Australia has been a Federation made up of several States and Territories since 1901. Like most unions of this sort, Federation usually involves a lot of compromise. We’re a big country (the size of the USA basically) with a small population (25 million) and very diverse landscapes and climate.
So when Tasmanian distillery, McHenry and Sons were asked to create a gin especially for our national Parliament in Canberra – my home town- they had the ingenious idea of creating a gin that featured a botanical from each State + Territory.
Mmm, was this a recipe for a disaster? Could their distilling diplomacy manage to find furious agreement when our politicians mostly fail?
I had the pleasure of visiting the distillery which is a short drive past Port Arthur, a couple of hours from Hobart last year for the Australian Distillers Conference being held there. William McHenry and his family work very hard to craft very fine gins, single malts and vodka. I’ve featured them in events where they’ve been very well received for their finesse, and the way they draw inspiration from both the beautiful location, the pristine water from one of the several springs on the property (see pictures below) and a fine understanding of the distillers craft. William is now regarded one of the leading lights of the Australian distilling scene and is hard working, always approachable and a great ambassador for the industry.
The bottle illustrated is one of the few examples around, and I was privileged to receive it from the hands of the maker. I think it’s the most beautiful labelling of any gin bottle in Australia at the moment, just gorgeous I’m sure you’ll agree.
I used the gin when it was first released earlier this year for a very special event at Parliament House in Canberra for a one night only masquerade ball where I was asked to create a Martini for the occasion. Wanting something dramatic for this event held on the roof terrace for the first time, I leveraged the complex flavour profile of the gin with dry vermouth, Heering Cherry Liqueur, a olive garnish and finished with a spray of Absinthe! It was quite the hit.
The small batch distilled gin features native botanicals Celery Top Pine from Tasmania, Lemon Myrtle from Queensland, Kakadu Plum from the Northern Territory, Mountain Pepperleaf from the Canberra region, Strawberry Gum from New South Wales, Cinnamom Myrtle from Victoria, Quandong from Western Australia and Wattleseed from South Australia. You can find more about some of these here.
- Perfume from the spirit is present along with pepper, but otherwise restrained.
- The spirit likes to live in the middle palette with a residual heat and dryness, but isn’t austere. Some light citrus and spicy notes, but none of the specific botanicals dominate. This gin works well on ice where it naturally opens up and retains its manners, smooth clean finish.
- No issue here. The gin is versatile and in the company of a quality tonic water water it won’t get lost. The cinnamon and some sweetness reveals itself. I found a slice of lime works well here.
- Want a Dirty Martini with a difference? Then this is the gin for you. But it was play anyway you like. I preferred it with an olive garnish. The natural oils from the botanicals lend a roundness to the cocktail, and the residual spice makes itself know. Go easy on the vermouth though, let this gin sing.
The Take Home
Anyone who has worked with Australian native botanicals either in cooking, or in distilling, knows how challenging they can be to work with given the intensity of their flavours. So to take on eight of them and develop a gin that works very well is no small feat. The resulting gin is closely woven and complex spirit, that presents in a very elegant way that gives you something to think about as you drink it.
Vote 1 McHenry: 4/5 stars!
- Website: mchenrydistillery.com.au
- Facebook: find them here
- Instagram: tune in here
- RRP: AUD$79.00 > 99.00 plus shipping available online and from the distillery direct.
- Bottle Size: 700ml
- ABV: 42.2%
See also my review of their Dry Gin here.
Disclaimer: this review is of an unsolicited samples provided by the distributor, opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.