Review: Canberra Distillery Gin

IMG_3622Just as 2015 draws to a close, its not too late to celebrate another Australian Gin debut. Its been a vintage year with over 25 releases of various types of gin.

Some Context

For the uninitiated, Australia’s capital, Canberra, gets a bad wrap mostly for those who don’t appreciate its charms.

A planned city, its the political capital, so has the functions of say,Washington D.C. without House of Cards drama to spice it up. Just over 100 years old, it really didn’t get built in scale until the 60’s, and its only the past 5 years or so that we got to be cool with a whole new generation of built environment, coffee culture (the best in the world) and some great eats to match.

For my money, Canberra’s an introvert, but it has a rich inner life and is one of the great cities for livability with a highly educated, fitness /outdoor orientated population who like its small scale and natural environment.

But whilst the wine scene is well established and has an excellent reputation for cool climate wines, and plenty of local craft beers and produce, there has never been any distilling to date, with the notable exception of the new Baldwin Distilling Company (more on them another time).

So with the debut of the Canberra Distillery’s Gin and Vodka in December was the cause of much excitement in a city that really is a two-degree of separation kind of place, and anything new is cherished as a worthy addition to the evolving culture of the forward looking young city.

Production Notes

I was fortunate to get a personal copy delivered by the distiller Tim Reardon on the day of its debut. Self taught in classic back shed kind of way and in a very Canberra story he went from economics and lobbying to distilling, which is a career path I can approve of. it was a couple of years of experimentation that resulted in the commercial release.

Its important to note that the gin is made by the Vapour Infused method. Tim also designs the spirit to suit particular uses, so the first batch is citrus forward and intended for Gin+Tonics, but he plans other variants.

Typically, Vapour Infusion involves using special basket for the botanical’s and the spirit vapour passes over it, with the  picks up the flavours and then cooled and distilled into the spirit. The intention is that the process is kinder to the botanicals and you can control the process more. Its also cool to see lots of test tubes and glass flasks…. science!

So no copper stills and each batch is triple distilled.

Another point of difference according to the website is:

“The Canberra Distillery starts with just the raw ingredients: water, yeast and energy (grain, potato, fruit or sugar).” It doesn’t buy in a commercial ethanol base spirit which is the common practice for various reasons, primarily the need for one huge still to make it.

So in small batches, Tim makes and packages each drop of gin.

Tasting Notes

Neat: Strong perfume on the nose with juniper dominant. Fiery on the palette with a full mouth feel with a citrus aftertaste and very spicy on front.

Gin+ Tonic: Using Fevertree Tonic Water and a slice of lemon, the gin cut through and its relatively high alcohol by volume made its presence felt (47% ABV).I found the taste quite earthy despite the citrus garnish.

I think this is a good candidate for a Negroni or another mixed drink calling for a strong forward gin.

Martini: taking the advice of the distiller that this gin is not intended as a Martini gin, I won’t review it this format.

The Take Home

Its no small thing to put yourself on the line and carve out a new career for your passion, especially in the crowded Australian gin category.

I think the approach to create small batches each with a different flavour profile is a smart play, and it means that people will want to come back to try different styles, and he can craft new styles to suit a purpose and in response to the market.

I also like the overall approach to presentation, low key, informative and approachable.

The first commercial release of Canberra Distillery Gin is a confident release that will give you a full-flavoured gin with plenty of complexity. Certainly a label to follow.

3 Stars.

The Details

  • You’ll find the Canberra Distillery website here
  • also on facebook
  • Purchase enquiries via their website, or in person around Canberra at Urban Cellars (Curtin) and Prohibition (Kingston)
  • Price (Australia Dollars)
    • $35 for 350 ml
    • $50 for 500 ml
    • $70 for 700 ml

Disclaimer: This review was the result of an unsolicited sample bottle provided by the distillery. Views are my own.

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