Nicole Durdin – Seppeltsfield Road Distillers
Ahead of Junipalooza Melbourne, we’ve caught up with a few distillers and owners, to talk all things Gin, Australia and what they’ve been up to. Here we meet Nicole Durdin, the mastermind behind Seppeltsfield Road Distillers.
Hi Nicole, There’s so much to talk about, it’s all happening for you guys at the moment. Perhaps let’s begin at the begining… When did you first decide to make Gin? Winchester via London and into the Barossa Valley sounds like an epic journey…
I’m Barossa born & bred, part of the deal of moving to the UK for Jon’s work was that when we left the UK, we would settle back in the Barossa. The decision to make Gin was a throw away comment by Jon. We’d been in Winchester for about a year and I was struggling to get work as a classical musician. I was bored and frustrated and looking for something else, Jon randomly suggested making Gin and the idea stuck!
Wow. Is it still the two of you, or are there other Seppeltsfield’ers and what are your roles?
Our team is Jon & I, he has the financial and business background so looks after the business side of things, as well as being builder, engineer and everything in between! I’m the distiller, which here ultimately means I get to create the gins and then have help from Jon and my step-father, Terry, to distil and bottle them. We also have Bec, our Tasting Room Manager extraordinaire and Scott, our bearded hipster Brand Ambassador.
So you mentioned your background – does having a sense of music, or musical creativity help when Gin’smithing?
There is certainly a level of artistry and risk taking when it comes to developing gin recipes which is very similar in music performance. The most exciting performances to watch and listen to are the ones where the performer takes risks and pushes the boundaries, rather than just playing the notes written on the page.
Creativity and a willingness to try different flavour combinations are a must for any gin distiller, and one of the great things about the new wave of gins we are seeing in Australia is that they do push the boundaries from the traditional.
Just as no two performances are ever the same, no two gins are the same. Gin presents a world of endless possibilities in flavour combinations, both in the product itself, but also with what drinks and cocktails you can create with it.
You’ve got three gins in the range, did you always want to kick off with the three or did things just naturally evolve one after the next?
When I started recipe development, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to come up with one gin that would stand up to the incredible venue we have built. It was sheer luck that during that development, both Jon and I liked the same three blends out of about 25 idea, and those three were completely different. One of our most common questions is ‘what makes your gins different from each other’. We can explain, but we think it’s better that people taste the difference for themselves.
Do you have a “favourite child” in the range…?
I know you’re not supposed to play favourites, and the Savoury Allsorts is a great quiet achiever. I think the House Gin would be the secret favourite though. It’s made up of all of the botanicals that I loved during recipe development, and is a really fresh, vibrant gin that appeals to seasoned Gin lovers as well as those who are new to Gin. It also won us Gin Distillery of the Year at the Melbourne International Spirits Competition, so that helps in the favourite stakes!
It’s a lot to take on when it all begins, what’s been the biggest learning curve for you so far?
This whole process has pushed me so far out of my comfort zone. The idea of every little step has been terrifying, but once I’ve done it, I realise it’s not so bad. I think the biggest things I’ve learned are that I’m capable of more than I realise, and you never know until you try.
Well said. How has the cellar door been received and what can people expect when they go? It looks beautiful (we’re sure that your lovely distillery dog has quite a fan base too).
We are incredibly proud of what we have created in the distillery and tasting room. It has all been built by Jon, his father and brother, and a little help from some tradie friends.
We love seeing people walk up the steps for the first time, and the look of ‘Wow’ on their faces as they see Christine, our still, in all her glory will remain priceless. It’s not an uncommon sight to see cars driving by, hit the brakes, and either reverse up the road or turn around to come in. Fingers crossed no one causes an accident!
What’s been the thing that’s surprised you most on your journey to date?
I think the feeling of seeing people coming up those steps on the first day that we opened, and then seeing those same people walking out with bottles of our gin. If they’re prepared to spend their hard earned money on our products on day one, we must be doing something right.
Winning medals at IWSC and Melbourne International Spirits Competition before we even opened the doors is also up there.
What do you think the next 18 months looks like for the Gin category in Australia?
I think we’re still yet to see the peak of Gin in Australia. Consumers are still realising that Gin has an amazing diversity, it really is a world of endless possibilities and we love that consumers are not just falling back to what they have previously known, they are actively looking for gins with provenance, looking for quality, and experimenting with flavours.
And lastly – for you personally – what are you hoping for?
A decent night’s sleep! Launching Internationally next year in May is a big one, along with getting out to more of Australia and possible expansion plans for the distillery (already!)
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