For the past few years I’ve been commissioned by Melbourne based company, Gintonica, to contribute to their widely successful Gin Advent Calendar. The set features 24 x 50ml bottles of some of the best craft gins from around Australia.
The boxed set also includes insights from myself on the current distilling scene and some recipes so people can put the lovely spirits to good use, plus tasting notes by the respective distillers.
Rather than spoil the fun by revealing what’s in the box in advance, I also announced each day through December that day’s gin with my own take on it via my social media channels.
So here’s this year’s tasting notes, including some links to more in-depth reviews where I’ve done them in the past, and links to their distillers own website- just click on the images.
You can read also read last year’s tasting notes here.
Founded in 2015, Animus uses triple filtered grain spirit as the base for their small batch gins using many local botanicals. Committed to sustainability in production , they use a vapour press produce in a copper still for their botanicals which are then used for fertiliser.
This gin includes the classic Australian botanicals native lemon myrtle and mountain pepper berry, and is very herbaceous and fresh on the nose with an intense lemon on first sip then a bone dry finish. with some hints of lime and pepper.
I think this approachable and fresh gin would be happy to go along with anything you’d like to make.
Oh no, it’s the last day of our Advent adventures! Well, we’ve left one of the best to last.
I once sampled this gin and other of his products at 8am before coffee with distiller Sacha La Forgia when I visited Adelaide a couple of years back. The things you do, and his passion was infectious, or perhaps I simply hadn’t had breakfast.
Produced in small batches utilising grape spirit (which gives a lovely full mouth feel), the 78 Degrees Gin is vapour distilled using our unique column and basket distillation method, to retain delicate flavours and aromas. The 78 bit refers to how they don’t heat the botanicals above 78.1C to retain their delicacy and oils, these include juniper, coriander, citrus, Clove, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Star Anise, Orris and Angelica. One of the most accomplished Australian gins out there, it is rich and complex with plenty of appealing spice, anise and pepper notes. If a Dirty Martini is your thing, you’ll dig this number, and a Negroni is a perfect mixer for this gin.
Today we bring you something clever from the heart of Collingwood in Melbourne. The result of a collaboration of between Dervilla McGowan and Sebastian Reaburn. This special release is a riff on their standard London Dry style gin and they do small batch collaborations inspired by ideas and people they encounter.
This gin has a lovely elegance to it, very dry on the palette and subtle aromatics in a citrus forward style. My mind went, surprise, surprise, straight to Martini. It’s a subtle and closely woven number and would sing in a dry Martini, very chilled with a lemon twist. Definitely a gin with some serious smarts.
Day 7. One week gone! There are in fact two Adams behind this newish distillery in Perth, Tasmania, is co-owned by Adam Saunders and Adam Pinkard. Both have regular jobs, one a self-employed builder for Mr Saunders and the other Adam is a part-time paramedic. That aside, they are kicking goals with their gins. With a bright lime and floral nose, this gin carries through with a nice oily finish, yet still dry finish, that is friendly and versatile.
What you see is what you get with this fresh citrus forward gin, so you can any way you want: I like the idea of a tall glass with premium tonic, some fresh mint and a slice of lime.
This gin was the first release of this innovative company based in Sydney (that’s well worth a visit and tour by the way) and marked the arrival a new major player in the Australian distilling scene a few years back.
The gin is distilled with fourteen botanicals, each separately infused and individually distilled in a 300L handmade copper pot still including Blood Lime, Dorrigo Pepperleaf, Lemon Myrtle, Orange and River Mint with plenty of Juniper. It’s the epitome of the a polished Australian expression of the classic London Dry style gin.
What that means for you dear friend is a classy gin to enjoy anyway you like. Neat on ice works well to appreciate it’s finesse, plus I love it in a very Dry Martini, with a lemon twist. Read my in-depth review here.
We’re staying in Sydney for this big brother to yesterday’s gin. Notice something different? The Alcohol by Volume for this bad boy is 52.4% (compared to the usual 40% or 42%) so you’ve been warned.
The Distiller’s Strength (some might call it a Navy Strength gin)has sixteen individually distilled botanicals, including fresh pears, rose petals, elderflower, pronounced juniper and distilled honey from local beehives. The idea behind a higher ABV is to give a richer and stronger palette for the botanicals and to offer some heat and spice in the flavour profile. Think a hot curry rather than a mild one.
It’s a smooth one though, with lots of complexity and clean, spicy finish. You can enjoy this anyway you like but I wouldn’t over complicate things here. A slice of lemon and a premium tonic, and appreciate the skill in this gin. Of course a Martini would be just fine too!
From the lushness of hills around Bryon Bay comes this distinctly modern Australian gin. With some 26 botanicals (18 of which are sourced in the nearby rainforest) such as kumquat, blood lime, aniseed myrtle, macadamias and lilly pilly, plus some the classics juniper, coriander and cassia, you’re in for an intense flavour experience.
This award winning gin loves some company, so get some good tonic water and have fun with a mix of garnishes that can tease out some of the botanicals.
It really speaks of its place with finesse.
From the rainforest near famous resort town of Bryon Bay comes a variation on a very old style of gin: Sloe Gin which is made from Sloe Berries. They use local Davidson plums and they are matured in spirit for several months, blended with Mount Warning spring water and some sugar added to round it out.
Think a light port style with definite plum and some rose notes flavour up front.
So this delicious number is very distinctive you can just sip it as is, chilled would be good. Or perhaps as a spritzer with ice and soda and some fresh berries as a garnish.
Yes, you read that right. We’re back in Tasmania today where necessity breeds creativity. Rather than waste the sheep whey from their cheesery they created a tiny distiller. Small batch distilling too: they create a handful of bottles each time.
The process is carefully guarded, but they distil each botanical separately including hand foraged lemon myrtle, anise myrtle, wattle seed, juniper and pepper leaf plus a local flower and sweet grass.
This gin is bright and fresh, a hint of citrus with a super clean finish. It’s also very subtle and light on the palette, so you don’t want to waste this clever bit of work. Sip it over ice, neat, or a bone Dry Martini with a lemon peel garnish.
From rural Victoria, just South of Wadonga comes a gin made by couple Simon Brooke-Taylor and Wendy Williams using their own base spirit that combines local barley and oats with a touch of hops. They use vapour infused botanicals many of which are grown locally including coriander, fennel, hop flowers, pink pepper corns, orange peel and lime leaves and others such as aniseed myrtle.
The net result is a richly flavoured gin with those malty notes hops saying hello on the nose and a very dry finish. You can have some fun with this one I think, it’s robust enough in its flavour profile to go anywhere you wish. Dirty Martini? Definitely. But with it’s malt, musky notes you can get adventurous with your G+T garnishes and rosemary would work a treat.
More good stuff from the distilling powerhouse that is Tasmania this is both clever and sustainable. This family owned potato farm didn’t want to see good food go to waste just because the potatoes looked funny. The result: vodka and later a range of gins!
This particular version has a lovely bright lemon aromatic nose that follows through on the palette with a citrus sherbet like finish. Using locally sourced botanicals, it also includes olive leaf, lemon grass, Tasmanian mountain pepper berries along with lemon myrtle leaf but they all integrate very well, not dominating.
This is a really elegant number born in a gorgeous part of the world. Keep it simple and let it shine. Premium tonic with a thin slice of lemon, or a Dry Martini with a twist.
Another passionate family run distillery from up on the Hawkesberry River NW of Sydney, Ironbark have been doing their thing since 2013. With a background of industrial distillation, distiller Reg Papps decided put his skills to good use.
Wattleseed is a native botanical and offers an intense dark chocolate/ nutty flavour and this gin also feature juniper, coriander, cardamom, lemon zest and vanilla. The result is spicy and complex London Dry style gin that is more earthy in its flavour profile than your usual gin.
I think this is a gin to enjoy over ice to appreciate it’s delicious flavour and rich feel on the palette, but you could add a splash of good tonic and a slice of lime and be perfectly happy.
Established in 2016 this Ballarat distillery has embraced a confident Aussie style with it’s range of gins. A larrikin is an old term that deserves a comeback. It usually means someone who is an uncultivated, but good hearted person or a person who disregards conventions. So the team at Kilderkin aim to make a range of spirits that speak of their place with a confident and accomplished way, but don’t take themselves too seriously.
With highlights of lemon myrtle and plenty of spice from native botanicals and a slightly aniseed and dry finish. This is a classic Aussie take on the London Dry style- a fresh take on a familiar style that’s out to make new friends.
This would work well in a Negroni (easy on the Campari and marry it with the lovely Maidenii Sweet Vermouth) or on ice as is with some fresh mint and a slice of lime, or even tall with ice and some soda.
From Gippsland in Victoria comes the outlier in this Calendar. Loch Liqueur retains the light spicy nose of its big sister Dry Gin, but is much richer on the palette with a perfect level of sweetness, giving you both a very clean finish and a desire for another sip, and another. I reviewed this and their regular gin a few years back when they debuted and it’s still a unique offering. It featured botanicals like Cardamom, Angelica, Liquorice root, Mace, Cassia Bark, Orange and Ginger but this spirit is deceptively simple.
All you need to know is that its delicious and would appeal to even non-gin drinkers. Serve chilled neat, or on ice. Read my other review here.
Lawrenny is a special place. On the banks of the Derwent River in central Tasmania, it is one of the few distilleries in Australia that has a paddock to glass process, with the grains and botanicals all harvested on site prior to distillation on the farm.
They produce three gins currently and this release you have is a classic as they come. Plenty of juniper forward notes, with some hints of strawberry, orange citrus with a lingering soft oily finish on the palette. This gin is very accomodating, so choose your own adventure, it would make one classy Gin and Tonic (some raspberries, mint and black pepper would work well) or a lovely Martini as you like it with an olive garnish.
Distillery Botanica -Moore’s Vintage Dry Gin
This was actually the first Australian Gin I ever drank many moons ago. Long before the current craze, botanist and master distiller Phillip Moore was going his thing, inspired by his garden. This was his original release and has a lovely aromatic nose. He uses wild lime, Cinnamon Myrtle, Coriander seeds, Illawarra Plum and Macadamia nut among more traditional botanicals. Each is distilled separately in the Carter Head still.
The reason it’s called ‘vintage’ because there is naturally variation between batches due the botanicals. I find it forward on the palette, spicy and lingering with a dry finish with plenty of intensity on the palette. When I reviewed this back in 2015 I thought it shone well with Maidenii Dry Vermouth in a Martini and it could hold it’s own in a G+T with a spicy garnish like red capsicum or blood orange + fresh mint.
Welcome to your Gin Adventure! Day 1 and it’s starting to feel festive with this special number all the way from Southern Tasmania. It sparkles! Give it a shake. That’s Gold, plus you get rare Frankincense and Myrrh for a delicious gin to get you in the mood.
You can sip this lady any way you want- it’s got complexity and a luscious mouth feel. I reckon either sip it on ice, or you can try it in the driest of Martinis (with a lemon zest garnish) for something rather special from the master distillers at McHenry.
Nonesuch Distillery – Tasmanian Dry Gin
A personal favourite of mine, hand made by Rex in a shed at the back of a farm on the highway that runs between Hobart and Port Arthur. Pop in a say hi next time your down that way. As straight as an arrow, this classic style London Dry style gin is a mix Citrus, Liquorice, Orris Root, Angelica, Coriander, Cardamon and Wattle Seed and cumquat along with the juniper.
For me it evokes the old-school classic styles of Beefeater and Tanqueray gins (this is a good thing IMHO) that makes for a very versatile gin that won’t outstay its welcome. Definitely opt for a Martini as you like it, or a classic G+T. Read my in-depth review here.
Welcome to your second week of your Advent Gin Calendar adventure. We’re now back in the inner city suburb of Melbourne, and the talented gents of Patient Wolf. Apparently the idea behind this gin was to evoke sailing on a yacht off Sorrento, which is a long way from Brunswick. Is this gin a magic travel machine?
With its intense lemon and fresh thyme notes you’re definitely on your way. It has plenty of intensity, so you can be confident with it in a Negroni, or in a medium dry Martini, but add in a few mis of Lillet Blanc to rinse the glass, and a lemon garnish. Of course the classic G+T with a sprig of rosemary and a thin slice of lemon will also do the business for this classy gin.
From Adelaide, and what is fast becoming known as the ‘Gin State’ comes a rather moorish gin I think you’ll like. Made by some of the best in the business, it featured blood orange, ruby red grapefruit, ginger root and pink peppercorns in its botanical mix plus others.
The result is a generously flavoured gin you can sip, use as the base for a killer Negroni (go easy on the Campari so you don’t drown out the gin) and of course, a G+T. You’ll be wanting to tease out those lovely citrus notes, so think thin slices of grapefruit and blood orange, with some fresh mint. Summer in a glass.
I had the pleasure of meeting distiller Rowland Short when he was developing his first gin release several years ago, and since then he’s become a prolific and accomplished maker of craft spirits in South Australia. This gin pushes the envelop successfully of what can be done with an interesting botanical.
Made from Australia’s first commercial crop of yuzu – grown in orchards near the River Murray – is a Japanese citrus with flavours that are a cross between a grapefruit, mandarin and lemon (with lots of Vitamin C). This gin is based on a grape spirit, which means in short, that you get a lovely round finish.
So you can sip this on ice, or add some thin slices of orange and tonic water and enjoy its refreshing citrus notes knowing it’s doing you good. You can read a review of their original release here.
As chance would have it, I had the pleasure of meeting head distiller Natalie Fryar in her native Launceston recently. An accomplished wine maker, she brings a sophisticated and thoughtful approach to crafting her gins. Using the best water in the world sourced from the pristine Cape Grimm, hand foraged botanicals from around Tasmania and inspired by nature, they cold soak each botanical separately in triple distilled grape spirit. One of the best Australian gins out there.
The result is a delicate, floral and subtle gin with soft feel on the palette.
You’ll want to enjoy this lovely gin perhaps neat over ice, with a premium tonic water, or I did create a Martini that met with her approval with a hint of Dry Vermouth and a thin lemon garnish.
I’ve a soft spot for this gin. Way back when I was starting out as the Martini Whisperer, these guys put their hand up to help me create the official Martini for Canberra’s 100th Birthday. I used the Sabre to create one of the two versions (married with the lovely Maidenii Dry Vermouth and a lemon twist) – the Centini Southside.
The West Winds were one of the first to carve out an international reputation and place in markets for others to follow. I think it’s probably the best bang for your buck out there.
Fresh, citrus forward it’s a great fun gin to have around for any occasion. It includes twelve spices and botanicals including juniper, lemon myrtle, lime peel and wattle seed. You don’t have to other think this one, it’s a straight up and positive a gin you’re going to find. G+T with lemon, or a Martini with a twist and you’ll get those outdoor Western Australian vibes.
Our national capital hasn’t avoided the craft spirit boom. There are several distilleries in and round Canberra now, and the team at Underground Spirits are punching above their weight with some very accomplished spirits that speak of the innovation and contemporary vibe of the city. It’s a clean and smooth as they come, pristine even.
Thanks to a world first process of subzero, sub-micron filtration as part of the distillation process. You can read more about them here.
What this means for you is that it’s literally as pure a spirit that you can get, with very delicate botanicals, closely woven. These include lemon myrtle, river mint, Tasmanian pepper berry, locally sourced sustainable basil, plus juniper, coriander seeds, cinnamon, black pepper, poppy seeds and angelica root. It sounds a lot, but the net result is a very elegant gin that shines in a Dry Martini, or in a G+T, with perhaps some mint and raspberries as a garnish, or a thin slice of lime.