Rick Prosser – Kalki Moon
As is becoming traditional here at Gin Foundry, (and one of the things that always comes up when people meet distillers now) – we always . ask about the early days and what that’s like. Kalki Moon began in 2017, what prompted you to build your distillery?
I absolutely love the industry.
My career in the alcohol industry started at the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery in my home town of Bundaberg in 2000, it was an amazing journey where I was extremely fortunate to learn the aspects of Rum manufacturing, during this time I was honoured to be given the title of Master Distiller and help take the brand into a new direction with small batch premiumisation.
In late of 2013 I decided to take on a new challenge and was hired as a consultant for a new start up distillery, although it was not in the owners plans to produce Gin it was here that I immersed myself into everything Gin, I like to say I went on a Gin pilgrimage. After seeing out my contract I figured I had been making alcohol for others for 16 years so why not have a go on my own. I’ve always been one to have a go, rather than to sit back and wonder what if – so with that decision it was put into plan to open our own family distillery.
You were already an experienced hand when you began your own journey so could overcome some obstacles that others might have stumbled on. That said, it’s never easy, so what was the biggest challenge you faced while setting up?
I would have to say Money.
The Distillery was started on a shoe string budget and at the time of setting up there wasn’t enough for myself to be getting paid a wage, so I was working in a local alcohol distributor while doing all the licensing applications and setting the company up. In the end it turned out to be a great experience because it taught me another side of the industry I hadn’t been exposed to in wholesale & distribution.
The finance of the company wasn’t easy either, but I was fortunate that my brother in law and lifelong best friend invested in the company and my mother Dianne & in-laws Shane & Annette believed in my vision for a small batch Distillery with hundreds of hours of donated time. One thing I am extremely proud of is to date we have still have not borrow any money and have remained financially buoyant on the initial money the company was founded on.
Three years after your first distillation, you are making your debut in the Uk this year. What enticed you to come over here and what are your hopes for Kalki Moon over 2020?
A couple of reasons, our town Bundaberg where our distillery is based gets a lot of UK tourism and we are very lucky to be on a beverage trail with two very well know companies in Bundaberg Rum & Bundaberg Brewed Drinks who are famous for their Ginger Beer. With us offering our Gin we get a lot of UK visitors in need of a top up of Gin once they return home.
In conversations over the years we have had a lot of these visitors mention that our Gin would go down well in the UK and it got me thinking, why not be one of only a handful of Australian Gin producers in the UK?
Our Australian Gin market is getting a little saturated, at last count there are over 280 locally produced Gin’s and that’s not including the English range that play a big part in the on & off premise category. Australia is a country of drinking imported Alcohol, we only consume around 2-4% of Australian made spirits which is disappointing, hopefully that starts to change in 2020.
Talking of that competition and saturation – The UK is a considerably more crowded market compared to Australia, some 1200 gins are on the market here. Equally, it is a place that constantly makes room when something great comes along. What is it about your gin that you feel will get you noticed here?
Our range of Gin’s are very clean, well balanced and pack a lot of flavour.
In the researching stage of my pilgrimage I really embraced the rules of a London Dry Gin; Juniper forward with no alteration to the product only using water to dilute. I loved hearing that, as for me it meant to make a great London Dry it was going to come from the blend of botanicals, the still, the skill of the Distiller, the water used.
Don’t get me wrong there are some amazing contemporary Gins thought the world but for me sticking to the traditional way of production just calls out the challenge to make it great product.
I think the English are very similar to us Australians in when they come across something with great quality and flavour they will give it a go, for me it’s not about being the next big thing that takes off in the first 6 months or year, setting a platform to build off over time sets a better foundation for a brand in and around its distributed area.
You have quite a few gins in your range, let’s explore a few… How would you describe your Classic?
It’s a very simple blend but it packs a great flavour punch for a 37.5% Gin, using mostly traditional botanicals in juniper, coriander, cardamom & angelica but complemented with our locally grown Lemon Myrtle, it has a beautiful fresh mouth feel and really does not come across as a low strength product.
The Classic was created for our local market here in Australia as I felt there was a shortfall in Australian made Gins at the price point of the English gins such as Bombay & Tanqueray.
My business plan always had the Classic Range (Vodka also) to be a more affordable volume product. This however will not work for every distillery as everyone’s model is different – It’s really starting to get traction here in Australia as a great Gin at an affordable price.
You have your Premium Gin, using locally grown lemon and cinnamon myrtle, Bundaberg’s famous ground ginger and Australian native finger lime. What was the intent behind it and how would you describe it?
Our Premium is lovely product, I love coming back to it after not drinking it for a while with fresh eyes. It’s our sipper in the range, straight on ice with some orange or grapefruit peel or exceptional in a G&T especially with Fever-Tree Mediterranean garnished with orange and stirred with a cinnamon stick, absolutely amazing.
It was important to use and showcase locally grown products. The Bundaberg region is abundant with agriculture, we are the biggest growers of macadamia nuts in the country along with sweet potatoes, passionfruit, chilli’s, plus the production of sugar cane for our sugar mills & refinery.
I really wanted a Gin that showcased Australia, we are pretty new at Gin production and to have a product in our range using our locally grown ginger, myrtles & finger lime would give our international visitors a part of Australia they could take home with them, as well as promote to our local consumers its locally made with Australian loud and proud on the label.
One of my biggest compliments was in regards to this product when we had a French wine maker from one of the Bordeaux chateaux visit our Distillery and inform me it was one of the best-balanced Gin’s he had ever tasted.
What’s the reception been like between the two as there is a really marked price difference between them, as well as flavour. Do they appeal to different consumers because of that, or do you think it’s just about flavour preferences?
Over the past couple of years this has been of interest especially at our distillery tasting bar. I think due to the price difference being $30 consumers automatically think the Classic isn’t going to be a good Gin, this product was awarded Gold in the 37-38% category at the 2018 IWSC awards. It’s a great little gin and on more than one occasion after comparing the two people will go for the Classic over the Premium, but then on the other side of the coin the Premium with its higher ABV cuts through and is a lot smoother and has a lot more botanical flavour.
The price definitely plays a part but both Gin’s are really good quality with the only difference in production being the botanical recipe and the maceration time, they are both distilled exactly the same.
The Classic at its price point has opened up a lot of avenues for us in the ‘on-premise’ trade. Our local bars love supporting local and being able to have a product as a first pour is huge. The Premium on the other hand is usually on the back bar and has to be asked for or included in the cocktail menu. I think they both complement each other.
Your Rum is due for release this year… It’s quite a big deal for any distillery to release a new spirit, but given your personal history and region, what’s it like for you – nervous, excited, both!?
Huge pressure but very excited.
Bundaberg was a one spirit town up until we launched in March 2017 and daily if I run into a local, I get asked the question of “How’s the Rum Going” or “When’s the Rum coming out?”.
I’ve accepted that it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste palate but we have made it the best we can and with the equipment we had at the time. Our Rum production really suffered with the success of our Gin’s, due to the size of our still’s we found ourselves making Gin 7 days a week with sometimes double runs to keep up production, but that is changing with the installation of our 1000lt Pot Still which should be in and commissioned mid-February. Hopefully once installed and doing bigger batches of Gin it should allow us a bit more freedom to make more Rum and get it ageing.
For now – we have emptied and blended the first release which was aged in Port barrels, that liquid is now re-aging in ex Brandy barrels for the remainder of the year before its release in time for Christmas 2020.
We’re sure it’s going to be great and we’re look forward to seeing it come out! In the mean time, you’ll have your hands full getting Europe to embrace the gin so time will fly by…
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