Australian Gins to watch
Movers, shakers, trend setters and jet setters, keeping an eye out for the who’s hot and who’s not of Australian Gins is a tough task. There are so many exciting products made by hugely inspiring people in this region, that we’ve had our work cut out for us over the past few years, but we think we’ve got it sussed…
We all know about Four Pillars and most will also have seen or tasted West Winds. Both these brands stood strong at the start of the gin movement and though competition has grown (and grown and grown), they’re still the top dogs when it comes to numbers sold and availability in international markets. Rivals are starting to seep through the cracks now, so lets see who has the chops to make it both in the UK and internationally.
Junipalooza’ers in London will remember Mt Uncle and Mc Henry, exhibiting in 2016 and 17 respectively. Both were a hit on the weekends, but neither have gained much traction in the time since, for various reasons and both are still working away at making it happen. Both showcase the need for brands to have a keen price point, great packaging and mouthwatering liquid alongside a specific understanding of where to place themselves and how they convey what they stand for strongly. It’s tough to make it and only complete packages can make it in the UK and it’s only natural that any brand will have most of these elements in one way or another, but only be strong in some areas, and weaker in others.
It’s much harder when you export too, as brands have to be able to transmit of all of this whilst being being based some thousands of miles away, working in different time zones and usually without assistance from local partners.
36 Short, Red Hen, Poor Toms, Adelaide Hills and Prohibition Gin are all strong offerings domestically (and tasty gins, at that!), but none are quite set for the international stage yet. That combination of infrastructure, knowhow and investment takes time to build up.
Patient Wolf and Anther Gin need to be praised for helping to quench the Melbourne masses, but as two-to-three person teams working with microscopic budgets, neither are at a stage of growth in which international expansion is all that plausible yet.
So, with that in mind, here’s a few who we feel have the potential to make it in the next 12 months internationally, and whose names you should note down for the (near) future…
Distillery Botanica Gin
With an amazing bottle, provenance driven liquid and coming from a team who gets how the international networks operate (or at least get to see it close up as they make Mr Blacks Coffee Liqueur) this is surely the breakthrough gin that just hasn’t clicked yet. The distillery, nestled in a three acre garden, is as picturesque as it is functional. Rose, chamomile, sage and Murraya Flowers are all cultivated and then, not just content with putting them in the still to extract the essence and aromas, the team use a one-thousand-year-old technique known as ‘enfleurage,’ whereby flowers or botanicals are laid out onto a layer of solidified coconut oil. What we’re saying is simple: there’s craft and provenance aplenty here.
It might be an awkward bottle for bars (as the neck is more of a gaping hole than something that you can pour out of), but it’s a retailers dream – distinct and brilliantly up-cyclable for the insta-generation.
23rd Street Gin
Good gin, great package and enough investment in infrastructure for economies of scale to be an advantage for them internationally. One look at the “package” and you’ll see it has the shelf appeal to carry abroad, but the lack of a really strong USP is currently holding this brand back. As a gin, it can get a foothold on its looks and taste alone, but it’ll need some savvy positioning to be added into the mix if they want to really compete.
The clamber to know what something is about as opposed to wanting to know exactly what has been made, seems to be the differentiating point between the brands that survive the voyage to export markets and prosper and those who kind of seem to drown out along the way. Give them time though! When it all takes off, we expect it to be a name on the back bar…
Never Never Gin
Walking down the well trodden path of bartender focused engagement to seed credibility and introduce the gin to a savvy audience, the Never Never team have had a meteoric start to their journey as ginsmiths, something that was reflected when they were ranked as a top ten spirit in the 50 best bars trend reports. While they are fearless in their pursuit of pushing juniper above all else, there’s more to Never Never as a gin and as a distillery. The liquid’s singularity is betrayed by the way the other botanicals add careful layers of complexity, pepperberry in particular, which adds length to the finish.
Watch this space as this is a team on the up and up and if they can keep the funding and infrastructure growing at the same pace as their success – they may well be the next global brand to emerge from the country.
Another strong offering, this is a gin built almost entirely around celebrating Australian fauna. It does all this without being utterly batshit, too. The team – the Brooks family – has balanced the local, the unusual and the pungent with what most will instantly recognise as gin. By doing so they have imbued personality and modernity, without alienating those who love a good dose of juniper and who appreciate that the category has heritage worth celebrating.
Cape Byron Distillery sits in the midst of a 96-acre farm, amongst the macadamia orchard and rainforest that the Brooks family has worked so hard to regenerate. The rainforest began as a run-down dairy farm some 30 years ago, but in the decades since Pam & Martin Brook have fixed it right up, planting over 35,000 subtropical trees and creating an oasis for birds and animals. As a result, the flora on offer is truly next level and adds additional layers to their story and provenance as a gin.
The good news for the team is that they have a solid understanding of the role of social media too; their branding is strong and they’re able to project their ethos with power and passion – this is a feat that will serve them well as they look to charm drinkers from all those miles away.
Manly Spirits Gin
Distinct bottles always help to capture imagination and attention. Manly Spirits has fun Australiana written all over it, but it manages to dial it in just enough so that it’s not a total pastiche. The flavours are as loud as the bottle, too, helping to reflect a wider aura that’s as much about the Australian coast as it is about the art of making gin.
Based on the New South Wales coastline, Manly Spirits strives to strike that perfect blend between city and sea, with marine botanicals squeezing their way in amongst land-based beauties to create something a little more unusual than its competitors. Can they tread the line of selling a slice of Australia without delving into clichés? Absolutely. Will it divide opinion as to how progressive a flavour it is? Certainly. Is it a horse worth backing in this gin race? Any day of the week.
Representative of modern, inclusive Australia, the team behind this distillery is what sells the overall package. This isn’t a former distilling/winery/drinks trade troop, rather its a gaggle of friends who started down this path and in doing so managed to build something quite beautiful. There’s is a story that so many can relate to, anywhere in the world, and even though it’s a tale that’s often told by micro-distillers and small businesses, there’s an undeniable charm to the idea and to what they’ve achieved.
Their three very different spirits add up to a fully blown, complex and engaging range too. The Macedon Dry Gin an homage to classic gins, their Ambrosian Gin a fantastically strange and exotic blend of mandarin, kaffir lime and white sesame and the Arboretum Gin a fantastically herbal affair, with strawberry gum leaf, lemon thyme and rosemary adding up to something delightfully vibrant. That, and they look absolutely fantastic, too…
Shene Estate (Poltergeist Gin)
This Tazmania based distillery was built on the Shene Estate, a formerly crumbling property that the Kernke family has been restoring for over a decade. With links to King George III and Governor Lachlan Macquarie, its history is deeply rooted in Coloniolism and grandeur. Since acquiring the property in 2006, the Kernke’s have worked hard to restore the site, even adding a distillery to the property. We’ll assume, given the very spooky nature of the gin, that despite the restoration, there are still a fair few bumps in the night.
This is a a good gin – adventurous with a real sense of whimsy and adventure. It builds up to a big, rich mouthfeel, while the branding, the grandiose home and the somewhat mottled history creates an air of mystique. If (or when) all of these parts are presented well and clearly, there’s potential for it to be huge. Given the easy going nature of the team behind it and the quietly determined work going into the gin – we feel that’s just a matter of time.
There are countless others whom we could easily have added here, and some that didn’t quite make the list for reasons that could only be termed positive. Archie Rose and Hippocampus, for example, haven’t been snubbed at all – we just feel that they’re well on their way to international success already and aren’t really up-and-comers!
If you are Melbourne based or fancy planning a cheeky holiday around your thirst for gin, come and meet some of these makers (and many more not mentioned) at Junipalooza in October to see for yourself!
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