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Kirsty Booth-Lark – Killara

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Kirsty Booth-lark, Killara Distillery, Tasmania
Kirsty Booth-lark, Killara Distillery, Tasmania
Written by Gin Foundry

Killara Distillery has been one of the family-made gins propping up a stand at Junipalooza for the past couple of years, and while the team will not be joining us this year, their perspective and industry years always provide fresh insight into the Australian Gin scene. We had a good chat with distiller Kirsty Booth-Lark to find out just what it feels like when distilling runs in the blood…

There’s such a long history to your families distilling story, it’s fascinating. We’ve been reading a little on your site, where you mention that the still you have now is similar to the one that stood outside your room as you grew up. Do you remember the first time you had gin and what you thought of it?

I remember mum developing the Pepperberry Gin, using the Tasmanian native Pepperberries, which at the time was completely unique, though now I’d say most Tasmanian gins have them in their recipe. Anyway, I remember her developing the gin and the lovely smells coming off the still. I’m pretty sure that was the first time I tried gin and it was great!

Given there was always distilling going on around you, was it always a given that you would become a distiller, or was it more organic than that?

Not really, it was never assumed I would become a distiller and I was never pressured to be. Initially I wanted to be an Air Traffic Controller and I worked in the cellar door while I was waiting to apply for that, which only happens every couple of years. The school finally opened, they had 10 spots available and over 3000 people applied. I was lucky enough to get one of those coveted positions and was set to leave but at the same time my eyes were opened up to the industry and what my parents had created and I decided to take more of an active role in the business.

I approached my parents and asked if I could move from cellar door to production. They, of course, were very excited and so I handed my place in the Air Traffic Control School back and started to learn Whisky production from Dad and Liqueur and Gin making from Mum.

You’ve worked in and been a huge part of the Australian distilling industry for years now, what’s been the biggest change in the past five years in your opinion?

The industry has grown so quickly over the last five years. There were only a handful of distilleries for many years, then all of a sudden there was a massive boom and I think gin has played a huge part in that. As the popularity of gin has grown world wide its given people the opportunity to get involved in the distilling industry and be able to create a really great product that doesn’t need years to mature like Whisky.

Let’s talk production for a bit – You distill your botanicals individually, then blend them together to create the gin. What made you chose to take that more fractional approach?

I learnt this method from my Mum, and I really like the way I have complete control over all the botanicals and can slightly adjust the recipe for seasonal variations in what I distill.

They all play a key role in the overall mix, but is there a botanical that you like distilling more than the others? If so why?

I love distilling Pepperberries, the smell is amazing and it’s such a unique flavour that can be both incredibly spicy but also sweet.

How would you describe the big driving flavour hooks for your flagship gin, Apothacary?

I really like to be able to drink a gin on its own without a mixer, so for me, creating a well rounded gin that was Juniper forward but still had hints of citrus and spice was important. I also wanted to make a gin that is well balanced so that no one particular botanical really stands out or overpowers the other more delicate flavours

Talking of that driving pine note, you made a triple juniper variant on Apothecary too, using three times the amount of Juniper. What inspired you to do that?

I had been asked to come up with a special gin for a show I was attending and my husband really likes a strong juniper driven gin. I played around using the same botanical as the Apothecary Gin but with more Juniper. In the end the best recipe was the one with three times the amount of Juniper. It gives a really great Juniper hit right at the front of your pallet and was really popular at the show so I kept making it.

As someone with a broader perspective on the industry, where do you see the Gin category going in the next five years?

World wide the gin category is booming. It seems like each week I hear of new distilleries either here in Australia or in other parts of the world starting up, and gin plays a large part in what they are creating. I think it’s great, as consumers are becoming more educated on Spirits I think gin will continue to grow in popularity and production.

There will always be a place for the old favourites but now there is also room for those producing small batch, boutique gins. I believe everything is cyclical, but I don’t think gin has reached the peak of its popularity yet.

Certainly not in Australia, and globally there’s a lot of scope too.  Closer to home, what are you most excited for Killara that’s coming up over the next six months or so?

The most exciting thing is that I have just purchased land and am about to start building a new production site where I’ll have a new distillery with a cellar door and tasting room.

On the land I will also be establishing a huge gin garden to grow as many different botanicals as possible as well as establishing an orchard for seasonal liqueurs, a barley field for whisky and a vineyard for brandy.

Sounds fantastic and we can’t wait to see how it all shapes up!

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