Review: Tasmania Tonic Water Company range

Parallel to the emergence of hundreds of spirit brands in the recent years in Australia has been the introduction of ingredients to complement them. These might be bitters, vermouth, or tonic waters.

In the case of the latter, there are two styles available on the market, the well known clear, carbonated style where you simply open and pour, some with flavours, others just neutral on the palette. Then there is the tonic syrup or cordial style which harks back to the origin of tonic water itself.

For back in the day, it was of course, a medicine, hence the term ‘tonic’ to ward off malaria via it’s active ingredient quinine which is derived from the (see this article about all that I wrote a few years back) bark of the Chincona tree.

Notoriously bitter, it was served as a daily doses, often with lime juice to make it more palatable and of course, some inspired chap added gin, and the G+T was born.

So inspired by the botanicals of Tasmania and seeking a more organic approach to this ingredient, partners Andrew and Dina Gregson from the Tasmania Tonic Water Company have created a range of four syrups which evoke this older style, but without the bitter kick.

These are lower on sugar content compared to many other releases and use naturally derived quinine direct from cinchona bark. The four versions are:

  • Leatherwood Honey Tonic Syrup
  • Mediterranean Tonic Syrup
  • Pepper Berry Tonic Syrup
  • Smoked Eucalyptus Tonic Syrup

Once opened they don’t need to be kept in the fridge, but they do recommend chilling before mixing your drink.  It’s worth also mentioning that whilst we’re taking gin and tonics, these syrups would be suitable for a range of cocktails or mixing with other spirits, such as rum or vodka as you prefer.

I had a chat with the makers to get some insights into the products creation.

What is the inspiration behind the tonics ?

We moved back to Tassie after 12 years away in January 2019. We were travelling in Turkey at the time we made the decision to come back to Andrew’s home state (Dina is Canadian) and got to thinking about what had changed in Tassie since we left.

The number of distilleries that had opened and were producing gin was obvious to us – so perhaps it was serendipitous that we ran out of tonic at the same time as we were considering the question!

How did you get people used to the other styles of tonics to accept your style?

It’s a great question, as our tonics are different in four ways:

  • they’re very low in sugar so are quite dry (allowing you to taste the gin rather than the tonic);
  • they contain naturally derived quinine so are coloured rather than clear, they feature unique Tasmanian botanical flavours to enhance certain gin characteristics; and
  • they’re in syrup form, so saving on packaging, providing greater consumer value and always ensure fresh, carbonated tonic water when needed.

Many consumers are already looking for a premium tonic to match their premium gin, so that helped. Moreover, they’re looking for lower sugar content so are often keen to try our product for that reason. The unique characteristics of Australian gins lead many consumers to look for tonics to match, so we’re able to offer that. Our drive toward a natural product with lower packaging footprint also attracts a number of consumers.

What we’re finding is that these reasons lead people to try the product. We’ve been delighted, subsequent to trying it, that people are willing to buy it.

When did you know you nailed the recipes?

We’ll remember that moment for a long time – when a certain well known Tasmanian distiller gave us a grin, a thumbs up and told us “I can taste the gin”.

How did you go about sourcing the ingredients?

Our ethos is pretty simple – “Respect Your Gin”. Australian distillers do a terrific job in creating spirits using fine ingredients. We wouldn’t be living up to our own ethos if we didn’t respect that by using fine ingredients ourselves. The cinchona that we use is the only imported ingredient as we can’t (yet) source it in Australia. It’s coming from Central America.

The botanicals that we utilise come from small Tasmanian businesses – just like us.

How do you recommend people enjoy your tonics?

Frequently!

One of the reasons that we went with a syrup (to mix with soda water) rather than a completed product was to hand control back to the consumer. We provide a recommendation on how much syrup to mix with soda (10mls syrup, 30 mls spirit, 100mls soda), but we encourage people to play with their drinks. Find what’s right for you and, importantly, what’s going to bring the best out of your spirit.

It’s quite extraordinary how many different flavours you can taste in a gin with the right tonic at the right strength.

How do you go about creating tonics that are environmentally sustainable ?

This was one of our drivers from the start in designing our products. As a syrup, we use far less packaging and far less transport space. We also make quite a concentrated syrup to lower the packaging and transport even further.

We use recyclable glass bottles to avoid plastic waste. Our inputs are sourced locally where possible and we get to know our suppliers to understand their practices and how we can work together.

Tasting Notes

  • Leatherwood Honey Tonic Syrup
    • This has a pronounced aroma of honey on the nose, but once mixed as instructed it’s present but doesn’t dominate, nor is it overly sweet. I married it with a thin slice of lemon just to cut it a little and I think a contemporary style of gin such as Threefold or Imbue Distillery range would be fun in this, even a vodka to accentuate the flavours.
  • Mediterranean Tonic Syrup
    • This reminded me most of the classic flavour profile of a tonic, clean and citrusy but not intense in it’s flavours. I’d suggest a spirit with lots of flavour, like a Four Pillars or a Navy Strength style gin where you want it front and centre.
  • Pepper Berry Tonic Syrup
    • Tasmania Pepper Berry is a real go-to botanical in many an Aussie gin these days, lending it’s distinctive nutty pepper spice. But in the syrup I found it quite restrained with some forward orange citrus notes, with just the spice at the back. I’d line this up with a spirit that had some of it’s own spice or very juniper forward.
  • Smoked Eucalyptus Tonic Syrup
    • If you’ve ever had a smokey Mezcal and liked it, you’ll love this. The nose follows through on the palette and this is a clever use of the ingredients and most intense of the line up. You can take your Margarita to the next level here, or a long Tequila with soda and lime.

The Take Home

There’s a lot to appreciate in this range. The sustainable approach to production, the way each of the syrups complement each other, and the fact that you can diversify the use of the syrups by marrying them to other spirits and cocktails for a richer, sipping experience.

You’ll note the colour of the drinks in the images, so don’t expect your cliched G+T experience. The Tasmanian Tonic Company have evoked the botanical and medical roots of the original tonics and created a range of tonics that are delicious, thoughtful and original.

 

 

Details 

Purchase 

  • AUD $22 per 300 ml bottle of syrup – to make 3.3 litres of tonic water.
  • Can be bought direct via their website and there’s also a list of retails in Australia listed
  • ABV: 0%

 

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

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