Winston Churchill once said, “Gin & Tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the empire.” However, it also has a reputation for being “mother’s ruin,” so the juniper-based drink can be depressing or uplifting in equal measure.
Invented in Holland, made popular in London, gin has come a long way from its oily Orwellian origins. These days it is less of a staple of self-medication for the masses, and more of a fancy-pants spirit you order the Friday after pay day. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be affordable (or at least, good value).
As Australia tends to do with everything (except maybe soccer), we’ve taken something English and made it better. Whilst there are a few classic gins in this list, we noticed a strong shift away from tradition, and a firm embrace of raw flavours and ingredients endemic to Australia.
But first: a lesson in alcohol.
How Gin Is Produced
Delve a little beyond the Bridget Jones reputation that Gin has, and you’ll find that it’s actually a spirit of incredible finesse, balance and complexity. Starting life as a relatively neutral tasting alcoholic spirit, all Gins are then flavoured primarily with Juniper Berries as a rule, before being distilled multiple times with barks, roots, spices, and a range of other ingredients that impart a unique blend of tangy, spicy flavours to the drink.
With so much freedom afforded to those who make it, it’s little surprise that so many styles of gin have arisen across the world (for example, Plymouth Gin has a distinctly different flavour to the London Gins of Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire and Gordon’s), and it’s this freedom that has helped Gin become probably the most diverse and popular craft spirit in Australia today. Seriously, go and look at how many great Aussie gins there are out there. It’s quite astounding. Here’s just a few!
Archie Rose are not afraid of breaking tradition. Which is lucky, because they believe in making the most of local ingredients, in order to create, “An Australian offering of a very English drink.”
“What we have in Australia are raw ingredients you can’t find anywhere else in the world,” (they told the Daily Telegraph).
“Lemon myrtle has five times the citrals of lemon zest, river mint has a more savoury flavour than regular mint and blood limes, a cross between a finger lime and mandarin, were created by the CSIRO in WA.” These are just some of the ingredients shaking up the gin industry.
“These botanicals give our gins a really unique flavour profile.”
It is for this reason Archie Rose is best drunk with soda water rather than tonic (so that you can appreciate this new-world gin without sugar masking the taste of its exquisite flavour profile).
Brookie’s Byron Slow Gin
When an Aussie-grown gin from the chilled-out town of Byron Bay wins gold at the 2018 San Fransisco World Spirit Competition, you know they must be onto something.
Brookie’s make a traditional dry style of gin, infused with the unique flavours of the subtropical rainforest of the Northern Rivers. Not only does their brew taste great, but they have also been regenerating rainforest for the past 30 years, looking after the place where they harvest their native botanicals.
The Davidson Plum is made in the style of the traditional English ‘sloe’ gin, whereby the Davidson Plums are left to steep in Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin for several months, allowing time to imbue the drink with their flavour.
Red Hen Gin
A delicate, juniper forward gin, the Red Hen boasts soft citrus and floral notes that hum alongside crisp, peppery, fresh notes of celery, berries and grains. These tones flow easily down the throat, where you notice a hint of Cassia shrub—at once light and earthly.
The brand was started by a group of friends, who caught the old Red Hen trains to school together, hence the friendly name. Now they are a staple feature in Adelaide’s CBD. Oh and less than a month after launching, Red Hen Gin won the ‘Champion Small Batch Spirit’ at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards. Not bad at all.
A raw, London-dry from Shene Estate Distillery in southern Tasmania, this craft gin will make you shiver with joy. When it won gold at the 2017 World Gin Awards, it was described as “resinous with deep flavours that are green and leafy, with a woody pepper-spice.” So if spices, herbs and earthy notes tickle your nose (or your fancy) than have a swill of this tasty-bitter orange. And don’t forget to revel in the menthol finish.
This craft distillery, located in Sydney’s inner west, has one singular focus: to make exceptional gin. Their products are unconventional, irreverent, and firmly world-class. They believe making great gin requires, in equal parts, focus, and magic—which is why they make gin and nothing else.
Their Sydney Dry Gin is an easy drinker with a timeless juniper backbone, complimented by fresh green apple, native strawberry gum leaf, and chamomile. And for those that like a bit more pedal to their metal, there’s the ‘Fool Strength Gin,’ a rich, classic, full-bodied gin with a grapefruit and all-night-long liquorice/juniper finish.
Melbourne Gin Company, VIC
First of all, it’s fair to say that Melbourne Gin Company’s label is possibly the best looking of any bottle of alcohol made in Australia today. But it’s not all style over substance. Distilled on the same bit of real estate as the esteemed Gembrook hill Vineyard, Melbourne Gin Company’s Gin has been developed from the artisan stovetop experimentation of one man. Distilled with all the classic staples of Gin, Melbourne Gin Company also throw in Macadamias, Orange, Sandalwood, and a range of barks and roots to keep things thoroughly cosmopolitan and Australian.
Young Henry’s Noble Cut, NSW
Everyone’s sunk a schooner of Newtowner by now, but the latest venture by Young Henry’s is to take a brewer’s approach to the art of Gin Distillation. What do they bring to the table that’s unique? Hops. They are a craft brewery at heart after all. As one of the few distilleries in the world to add hops in their mixture of botanicals, they’ve created a truly unique Gin that speaks for the sights and sounds of Newtown.
Lark Distillery Forty Spotted Dry Gin, TAS
Forty Spotted harks back to the traditional dry gins of London Town, with heavy flavours of juniper and rose petal forming the base of its flavour profile. What gives Forty Spotted a new world twist however is the addition of a rare, native Tasmanian spice that balances the traditional London bitterness with peppery, spicy flavours. Lark Distillery is also one of Tasmania’s premier whiskey distilleries, and you can buy a barrel aged version of Forty Spotted for just a few bucks more.
Price: $60-80 (depending on the bottle)
Adelaide Hills Distillery 78 Degrees Small Batch Gin, SA
Adelaide Hills 78 Degrees is truly hand crafted, and the distillers actually hand designed their own column and basket still system to retain as many of the 12 unique botanical flavours as possible in their Gin.
To get the most out of this system, this grape-based Gin is never heated past 78.1 degrees (hence the name) and made with pure Adelaide Hills water, creating a punchy, almost savoury tasting Gin.