If you’ve travelled across Bass Strait to Tasmania from Melbourne you’ll know that you hop off/on at Devonport on the island’s northern shore. Usually, once off the ferry folks make a beeline for the charms of that beautiful place, they rarely linger in the town itself.
Well, thanks to the team at Southern Wild Distillery, you’ve a reason to linger a while as they’ve set up a distillery and bar there in the heart of Devonport.
As I’m sure are well aware by now, Tasmania has emerged as the craft spirits powerhouse of Australia leveraging its many natural advantages. So I was delighted when I sent three sample bottles of the Dasher +Fisher gin range from this new distillery.
From a marketing and brand perspective, they have taken a polished and well thought out approach to the spirits presentation. A look at their website will show they are positioning their spirits as products of the highest quality, and this carry through to the labelling, design and overall packaging of the gin which is first class.
Unconventionally perhaps, they’re debuted not one, but three gins at once: Meadow, Ocean and Mountain.
All have drawn inspiration and ingredients from the local region, and were distilled in a 1000 litre copper still handmade in Tasmania. Each gin has its own flavour profile and intent (read my interview below with distiller George Burgess) but all share native pepperberry, lavender and wakame (which is a seaweed harvested off the Tasmania coast) as the base botanicals (plus juniper of course) use locally sourced water , and all are based on highest grade grape spirit giving them a rounded feel on the palette.
Interview with Southern Wild’s Master Distiller, George Burgess
How do you see your product in the spectrum of Australian craft spirits?
SWD is exploring aspects of regionality, seasonality, terroir, telling the stories of the growers. We’re linking the landscape to the drinking experience and I don’t believe there’s anyone out there with quite that level of focus in this area.
Why do you think Tasmania is such a thriving spirits scene now?
My eyes lit up and I had a huge smile at reading this question. If you’ve ever spent any time driving around the countryside of the beautiful NW coast you’ll have experienced the lush landscapes of rich and fertile soils quenched by pristine waters falling from clouds that haven’t seen civilisation in more than 10,755km, travelling from the southern tip of Argentina to Cape Grim Tasmania.
For this reason we record not only the cleanest water but also the most pure air. Combine all these elements and you have the ingredients for one “imbued” food bowl Island, my bijou.
Why did you decide to create three versions at once?
I didn’t start out with that plan! Just like most things in life these things grow organically. Ocean was my first gin, back then it was known as “George’s gin 3.1”. I set out to create a subtle but complex and layered gin designed not for cocktails but for enjoying neat or on tonic/soda. At the same time I was doing a lot of Indian cooking at home and growing my own herbs and spices.
Being trained by an Indian cook from South Africa I fell in love with cooking. While making my latest batch of “George’s gin 3.1” I wondered what other continents I could explore from a culinary perspective…then it dawned on me. Spain! I’ve always wanted to visit Portugal, Morocco and Spain, the love of the colour, flavours, aromas, recipes, ingredients, environment and people.
I looked out at my herb garden and I had plenty of rosemary and sage and in the house was a large bowl of oranges so it was settled, I would make a Spanish Inspired gin.
I wrote the Spanish Inspired gin as I finished my “George’s gin 3.1” The next day Spanish Inspired was made and everyone loved it, you now know it as Meadow gin, the recipe never changed from that moment it was written. It was written as though I were about to prepare a meal for the family, I imagined the ingredients and how each would work together. I must have had a muse on my shoulders that day, I doubt that will happen again. Meadow is our most popular gin in retail sales at the cellar door.
Both gins utilised my “Tassie trio” of Tasmanian mountain pepperberry, Lavender and Wakame seaweed.
As you can see, I’d created a gin that showcased Ocean and Meadow, 2 out of the 3 “Tassie trio” ingredients. Both these gins were unashamedly modern so I decided to create a salute to the origin of the London dry, resurrecting a 200 year old recipe and giving it a new lease on life with a little help from our “Tassie trio” and our gorgeous wine base spirit.
How do you recommend people enjoy your gin?
These gins were designed around a love of food and to be consumed with food.
Think of Ocean as your white wine, and Mountain as your red wine, match them with foods accordingly.
Meadow…goes with everything. 🙂
For me Meadow is best served as a G&T with a slice of ruby grapefruit for the garnish. Meadow is quite unique in that you can enjoy Meadow in a Negroni WITHOUT losing the Meadow gin. Most gins get lost in a Negroni, the Campari tends to dominate, not so with Meadow. I’d highly recommend you give it a try.
Can you share something of the distillation process?
The distillation process varies a little. The 2 modern gins being so complex and layered require a 2 pronged single-shot distillation process consisting of both maceration and vapour infusion. The classically styled Mountain uses 100% maceration.
What was the inspiration behind the gins?
I loved cooking, I loved complex and layered flavour and aroma experiences and felt it was possible to achieve this with whisky but felt gin was being neglected. I wanted to create a gin that allowed the consumer to have a full palette experience, a child-like wonder of exploration.
In the process I found a new connection to my own child-like sense of wonder and it’s this thirst for new experiences, new human connections and new human stories that fuels me to explore, create and share. And Phillip, it’s the sharing with you right here and now that I’m talking about.
Lastly Phillip, there are times when I need a little help to focus or to find my passion or purpose, for those times I wrote the following:
- Inspiration fuels my Passion.
- Passion produces my Peak Performance.
- My Peak Performance is maintained by Purpose. My purpose is to discover, create, inspire and mentor.
- We are here for short time so share the knowledge and wisdom and leave the world a better place than when you entered it.
Nose- fragrant and grassy (not surprisingly perhaps) with notes of coriander, pepper and hints of mint.
Palette – very forward and very dry with lingering ‘musky’ and citrus notes, some honeysuckle sweetness that leads to a very clean dry finish, no residual alcohol flavours and with a medium weight overall. Rating: 3.5 Stars / 5
Nose – for me the most delicate and subtle nose of the three, with attractive salty and subtle citrus aromatics.
Palette- this presents as soft full mouth feel with a creamy texture, and hints of rose and salt, but not astringent, leading to a clean finish and very pleasant weight. Rating: 4.5 stars / 5
Nose- This presents with a restrained lime / pine notes with hint of pepper at back, fragrant and floral, very attractive overall.
Palette: pronounced musky and pepper notes up front, with plenty of complex spices lingering leaving medium dry finish and rich palette feel overall. Rating: 4 stars / 5
The Take Home
These gins are a very accomplished debut from a Distillery that clearly intends to go on as they have started. A lot of care, passion and professionalism has gone into each aspect of this release and the presentation of the gins. I think on reflection that it was a clever move to release the three styles of gin as it should mean that people will find one that resonates best with their own tastes.
For myself, my preferred version was the Ocean with its creamy, salty and subtle integration of the botanicals, but there is plenty to like with the other two, each to their own.
These gins are distinctive, polished, well thought through, and a genuine expression of their place. They’ve avoided the trap of being gimmicky in their flavour profiles by careful use of the botanicals and spirit, and these are definitely quality gins for savouring, as well as for innovative cocktails.
- Dasher + Fisher’s website here
- Follow them via Instagram here
- Tune in also via their Facebook page.
- ABV: Mountain and Meadow 45% / Ocean 42% ABV
- Purchase direct from Distillery website: AUD$90.00 for 700ml bottle
Disclaimer: this review is of unsolicited samples provided by the Distiller, opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.