Review: Lord Howe Island Distilling Co. Gins

If paradise does exist, then the fine folk from Lord Howe Island Distilling Co. have aimed to create to distill it’s essence into a bottle.

The fact that the sample bottles made it all the way to me at all, despite the vagaries of supply chains and border closures during these uncertain times, lends a little touch of magic to my experience of these gins as well.

It’s important, I think, to give you a sense of place

Situated a few hours flight time off the northern New South Wales coast, with only some 350 residents and a limit at anytime of 400 visitors, it is just 10km long and a World Heritage Site.  There is a seaborne freight delivery every few weeks, and at the time of writing, the island is now reopened to visitors which can get flights there from Port Macquarie.

With the range of accommodation from camping to luxury, extinct volcanic peaks to hike, great fishing, a speed limit of 25km and no mobile phone reception, it’s a one of a kind place.

The Range

In the gin business they talk of ‘craft distilling’ and ‘small batch’, as opposed to large scale production, it’s safe to say we’re talking very small batch here and they use both Pot & Infusion distilling methods to produce the spirits and source as much their ingredients locally as possible.  I should comment on the attractive packaging in these 200ml bottles I received, wax sealed top, with a lovely parchment feel labelling, with a very attractive look and feel and some useful information about the inspiration for the gins that sets things up very nicely. 

They produce the two gins currently and a vodka.

  • Wild Lemon and Hibiscus Gin (40% ABV)
    • The lemons for this gin are sourced from trees at one end of the island near where passing ships would get fresh water, planted to provide a local source of vitamin C. This recent one a Silver Medal at
  • Wolfe Rock Navy Strength Gin (57% ABV)
    • Named after an infamous location that claimed some ships including the whaling ship, Wolf in 1837. This gin one a Bronze medal at the 2020 Australian Gin Awards.
  • Wild Lemon Vodka (40% ABV)
    • Lord Howe Island’s wild bush lemons were planted by early settlers.

Tasting Notes

  • Wild Lemon and Hibiscus Gin
    • Nose: Very delicate with no spirit volatility, just a hint of floral notes.
    • Neat: Rose and musk first up, then some lovely lemon zest over these on a base of a very gently spirit base that lingers well on the palette, with a slightly dry finish with the juniper making it’s presence known at the end.
  • Wolfe Rock Navy Strength Gin
    • Nose: As expected from this level of ABV of 57% the aroma of the spirit is much more evident, not in an unpleasant way, think white pepper and spice, but not especially revealing.
    • Neat: This gin is the Yang to the Wild Lemon and Hisbicus Yin, very warm on the palette with a grainy / toasty flavour profile, but the spirit is actually very well restrained, and just provides the background for a very complex but not overly powering gin that has a very pleasant creaminess to it.

The Take Home

It was a treat to experience these lovely gins from so far away, a taste of an unique part of the world was particularly welcome during these times.

Both gins are made very well and resolved. It would good to taste them side by side as they do complement each other well.

The subtlety of the Lemon and Hibiscus, which would easily shine in a G+T, says many good things of the island I think on one of those stunning afternoons looking at the mountains and sea.

Whilst with the Navy Strength release, I preferred this gin by a narrow margin. I liked the way it lingered and opened up on the palette with the layers of botanical complexity, it just went on forever, and I think just on ice, or a splash of soda, would be a fine way to enjoy it.

I think the team at Lord Howe Island have done an accomplished job of crafting these gins with love for a very special place and for a time I was transported in spirit there.

Details

Disclaimer

This review is of an unsolicited product provided by the distiller, and the views expressed are my own.

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