Nearly 18 months ago I was excited to collect the keys to my new home. I was excited because at said new house was a bottle of the Four Pillars x Herno collaboration, Dry Island gin (which, if anyone is interested, is one of my favourites ever). For that gin, the Four Pillars team incorporated some of Herno’s key botanicals into their process. Today, we try Botany Bay, the next release which sees Australian botanicals make their way to Sweden to join Herno’s distillation. Fun story: the first Swede to circumnavigate the world was botanist Dr. Daniel Solander who was so taken with the variety of flora he found down under that he named the landing spot Botany Bay. Inspired by this history, Herno uses their signature botanicals meadowsweet and lingonberry and combines them with Australian wattleseed, Tasmanian pepper berry and lemon myrtle. Before we taste the gin, I think we should just take a moment to appreciate the label which ignores Herno’s simple label tradition and is a bright, colourful picture of Dr Solander’s adventure (Dry Island had a label very in line with Four Pillars’ branding). So, do the contents live up to the label’s (and its predecessor’s) standards?
Well, we’ve nearly made it. Just two days left to go and after four gins from South East Asia, we travel even further afield to the east coast of Australia. Manly Spirits burst onto the scene in April 2017, but I feel like 2019 was their year here in the UK. I had already tried their Coastal Citrus gin earlier this year and then I met them at Junipalooza and got a quick tasting of this edition (which was filmed for their Instagram and not at all embarrassing). Their Australian Dry gin uses native botanicals sea lettuce, anise myrtle, orange peel, pepper leaf and finger limes and they say this brings fruity peppery notes to the gin. It’s worth noting that in the two and a half years since launching, they have not just those two gins, but also the new Lilly Pilly Pink gin and a barrel aged gin and two vodkas and a limoncello AND a coffee liqueur. So, they’ve been pretty busy. But have they put quantity over quality? Let’s find out!
Back in June, I visited Junipalooza and finally got a chance to meet the Never Never Distilling Co. Based in Adelaide, Australia, they say they embrace the Australian spirit of adventure (is that a thing?) and produce some of the most juniper forward gins on the market. This inspires the name Never Never, which TBH just makes me think about Neverland, which is kinda of the point – they celebrate those that dare to be different and seek more from life. Started by friends George (the science whizz), Sean (sales and marketing expert), and Tim (head distiller), the three came together and are currently based at the home of Big Shed Brewing, but long for their own space in the outback. They currently make three key gins, their ‘normal’ gin is Triple Juniper (which funnily enough is juniper heavy), their Southern Strength (52% ABV) and then today’s gin, the Juniper Freak which is an ode to the juniper berry. This gin sits at 58% which gives it a punch and helps to amp up the oily juniper – the description for this might be my favourite ever: “It’s a seriously big gin, but hey, we’re not here to fuck spiders”. I don’t know if that’s an Aussie saying but I love it. The Juniper Freak won Australia’s Best Navy gin at the 2019 World Gin Awards, so how does it taste?
Note: The Manly Spirits team sent me a bottle to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I think.
New South Wales is probably most famous for being the state that Sydney lies in on the south east coast of Australia. The Australian gin scene is growing rapidly (so much so that Junipalooza has expanded out there), and Manly Spirits started life in Tasmania in late 2015. Founders David and Vanessa discussed the possibility of opening a distillery and dedicated their time to researching successful distilleries around the world before commencing training with a distillery closer to home. They launched their own distillery in April and utilise the biodiversity that Australia has to offer. Their spirits are hand crafted – they don’t rely on a machine to work out when the head/heart/tail start and end, instead relying on the noses of their team. They forage for their marine botanicals with the help of renowned forager and chef Elijah Holland to ensure that everything is sustainably sourced. Their range now features two vodkas, a whisky currently sat ageing in barrels, a limoncello, a coffee liqueur and three gins. The gin we are trying today is the Coastal Citrus gin that features botanicals such as lemon aspen, sea parsley, meyer lemon, lemon myrtle and fresh coriander leaf. If the name alone didn’t connote that this was citrus led, then the botanical list certainly does. So, how does it taste?
An Australian distillery founded by four friends – no it’s not Four Pillars, it’s Animus Distillery. Founded in 2015 in their garage, they soon expanded into their rural property in Central Victoria (about an hour from Melbourne). Their grain spirit is triple filtered through a custom made gravity-fed carbon filter before being vapour distilled – in fact many of their botanicals are grown on their farm. They are another brand with a big focus on sustainability, they reuse their botanicals as fertiliser and use recyclable materials in their packaging. They currently have four gins in their range: Abrosian gin with a South East Asian influences of mandarin, kaffir lime, galangal and ginger; Arboretum gin which utilises estate grown herbs lemon thyme, rosemary and native bush tomato; Davidsonia gin which is their take on a British sloe gin using a tropical sour plum with is steeped in their Macedon gin for a number of months. Speaking of the Macedon gin, that’s what we are trying today which is a London dry style using lemon myrtle and mountain pepper berry alongside juniper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and rosemary amongst many others.
Today is exciting because it’s an extra Craft Gin Club day (shout out to Lizzie for sorting my delivery problems)! I’m not meant to get my next subscription box until September, but when I saw what was in the box this month, I had to get one ASAP. Dry Island Gin is the lovechild of two great distilleries, Four Pillars in Australia and Herno in Sweden, and this is their Eurpoean exclusive launch! Being mutual fans of each other’s work, they got chatting and after discovering they had a lot in common and throwing around some ideas, they decided to collaborate and work together. The first step sounded like a lot of hard work – tasting the whole Herno and Four Pillars range side by side to work out what characteristics from their current range should go into the collaboration. They decided to aim for a classic gin using Swedish meadowsweet and Australian river mint, strawberry gum and roasted wattleseed to bring together a range of flavours and textures. This is a Four Pillars gin, made in Australia using their base spirit and the pure water which is one of the aforementioned pillars, with Jon from Herno weighing in with the distillation. Removing Four Pillars’ still plates, Jon recommended they distil at a lower temperature over a longer period to for higher purity. I’ve waited long enough, so let’s crack this open.
I have heard VERY good things about this gin. So when my housemate bought some of the 2017 vintage home, I was very excited. The Yarra Valley outside Melbourne, Australia, is home to a thriving wine growing community. Amongst the vineyards, you’ll find the Four Pillars distillery. They say that they base their craft distilling on four pillars – stills, water, botanicals and love. After years of research and testing, they released their Rare Dry Gin in December 2013, followed by a Barrel Aged Gin on World Gin day, 14 June 2014. On a roll, in 2014 they also released their 58.8% Navy Strength gin. Since then they have released their Bloody Shiraz gin, a spiced negroni gin, the modern Australian gin, a cardonnay barrel gin and a sherry cask gin. The Bloody Shiraz gin is closely tied to the wine industry around it, changing with each year’s vintage after the grapes are steeped in the gin for eight weeks. This gives it a rich red colour alongside notes of fresh pine, spice, and a touch of berry. Don’t confuse this with a sloe gin through – this still packs a punch at 37.8% ABV. Continue reading