Review: Summerleas Distillery Navy Gin

With the current gin boom showing no sign of slowing down with close to 500 gin producers in the country now, only about 60 or more are created by Australian women according to the Women of Australian Distillers website.

]So it takes a certain amount of bravery and self-belief to dive into the sea of Aussie gin, and strive to make a name for oneself.

Sarah Gunn set out to do just that, recently debuting her range of gins inspired by her family’s seven generations of history in Tasmania. In fact her passion to create gin was such that she did what we say around here, she backed herself, and funded her studies and travels in distilling by mortgaging her house.

No pressure then.

Time for a chat with Sarah.

What is the inspiration behind the gins and the brand generally?

Check out this short video about her gin distilling journey….

Summerleas Distillery – the Brand Story from Seedlab Tasmania on Vimeo.

Do you have a particular philosophy in crafting your spirits?
Traditional London Dry Gins that can be sipped as you would a single malt whisky. We make Gins that are to be shared and bring people together wherever their adventure maybe.

When did you know you nailed the recipe?

I was fortunate to attend a Gin School at Corgi Distillery in New York where we learnt a lot about botanical ratios and how to develop a perfectly balanced recipe. At the end of each day, our Gins were presented to a tasting panel consisting of distillers, a professional taster, a recipe development specialist and bar tenders. On Day 3, the owner of the distillery tasted my gin and was blown away – he loved it and said he wanted it behind his bar, indicating that it would make a great Martini. This was when I knew I had the perfect recipe to take home!

Why go the Navy Strength way in this expression?

The higher ABV highlights the complexity of the Juniper berries and gives an incredible depth of flavour.

How did you go about sourcing the ingredients?

Obviously the main botanical is Juniper so I tested berries from around the globe and found a source in Macedonia that produced berries with high levels of Alpha-pinene and Limonene and I blend these with berries from Tuscany and Morocco. This combination of Juniper gives an aroma of the Tasmanian bush just after it’s rained – I love it! I also grow Juniper at my distillery in Kingston which is ripening nicely.

How do you recommend people enjoy your gins?

I recommend trying the Navy Gin neat first and enjoy it just as you would with a cask strength Single Malt Whisky. It’s great to take camping, you can enjoy it without having to add anything! I also recommend it with sparkling mineral water, ice and a wedge of fresh orange. My favourite tonic is FeverTree Mediterranean, also with fresh orange as it makes the citrus notes sing!

My twin sisters who ‘don’t like gin’ are loving it in a Gin Sour! They visited Ian at Gold Bar in Hobart and took his recipe home with them to NSW. My favourite cocktail by the way, is a Naked Martini. (MW > I thoroughly approve.)

Is there something about the location where you’re located that informs the spirits and your product?

Summerleas Distillery is based in a valley between the foothills of kunanyi/Mount Wellington and Storm Bay in Southern Tasmania. The Roaring Forties bring wild wind and rain straight to our door, allowing us to cut our Navy Gin with the freshest rainwater – water and it’s use plays a big role in the final product.

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

We use a stainless steel still from The Netherlands to make our Gin. It uses very advanced technology including temperature probes located strategically in the pot and column.  This assists us replicate our gins, batch after batch.

Compared to a traditional copper pot still, we save around 90% on our running costs due to its design and insulation. It also doesn’t rely on harsh chemicals for cleaning – we use a vinegar solution or hot water which is so much better for the environment. We recycle all our cooling water and use the waste botanicals and grains in our citrus orchard and around the property.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose:  Very bright and aromatic, with the juniper notable and hints of spices like coriander, there’s some spirit heat, but no volatility.
  • Neat: The nose follows through on the palette with a very dry flinty juniper-forward palette with a clean spirit underneath that hides it’s spirit muscle in a civilised veneer with the botanicals showing lots of balance and restraint.  Sarah recommends this to be sipped as a single malt and I can see why, a very composed thinking time gin.
  • Dry Martini:  Needless to say, I had to stretch this gin’s legs in a more potent way. The choice of Dry Vermouth was rather important here, and with a gin that has lots of depth, yet it still very dry and restrained in it’s flavour profile, I opted for the venerable Noilly Prat, 1:7 ratio, this brought out more spice and heat in the gin making for a Martini that demanded your attention, the complexity of the gin really opened up making for a cracking cocktail.

The Take Home

The Navy Strength gin expression isn’t about getting a big boozy hit, though one needs one wits about oneself when playing with 57% ABV, it’s about the spirit being a palette for bolder botanicals flavours, the underlaying spirit should lend some heat and spice, but not dominate. It can be a hard one to executive well, and I think distillers create these expressions to prove that can pull it off.

With a very elegant packaging to round out the experience, speaking of it’s home in Tasmania, Sarah has debuted with a very confident and polished gin that matches it’s appearance. The heat from the spirit is balanced very well with the botanicals, offering a warming, elegant spirit that stands well on it’s own.

An excellent example of how to present a Navy Strength gin in a very intelligent and accomplished way.


  • Where it can be purchased
    • Website
    • Destination Cellars Tasmania, Hobart
    • Hop, Vine and Still, Hobart
    • Cellabrations Kingston, Blackmans Bay and Huonville
    • Plus many smaller independent sellers

Disclaimer: this review is of unsolicited sample provided by the makers, opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.


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