Review: The Retiring Gin

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One night I wandered into a bar. But not just any bar, but the pioneering and all round good time place, Bad Frankies in Fitzroy Melbourne.

This was the first place in Australia to stock exclusively all Aussie products across the board.

So generally I’m pretty plugged into the craft spirit scene, but when in doubt I’d swing past and always discover a little something that I’d only heard a rumour of.

Sure enough, there was a modest bottle of The Retiring gin this night sitting on the shelf. There was no fancy social media, not even a website on the label, just an unapologetic expression of one man’s gin from Tasmania.

I liked it a lot, but with just half a bottle in the bar, I never thought I’d see it in again, like some sighting of a snow leopard or something.

So imagine my delight a few years later when I received an email a little while back its maker, Albert Shugg, kindly offering to send me a bottle or two!

About The Gin

Bert uses 12 botanicals sourced both locally and internationally.
Nothing goes to waste and even the labels are hand made using recycled juniper berries and coriander seeds. Love it.As for the distillation, I don’t think I could do better than to quote their own website:

The base neutral spirit is fermented at the distillery from dextrose using pure mountain water. The hand built still is powered by electricity, electronically monitored and has both reflux and pot capabilities.
 The reflux function allows a precise “cut” between the potentially toxic heads and the murky tasting tails which are discarded. The middle or heart run forms the basis of the neutral spirit that is the blank palate for the gin.

Note, the phrase, ‘hand built still’  -please read below for more insights from Bert on how he crafts his gin.

Recently, the Australian Broadcast Corporation did a story on distilling in Tasmania and featured Bert and his wife – just follow the link and fast forward to about 22 minute mark, watch it here.

Q+A with the Maker, Albert Shugg
What’s your take on the current gin craze? 
A period in a cycle of the classic spirit, from medieval alchemist medicinals to “dutch courage” to “mothers ruin” to the “cocktail queen” and a few in-between.

What was your inspiration to bring your gin to fruition?

In 1975 I traveled to the UK to further my medical studies. Two important events occurred . Firstly, I met my future wife who introduced me to Plymouth Gin with tonic.This was her father Peter’s favourite tipple.I found that the calming and feel good effects of this drink helped me persuade him to allow me to marry his only daughter and move to the other side of the earth.

The second was staying with a Swiss family who made fruit wine from their home orchard. They then called up a mobile distillery cart which produced a range of eau de vie,the essence of flavour preserved from that garden.

During the Second Age of Life we found a G&T helped mellow the pangs of homesickness and the demands of parenting and work.

With the Third Age of Life approaching I began thinking of a creative, craft and artisanal endeavour,metaphors not usually associated with Paediatric Medical practice.I had also met the owner designer and manufacturer of a beautiful hybrid still at Wilmot.

EUREKA moment: I could make a gin to share with family, friends and others interested. I believe I nailed the recipe when my wife who has a very keen palate announced that her father Peter would have liked this.

How do you see the future of Australian craft gins in the next couple of years? 

With regards to the Tasmanian spirit scene I believe that whiskey and gin will remain the foundations with new products attempting to interpret the flavour of “place”.  However, I consider there is a great future for fruit spirits both white and aged  particularly apples and pears given the history of horticulture in the state.
Also great marc/grappa could be made from the pomace of our high quality wine by people with vision.
Do you have any advice to professional bartenders or home drinkers approaching your gin.
My gin is made to have attitude. I encourage bartenders and home drinkers to own their cocktails by making tonics, tinctures and bitters. I have had success with cinchona bark infusion and grenadine tonics as well as rhubarb and lime bitters from my garden.

 

You go to a lot of effort to control the quality of your batches. Is there a challenge  when making craft spirits to ensure there is a consistent result?                                                                                              

In order to ensure quality I took the following steps from the beginning of production:

  • I make my own neutral spirit from fermented dextrose the energy source used in hospital IV infusions.
  • I make very conservative cuts of the fore shots  heads and tails aiming for a neutral palate. I want the botanicals to dictate the aroma and flavour of my gin not the base spirit.
  • I personally access all my 12 botanicals with 5 coming from a Chinese Herbalist(medicinal quality) and 3 are grown in my garden.
  • I divide the botanicals into 4 flavour profiles then vapour distill separately ,before blending the final product. I can and have varied the blend depending on the seasonal variation of the botanicals.
  • The limit that I have set on production (40 litres /month)also aids quality. nb This limit has prevented me from entering the gin in the Australian Distilled Spirt Awards RASV. I consider this discriminates against those who wish to remain in a niche market.
  • My blackcurrant gin liquor is made by infusing  frozen Tasmanian blackcurrant’s (one of my childhood favourite fruits) in gin for 8 weeks then age in an ex cab sav barrel for 2-3 months before sweetening with dextrose. My version of the french classic.

I have the impression that making a great gin was always a lifelong ambition-am I right?             

My lifelong ambition was to be a Paediatric doctor but now in my Third Age the exciting world of spirit making has not only given me great satisfaction and fun (plus a few worries) but also caused me to meet some wonderfully talented artisan’s who have helped me produce my spirit.  The challenge however is not yet over!

Tasting Notes
  • Neat: Aromatic nose, juniper and citrus forward with some anise notes too.  Intensely spiced and vibrant on the palette with long lingering flavours matching the nose with a medium weight.
  • Gin and Tonic: We’re in classic G+T territory here. Nothing complicated to think about here, just a perfectly solid and satisfying mix in the classic English style.
  • Martini: The gin offers a full bodied cocktail with intense juniper notes up front and plenty of spice to finish. It would easily handle being used in a Gibson or Dirty Martini and still make its personality felt. I’m making an educated guess here, but I picked out the classic London Dry botanicals coriander and angelica on the finish – again with a nice long finish. I suggest using Noilly Prat with this gin with a lemon twist.
  • The Take Home:  I would be hard pressed to think of a better life that crafting your gin in an idyllic part of the country.  The Retiring Gin is classic example of one man’s passion made real with commercial considerations coming in second. Happily, the gin craze provides the opportunity for his products to find a well deserved wider market.  If you think too many gins have gone down the ‘point of difference’ route with exotic botanicals and the like, then this is a purists London Dry gin for you. 3.5 stars.
The Details

PS. I’ll be looking at the Blackcurrant Gin Liqueur in a seperate review!

Disclaimer: This review is of an unsolicited bottle provided by the maker, views are my own.

 

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2 thoughts on “Review: The Retiring Gin

  1. Pingback: Index of Posts | The Martini Whisperer

  2. Pingback: Australian Gin List | The Martini Whisperer

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