Other than perhaps an Aperol Spritz, chilled glass of white wine or a mojito, few other drinks are as refreshing as a gin and tonic. A drink that is easy to savour and easier to enjoy, gin is a spirit that can introduce a multitude of flavour profiles.
With its history being traced back to 13th-century Netherlands (although some reports claim it was invented in Italy) and a surge in popularity in England being responsible for its global appeal today, gin now comes in a huge number of varieties deriving from distilleries all around the world.
That includes Australian. Just as our nation has pretty much carved out a unique craft beer scene of its own, we’ve seen plenty of distilleries dishing out their own interpretation of what a good gin should taste like, many of which have been the recipient of awards.
As ever, there is always place to recommend the very best bottles to buy right now, which is exactly what we’ve done with this list of best Australian gin.
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 Is Gin 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, an ‘Old Tom’ gin like Hernö has a distinctly different flavour compared to a ‘London Dry’ like Bombay Sapphire), 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 are just a few!
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“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 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 makes a traditional dry style of gin, infused with the unique flavours of the subtropical rainforest of the Northern Rivers. Not only does its brew taste great, but it has also been regenerating rainforest for the past 30 years, looking after the place where it harvests the native botanicals it uses.
The Davidson Plum is made in the style of the traditional English ‘sloe’ gin, whereby the eponymous plums are left to steep in Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin for several months, allowing time to imbue the drink with their flavour.
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.
The ‘Sydney Dry’ Gin is an easy drinker with a timeless juniper backbone, complemented by fresh green apple, native strawberry gum leaf, and chamomile. And for those that like a bit more ‘pedal to the metal’, there’s the ‘Fool Strength Gin,’ a rich, classic, full-bodied gin with a grapefruit and all-night-long liquorice/juniper finish.
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. Bottoms up!
The Victoria-based distillery took home the International Gin Producer of the Year gong at the 50th Annual Wine & Spirits Competition in late 2019. Considering the company was only founded in 2013, it’s clear they’re doing something very right.
Each of the four gins currently produced is made based on ‘four pillars’: Stills; Water; Botanicals and Love. The company claims its flagship Rare Dry Gin makes the world’s best G&T. Others include a Bloody Shiraz Gin, which adds in Shiraz grapes from the Yarra Valley region while the Spiced Negroni Gin makes the perfect Negroni.
Young Henry’s is a craft brewery at heart after all. As one of the few distilleries in the world to add hops in their mixture of botanicals, its created a truly unique gin that speaks for the sights and sounds of Newtown.
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.
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.
Lemon myrtle, orange zest and coriander are added to a base created with juniper and a thoughtfully curated collection of spices, resulting in a drop that reflects the sun-kissed coastal city.
This London Dry promises to provide a “superb juniper character and subtle flavours from botanicals including orange and lemon peel, coriander and cubeb pepper.”
The company says its best served with Mediterranean tonic water and garnished with either a bay leaf or lemon.
Bursting with lemon but with hints of piney juniper and fresh thyme, the Summer Thyme gin is a refreshing style gin that is “the perfect summer sipper”.
The ‘Australian Dry’ boasts bold juniper notes with aniseed myrtle and is best enjoyed in a dry gin martini.