided to crowdfund their venture. The four-week Pozible crowdfunding campaign launched in November, allowing early adopters to get their hands on the very first batch of Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin. Within four days, the target of A$10,000 was surpassed with 228 supporters pledging a total just over A$30,000 and snapping up all 420 bottles of Batch NO_1 in the process.
It’s another impressive success story of crowdfunding and yet another reminder that the romance for craft spirits and small scale production appeals to all – not just gin lovers. There clearly is an undercurrent of support available to those seeking to create quality spirits with provenance. So long as consideration and transparency are upheld, crowdfunding remains one of the fastest ways to launch a brand.
Four Pillars Gin is distilled by Cameron Mackenzie who has more than 15 years of experience in wine production and operations. Using a German-engineered copper CARL still called Wilma (after Mackenzie’s late mother), each batch is around 300 to 350 ltrs. It is the first new CARL still in Australia and its arrival marks both a milestone for the German manufacturers, whose stills are in operation all over the world, and a clear sign of the global ascendancy of craft distilling. Having experimented with various recipes for around 18 months, the final gin includes 10 botanicals – juniper berries, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, lemon myrtle, Tasmanian pepper berry leaf, cinnamon, lavender, angelica, star anise and fresh oranges. Perhaps most interesting in this lineup is the use of whole oranges.
It is quite unusual to use entire fresh fruits (both the peel and flesh) when making gin but Mackenzie believes that Australian citrus is highly aromatic and the whole fruit supports the spicier botanicals like cardamom and star anise better. To taste, the Tasmanian pepperberry leaf adds warmth rather than piquancy while lemon myrtle is a unique alternative to lemon peel. The team describe the botanical contents and the desired flavour profile as trying to deliver the best of both worlds – a classic gin but also something that would intrigue even the most hardened gin fanatic. To a large extent, we feel they have achieved this. Juniper is clearly there, alongside an array of traditional flavours but the slight twists really add new depth. The end product is genuinely a different take on gin.
The name Four Pillars was chosen as a reflection of their still, the water, the botanicals and their passion for craft. In many ways all four are not just well represented and apparent in the end product, they also lay a great foundation for future developments and other gins the team may want to produce. Four Pillars Gin is now sold in leading retailers and the best bars across Australia, and has been available in the UK since October 2014.
The Four Pillars team’s initial focus was to establish their Rare Dry Gin, but they have since launched a plethora of spirits. There’s Barrel-Aged Gin and Navy Strength Gin in the range, and a Bartender Series featuring Spiced Negroni Gin and, in another ode to the land, Modern Australian Gin. The team will soon focus on making an Old Tom Barrel-Aged Gin, a Sloe Gin and there are rumours down the grape vine of a couple of other exciting projects as well. They are quite open about having been inspired by Ransom Old Tom (see the video below) and have created their own version by adding their usual Oceanic twist. We haven’t tasted it yet but no doubt they’ve created something worthy of the distillery’s ever increasing reputation for producing fine spirits.
We’re glad that the team didn’t set out to simply make yet another London Dry Gin but in equal measure they didn’t just ignore juniper in favour of crazy and obscure botanicals. Four Pillars Gin is a prime example as to why the Australian market has a lot of potential. Craft distilling is burgeoning and there is clearly an audience who are not only wanting to seek it out, but will patron it’s creation. The local drinks scene is both informed and curious with many bars considered to be truly world class. In the context of Gin – the Oceanic region has much to offer in terms of new botanicals and local flavour pairings too.
The Australian Gin market welcomed a serious new player in Four Pillars Gin and since their arrival in the UK and now the rest of Europe in mid 2015, many more have the opportunity to discover their range all over the world.
For more information about Four Pillars, visit their website: fourpillarsgin.com.au
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