My home town of Canberra, Australia’s capital has it’s birthday on March 9, Happy Birthday!
With it’s modern, well designed layout, set within a natural environment, this city of some 350,000 people is one of the most liveable cities on the planet.
Still retaining something of a small town vibe, it’s blend of the new and the landscape, means you can focus on things that matter without wasting time commuting and the other hassles of a big city. Canberra sits within a wider region that extends down to the Australian Alps to the South (a couple of hours drive), the South Coast (ditto) and surrounding rural regions with winemakers, small towns and villages and fine food producers of all persuasions. Big Sydney is an easy three hour drive to the North.
Happily, the past image of Canberra being the seat of government and being tainted with the association with all those politicians and lobbyists has been left behind, and it was recognised recently by Lonely Planet who thought it was the 3rd best city in the world to visit, so there.
As part of this renaissance in the past decade, craft distilling has emerged as well, also inspired by the natural beauty and local ingredients.
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with each of these makers on events, and more, so here’s the scoop on who’s who in the Canberra region distilling scene. There’s another couple in the works too to join the list later this year by the way.
Updated 8 March 2021
Australia’s first certified organic gin, has moved to Canberra in the past year to make the most of the innovative and vibrant distilling industry here and to be closer to the Sydney and regional markets. The make a range of gins, vodka, expresso coffee spirits for a killer Espresso Martini, and you can read more about them in an early review here, plus a long chat on YouTube for 2020 World Gin Day with the team.
Established in 2017, distiller Clyde Morton debuted with an attractive London Dry style Gin that has won many friends for it’s finesse and offers Canberra’s only ( at time of writing) tasting room just 15 minutes from the city. He also produces a vodka and other gins now and has a loyal following. You’ll find him out at the Diary Road complex that is worth a visit in itself
Tim Reardon is prolific in the range of spirits he has created since debuting in 2015. Starting with a London Dry gin, he now offers over 15 releases including a popular range of spirits including seasonal Gin releases, Blood Orange, Truffle Gin (Canberra region produces some superb truffles) and a hit seller in a French Earl Grey Tea made in collaboration with a local tea blender and a lifestyle magazine.
Once a pharmacist, now a distiller of fine rum and the region’s only whisky, Martin Pye established Riverbourne Distillery in 2015, with his first releases coming onto the market a couple of years later. Inspired in his rural setting some 40 minutes outside Canberra near the hamlet of Jingera, Martin also produces a Vodka and is often found at regional and local markets.
2017 was a landmark year in the local distilling scene with another distillery also launching, Underground Spirits. Located in an unassuming southern suburban shopping centre of Kambah, they’ve been creating refining spirits focusing on gin and vodka, and special releases since then. The polished packaging reflects a focus on quality and innovation.
Head South a couple of hours and you pass through the Alpine town of Jindabyne, keep going, turn left onto the Alpine Way and you’ll find the beautiful Wildbrumby Distillery that was established in 2005. Well known for it’s locally foraged and high quality Schnapps, the passionate team also produce a range of gins, vodka and other special releases that are inspired by their location and a made with real passion.
Looking to purchase?
All these producers offer online sales, and there are a range of good stockists around Canberra to choose from who support local spirits, in addition to local markets. You can also find them at the Canberra Visitors Information Centre too.