You would have to be living under a rock to miss the explosion in Gins that now sit in bars around the country. It seems like from all corners of the country, and the globe, there are boutique distilleries popping up, adding a little more spice to the average Martini or G and T. No longer is it good enough to throw a slice of lemon over an inch or two of Gordon’s when there is a never ending supply of very serious Gins to wet your appetite.
Gin is, in some ways, the Chardonnay of the spirit world, but don’t let that put you off. Just like Chardonnay it can be churned out cheaply and simply to make a good drink. But, at the same time, it is also a blank canvas of white spirit to which a creative distiller can add his or her own unique touch.
The classic ingredient to every gin is the small, hard, juniper berry adding its telltale pine need aromatics, no great surprise as juniper is a conifer. And over many years that recipe has been improved on with the benchmark Bombay Saphire including nine different additions to the classic juniper including liquorice, lemon peel, coriander seeds, angelica and orris roots. It is a well worn formula that does hit the spot.
But perhaps the most fascinating side to the explosion in Gins has been the drive by largely boutique distilleries into experimentation at all levels and in the most unusual ways. Take Hartshorn Distillery’s Sheep Whey Gin. Ryan Hartshorn creates the base spirit from the leftover whey from his family’s Grandvewe cheesery at Birch’s Bay, just South of Hobart, which creates a full-flavoured Gin with a sweet, almost lactic, edge.
It is though in the botanicals where there is the greatest potential to push the boundaries, occasionally a little too far, and unsurprisingly native Australian botanicals figure prominently in local gins.
Perhaps the most innovative of the new wave of Australian Gin distilleries is Four Pillars, based in the Yarra Valley. Here you will find the classic Gin style with a touch of Tasmanian pepperberry to give a spicy edge. But that is just the start as a meander through the range is a journey through the endless different possibilities of Gin. Chardonnay and Sherry barrel aged gins, a Japanese inspired Kisume Gin, the Bloody Shiraz Gin made by steeping Yarra Valley Shiraz grapes in Gin and even a Christmas Gin, made with distilled Christmas puddings, care of a recipe perfected by distiller Cam Mackenzie’s mum.
The favourite of all though is the most simple and subtle – Four Pillars Dry Island Gin, a collaboration between Jon Hillgren, founder and master distiller of Sweden’s Hernö Gin, and the Four Pillars team. It’s made with a combination of classic juniper, coriander and lemon with local wattleseed, strawberry gum, river mint and lemon myrtle all finished off with Swedish meadowsweet. It is beautifully pure and subtle with exceptional balance – and is the perfect gin to be sipped slowly, neat, over ice.
Images supplied by Four Pillars
First published in the Brisbane News