Review: Imbue Distillery Range

Imbue: to inspire or permeate.

On the outer fringes of Melbourne, Mel and Mick Sheard create in small batches a very original take on modern Australian gin. Debuting in late 2018, they’ve expanded their range several very different gins.

In this line up I’m exploring the original Suburban contemporary style, the Journey dry gin, The Elixir liqueur and the barrel aged All Seasons.  There is also a barrel aged version of the Suburban (sherry cask) and a First Fleet liqueur.

It was very thoughtful of them to send me a lovely presented gift box with four x 100ml bottles to experience.

The tone of the brand is also worth noting here. It’s optimistic, unpretentious, bright, and appealing.

In the details of the Suburban label for instance, you can spot details like a backyard clothes line (a Hills Hoist for the Aussies), a cassette, a dog playing, a banana chair, and for many these evoke the suburban backyards of their youth.  I could certainly tick all of those off.

Taking a story based approach to each release, we’re all hardwired to respond to a narrative, and I think this makes the spirits that much more approachable to those willing to try something new.

This is also smart, as they are using some very novel botanicals in their gins that at face value might get some heads scratching: muntries, dandelion, prickly pear, fennel for example, many of these foraged by the couple in their local area.  Self taught, originally, later enhanced with a distilling course in Tasmania,  they craft their gins in a 175 litre copper still (made by HHH Stills in Western Australia) with a grape spirit base.

One can imagine a lot of trial and error went into learning how to manage the various botanicals. I understand that they macerate the juniper and the other botanicals and distilled in either a basket or the pot still itself as appropriate.

Tasting Notes 

  • Suburban (ABV 40%)
    • Botanicals: Juniper, coriander, dandelion, sunflower seed, fennel, ginger, prickly pear, blackberry.
    • Nose: some spice with the dandelion saying hello, and a hint of fruity sweetness
    • Neat: the gin lingers on the palette for quite a while, the spirit is clean and provides a good base for the botanicals, none of whom dominate the others, and you’re left with the ginger and citrus humming away happily. It’s overall quite subtle.

  • The Journey (ABV 40%)
    • Botanicals: Juniper, apple, muntries (indigenous cranberries)
    • Nose: An attractive bouquet that is Spring fresh with no spirit volatility.
    • Neat: The nose follows through with a full flavoured gin that has a spicy balance between the juniper up front with a slight sweetness from what I presume are the muntries, with a crisp finish. Very successfully done.

  • The Elixir (ABV 22%)
    • Botanicals: juniper, plus infused with lemon, honey and lemon
    • Nose: After giving the bottle a shake and pouring, this is a very honey driven nose cut with the lemon. My idea of medicine!
    • Neat: Cloudy to look at, but not as rich on the palette as you might think. Quite light overall in mouth feel with the same flavours of honey and lemon following through in a good balance, the vanilla is in the background. I make a hot toddy in emergencies using honey, lemon, crushed ginger, slices of red chilli, and a good slug go single malt and hot water.  This deserves a better fate and is delicious neat.

  • All Seasons (ABV 35%)
    • Botanicals: juniper, aniseed, honey, and selected spices and barrel aged in oak
    • Nose: As promised on the label, aniseed is bright and and attractive in the aroma supported by the honey notes. It has an attractive pale hue as well.
    • Neat: Very well balanced between the two main flavours, the palette lines up perfectly with the nose. Consistent with style of the brand, the spirit is light overall all, and the spice delicate, with a lingering finish that isn’t austere.

The Take Home 

The originality and positive vibe that Imbue presents is a refreshing and attractive take on the contemporary style of gins. By positioning themselves in a stylish and innovative way, they can then explore a range of unconventional gin expressions and be spared comparison with other makers. Imbue Distillery are happily doing their own thing, and the rave reviews on their Facebook page indicates that they’ve found an appreciative and enthusiastic fan base for this style of gins.

I can see why this is the case. I applaud the approach, and think all the gins presented are accomplished and offer an enjoyable drinking experience. The Journey release, for me, is the pick of the range, but I can see any of them finding a happy home.  Mel and Mick have pushed the envelop of what Australian contemporary gin can be with innovation and a vibe that is sure to win hearts for both the gin lover and those new to the spirit.


Disclaimer; this review is of an unsolicited samples provided by the distributor, opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.

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