From a part of Australia not known for its subtlety comes a Gin that takes no prisoners.
If it was anyone that broke open the export market for Australian Gin it was the team from The West Winds in Western Australia.
Looking back not even three or fours years back, you’d be hard pressed to name an Australian Gin, let alone one that was available in several countries around the world, and fast becoming the most widely recognised brand in that market segment.
Western Australia is known for Mining, Mining Magnates, Pearls, Deserts, Great White Sharks and being closer to Asia than the rest of Australia.
Having been there are few times it always struck me that it had the thin veneer of civilisation about it (especially at happy hour time) and the frontier spirit wasn’t far away.
The State was a reluctant sign-up to Federation back in 1901, thinking, possibly quite rightly that we needed them more than they needed us. So now they dig stuff up, send it to China, and the other side of the country cashes the cheques. They don’t always appreciate this arrangement and make noises about digging a big ditch from top to bottom and sailing off West.
Its a can-do, in your face, ‘you got a problem with me?’ sort of place. But its always up for a party and a drink.
This is the sort of place that The West Winds Gins comes from.
Side note: Having met self-described “Director of Sales, Booze & Buccaneering” Jeremy Spencer (its on his business card), I can think of no better person to represent the brand. US readers may be familiar with the cable show, Gas Monkey well, Richard Rawlings is uncannily similar in looks and demeanour to Jeremy…. this is a good thing.)
About the Gin
The West Winds kicked things off in 2009 when James Clarke and Paul White, teamed up with Jeremy Spencer and Jason Chan seeing the market opportunity to produce premium Australian gin using local and imported botanicals that would be cut with triple filtered Margaret River rain water. For those in the know, that region produces superb wine and has wonderful produce as well.
They set up their distillery in Gidgegannup, Western Australia, which is in the hills and only a 45 minutes drive from Perth using a Arnold Holstein Batch Reflux Still.
Despite a robust marketing campaign that is very on the road and focuses on making the spirit widely accepted in leading bars and cocktail lounges making the brand appear way larger than it may be, they still make the spirit in small batches, the 150 litre copper pot still backed up with a 5 plate column still to ensure quality.
Somewhat ahead of their time, West Winds Cutlass purposely set out to make use of local Australian botanicals such as wattle, lemon myrtle, and bush tomato, plus locally sourced juniper. I understand that they infuse the botanicals in a mix of fresh and dried directly into the pot.
The sister gin is The Sabre which presents demurely at 40% alcohol, but The Cutlass arrives full sail at 50% alcohol by volume. There is marked difference between the two.
Within 3 weeks of its debut The Sabre won Gold and the Cutlass won Double Gold at The San Francisco Spirit Awards – with more awards in 2013 as well with Double Gold and Silver medals. Not too shabby.
They also are part of this innovative venture in Sydney, Stanley Street Merchants.
My first contact was in 2013 looking for a quality Australian Gin to form part of the special Martini to mark Canberra’s 100th Birthday.
From the get-go West Winds were up for it, and I used the Sabre for a lighter and drier classic dry Martini, matched with the superb Maidenii Dry Vermouth, whilst the Cutlass I matched with a generous dose Maidenii’s Sweet Vermouth for a warmer wintery version (and the most popular on the night), which was dubbed the Southside Centini.
It was a bit like putting a football player a bath, shave and haircut and putting him into a tuxedo…. the Gin was on its best behaviour all night, and looked fine all scrubbed up.
You can read more about that here.
As is my custom, I sample the Gin chilled neat, and then as a dry Martini with about 15ml of Noilly Prat Vermouth. Mixer, glass and the rest kept chilled naturally, with a single pitted olive as a garnish (I don’t approve of the cheap Pimento numbers).
My recollection of the Cutlass was ballsy.
Surprisingly this time round it was on its best behaviour, clean, neutral nose, spice, but quite restrained. A pleasant (they’d hate that word) roundness on the palette and some spice. Something you could drink a lot on ice I reckon. Hint: try using capsicum (Green or Red Peppers for our US friends) as a garnish.
Ok, now for the main game. I think fans of Tanqueray 10, and Plymouth Navy Strength will dig this Gin.
Although its 50% BVA you don’t notice it (well, maybe later, see this), what you get is an earthy rounded Martini that leaves a dry finish.
You’re not getting a hit of botanicals, or flavours, but rather an exemplary, resolved Martini experience. You are in safe hands here.
007 in a Tux comes to mind (sic).
This is an essential bottle for your Gin collection.
Distinctive and confident from the get-go, it demands to be paid attention to and is both polished and versatile as a mixed drink or a killer Martini.