It’s been as hot as heck lately. I walked to my car last week to find that the outside thermometer said it was 37 degrees. And that was parked in an underground shopping centre carpark!
And as I sit here now, I’m taking the edge off with an old friend called Gin, namely in the form of a Gin and Tonic.
I’m a sucker for a good G&T, and it’s easily up there in my top five favourite drinks during summer time, along with a good rosé and quite embarrassingly, the odd West Coast Cooler after mowing the yard in summer.
Yeah I know…..I did say embarrassingly.
But I digress ….Gin is the key ingredient to many classic cocktails that you would have heard of or even tried over the years, the Martini, Singapore Sling, Tom Collins, Gin Fizz to name a few, and Australia seems to be having a bit of renaissance with it of late, research has shown that consumption is up more than 36% in the last five years. In every major city you will find gin bars popping up, just like we have had with rum and whiskey, and what’s even better is that the range that is available in those bars, heck in even your local wine bar, has improved drastically.
What’s really interesting to see though, is that Australian Gin is leading the charge. And not just here, but around the world, our Gin is taking centre stage and walking away with big chunky gold medals at many of the international shows.
With little distilleries popping up everywhere, we are seeing more and more of the spirit being released. Gin is a lot cheaper to make than other spirits that need to spend time on oak such as whiskies and good rums. And while a lot of other clear spirits, like vodka for example, are meant to be as flavourless as possible, gin hunts in the other direction allowing for more creativity and interesting flavour profiles. It allows the distiller to unleash their creativity and try their hand at new directions. And this is why were are seeing such impressive gin coming out of Australia.
All gin is made from grain or grape, and by law to be labelled as Gin it must contain juniper berries. Other botanicals are added along the way, typically things like bitter orange peel, as well as a combination of other spices, such as anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and angelica root (wild celery).
With all these new distilleries, come new distillers that want to show what they can do, what they are capable of, they are pushing boundaries, not just content to use the “old school” flavour profile they are grabbing Australian native botanicals and charging ahead like a bull at a gate, proving that there is a real artistry to distilling.
These new kids on the block, or some cases old heads running young businesses, all want to show that they are at the top of their game, and make their mark. Obviously not all distilleries are knocking the ball out of the park, but when they get it right, boy it makes for great drinking.
Recommending the “Best Gin” is hard because people’s tastes are different and it’s very dependent on what you consider best to be. I tend to look for:
- a clear spirit, gin is a clear spirit, but when you line a few up you will be surprised by the differences in colour;
- aromas, does it actually smell ok or does it smell cheap or like window cleaner;
- taste, does the taste reflect the aromas, does the alcohol overwhelm the taste, and more importantly is this what I thought it was going to be like;
- and the finish, does it linger there on your tongue, can you still taste it after its rolled down your throat and have all of those elements come together to make it a satisfying spirit?
Having said that here’s a few of what I think are some of Australia’s best, in no particular order.
McHenry Navy Strength Gin – hailing from Tassie comes this London dry style gin made using pure Tasmanian spring water, juniper, citrus peel, coriander seed, cardamom, orris root (I had to look that one up), star anise and finger limes. Well balanced between the flavours of the juniper and coriander, with that citrus giving it a burst of flavour and a long finish. Makes a great martini, but it’s got a high alcohol so watch out. Around $90
Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin – coming out of Sydney’s first distillery in over 160 years, this has over fourteen botanicals that are distilled separately, using some interesting natives such as Dorrigo pepper and Australian blood limes. The Juniper berries come through very strongly, but it’s balanced by the citrus and the peppercorns. This makes a freaking awesome Gin and Tonic. About $75
Melbourne Gin Company Dry Gin – eleven botanicals are separately distilled in a special still that is more commonly used for perfume making, so that each retain their delicate flavours. And it works to produce such a crisp clean, slightly cloudy gin. It’s a classic dry style, very well balanced, I got touches of creamy nut from macadamia. Perfect on ice. $70.
West Wind The Cutlass – WA is more known for mining, diamonds, and remote rocky vistas than for its superb gin, but that’s changing. The West Winds range is easily found all around the world now after taking out a swag of medals at world competitions with their rich and quite powerful (50%abv) gin. It feels quite dense in the mouth with bush tomato and coriander seed at the fore. You could easily drink a fair bit of this on ice. $75
Mt Uncle Distillery Botanical Australis – the team at Mt Uncle knock out one of
Australia’s most distinctive gins. They use 14 botanicals including river mint, lemon myrtle to produce a gin that gives you a different predominant flavour every time you take a sip,its peppery, then citrus, then the juniper, it’s always changing. Makes a superb martini, no vermouth needed here, the spirit is that easy to drink straight out of the bottle into a martini glass with an olive. It’s big, bold and has got enough going on to make a lot of rum, whiskey or bourbon drinkers sit up and take notice. $80.