Review: Applewood Distillery Gin

IMG_5312In a semi-delapitated early 20th warehouse in the Adelaide Hills, there is some distilling magic happening.

On a recent visit to South Australia I had the opportunity to drive up to meet the team at Applewood Distillery in the village of Gumeracha.

I arrived just in time for lunch. ‘We’re having meat, I hope you like meat,’ announced Brendan. So it was. Lots of meat on the BBQ. Fine by me.  The fact that I brought a bottle of Canberra Gin for them was also well received. We cracked that, sang its praises, and got on with the business of getting lunch organised.

This is a new thing apparently, taking time to stop work and actually have a break and eat something. They were in the middle of harvest and it was all hands on deck. But they made time for me and for a few hours the conversation  was all things distilling, gin, the craft spirit scene and their plans for the future.

Once we’d polished off the steaks and salad, sampling some fine wine and the last of the tonic syrup they’d created for Noma in Sydney, the team including  Brendan Carter’s wife Laura, who is involved in all aspects of the production and business, and a couple of team members got back to business of putting the harvest for their winery Unico Zelo (yes, that too) into barrels.   You can read more about that venture and Brendan and Laura in this Adelaide Hills Magazine profile here.

Brendan showed me about, and they were a bit excited about getting a new cabin soon installed on site, as opposed to the rustic conditions they were enjoying to date!

The Applewood Distillery at Gumeracha

The enormous old warehouse was only partially habitable, but the parts that were was geared toward the production of spirits and wine. Everything else is taking second place including creature comforts.

The warm hospitality, dedication to their vision, absolute commitment to excellence and imagination says everything about this talented duo.

The young couple are also involved with the development of spirits for other makers, believing that there is scope for all boats to rise together in the industry.

Q+A with Brendan

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

I see a deeper exploration of native produce, and in particular – fresh produce in the array of Gins we (collectively as Australians) produce. I also expect to see locally grown alternatives or substitutes to  traditional ingredients that have been historically imported. Australian Juniper could well-be a thing, with a very wide range of climates and areas suitable for planting.

I believe Australia will begin to expand the gin offerings beyond bushy-herbaceous-orange-grapefruit-citrus-dominant styles, and begin to offer examples with more niche interest, such as floral and savoury alternatives.

 What was the inspiration behind the gin?

From the outset we were searching for mid-palate-weight in our gin – a quality that assists in mitigating the burn and harshness usually associated with citrus-dominant gin – and a qualm often noted by first-time gin drinkers.

We wanted to add diversity to the immense width and breadth of gins that have quickly come to market over the past five years and (as an overly ambitious goal) help challenge the creative boundaries of how we’re collectively crafting gin, as we showcase with our limited edition examples.

Do you draw on any local botanicals to inform your gin?IMG_4380

Plenty – and depending on how ‘local’ you want to go. From foraged lavender, strawberry and peppermint gum leaf, cinnamon and lemon myrtle – and even generous amounts of saltbush.
As a distillery we do have a big focus on native botanicals, although we tend not to publicise it widely with our gin, we use those ingredients because of a happenstance – we believe they simply make good Australian gin. We tend to leave that conversation for our Økar and Red Økar projects 🙂
Is it hard not to tinker a little with each batch or do you aim for the same expression each time? 
It’s inherently impossible to guarantee perfect consistency between batches – in acceptance of this fact, it makes tinkering with it more pleasurable and artistic. There’s simply so many variables – degree of freshness, oil content, varying weights in the blend according to the non-uniform characteristic of nature-derived botanicals (not all ginger root is shaped the same, so do you go one unit more than the intended weight, or one less – maceration time, temperature of maceration, barometric pressure – I could seriously go on.
But in short, what we guarantee with our Gin, is the intended feeling – taste and effect, that’s the goal and challenge of the distiller! As batch sizes increase, the apparent variability ultimately decreases.


Tasting Notes

  • Neat: Delicate and fragrant nose (a lady friend said she would wear it as a perfume!) no one botanical dominating, some citrus coming through subtly. On the palette,  it presents a light weight, with an astringent finish up front with Juniper, Coriander and some of the Ginger making their presence felt. It comes across as an integrated number that is refined and no alcoholic hit or pungency.
  • Martini:  This Gin is a match made in heaven for a Martini. It offers the crisp length and complexity I look for.  The alchemy of the Vermouth and Gin means that you get a spicier, but still refined experience. Fans of Jensen’s and Sipsmith will relish this gin and its very much in that polished style, still presenting its own fresh character.

IMG_5310The Take Home: Everything about this gin is first class. It’s a perfect expression of the classic London Dry style but feels contemporary.  It balances the classic botanicals of Juniper Berries, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root,Lemon and Orange Peel along with the touches of Ginger Root, Lemon Myrtle, Earl Grey Tea, Lavender, Vanilla, Cardamom, Macadamia in a completely harmonious way. 5 Stars.

Its not for nothing that I chose this Gin to be one of the stars at the 2016 World Martini Day soiree in June in Canberra.