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Roadtest: Local Spirit Luxury Distillery Experience

Ashleigh Went

Having recently ate and drank my way around Europe, I learned a thing or two about tourism and food. Much like the anatomy of a perfect cocktail, there’s an art to creating a great experience.

Of course, the products themselves must be plentiful, particular to the region and of exceptional quality—that’s a given. Next, you’ll want some special venues—if you can offer exclusive access, that’s even better.

But what really makes a tour remarkable is a charismatic, knowledgeable guide. Ben Osborn of Local Spirit tours certainly fits the bill, and he’s delivered an amazing product—right in our own backyard.

My boyfriend James and I were guests of Ben on a recent Local Spirit tour. We met Ben and another couple at Grease Monkey, where we were treated to burgers (I highly recommend the Quackie Chan) and fries, an assortment of house sauces, and a Baldwin Distillery whiskey with coke.

Before I continue, let me tell you that I am normally the last girl who would order a whiskey and coke—but Ben suggested it, so went along with it. I’m so glad I did, because it was one of the best tasting whiskeys I’ve tried (which is saying something, given we recently travelled through the Scottish Highlands).

Safe to say, the bar was set high from the outset, but things just kept getting better.

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We piled into Ben’s tour van and headed to Underground Spirits in Kambah, where we were greeted Sales/Marketing Manager and Distiller, Andrew Galbraith. This was probably my favourite stop of the whole tour, and that’s primarily because their spirits are divine.

Vodka isn’t my favourite drink (I’m chalking that up to Thursday nights at the old Uni Pub) – especially straight. However, I liked Underground Spirits vodka so much that I bought a bottle to take home with me. Their plain vodka is practically tasteless (I’m told this is the objective when it comes to producing vodka) with none of that harsh afterburn. This is because of their unique submicron, subzero filtration system created by “mad scientist” of the team, Dr Toby Angstmann. The system is so unique that it’s patented and makes for the best vodka I’ve ever tasted.

underground spirits

Next, Ben took us to the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre where, overlooking the perennially gorgeous Lake Burley Griffin, he talked us through products from The Canberra Distillery. We tasted products including the Vodka, Gin, Winter Gin, and my personal favourite—the Musk. It’s a musk stick-flavoured liquor with pink sparkles that shimmer under the light. Basically, it’s alcoholic unicorn juice. And it’s divine.

Our penultimate stop was Baldwin Distillery, famous for their whisky and moonshine. Anthony Baldwin gave us a tour of his enormous distillery, followed by tastings in his charming, western-themed bar. As I said, I’m not the biggest whiskey fan but as far as whiskeys go, Baldwin’s do have a nice flavour. My favourite was the Moonshine—especially the peach and apple pie flavours. We walked away with a bottle of the latter, well and truly starting to feel the effects of our tastings as we piled back into Ben’s van.

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Lastly, we arrived at White Rabbit Cocktail Room, where the bar staff bent over backwards to make us spectacular cocktails using products we’d sampled during the tour. My cocktail of choice is an espresso martini, and White Rabbit’s was the best I’ve ever had—hand on heart. I would put it down to the combination of flavoured vodkas from Underground Spirits. That, and the way the bartender artistically scattered espresso beans over the table just so I could take a ‘grammable picture. They certainly know the way to my heart.

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The tour itself was wonderful, but what impressed me the most was our host. When most of us were still drinking from ‘goonbags’ at 20 years old (no, just me?) Ben has found his calling and created a remarkable business in an industry he so clearly loves.

“The idea for Local Spirit started after finishing a Distillation Course with the Tasmanian Whisky Academy and wanting to work at a Distillery without having to move all the way to Tasmania” explains Ben.

“A few contacts got me in touch with Anthony at Baldwin Distilling Company, and later at a cocktail night I was presenting some cocktails made with the Canberra Distillery products to a small group of people. Little did I know that the distiller was there.”

From that first experience, Ben began helping out with sales at local markets. It was around this time he heard about Underground Spirits.

“I didn’t know there was a distillery in Canberra, let alone three!” he says.

As Ben got to know more about the local distilleries and there products, he began to wonder why they weren’t in local bars, or receiving the same level of attention as local beer or wines.

Ben also gained a lot of knowledge in spirits and distillation through his experience working in various bars, including attending masterclasses and swapping knowledge with bar managers, brand reps and producers. He’s a total ‘spirits nerd’ – in the best possible way.

When Ben travelled to Tasmania he went on every tour he could find, conducting valuable market research. During this time, he heard a quote from a local bottleshop owner that has stuck with him since.

“He said ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ and it’s certainly true in Tasmania. That culture is what I would love to see here in Canberra—everyone supporting local and getting to know the amazing people and products in the area.”

“You gain a new level of enjoyment of a product when you meet the makers and understand the product’s intricacies and the stories behind it. It’s a romanticised view, but I love a good story and connecting with not just the products, but the people behind them. Our tours build those connections and give you behind the scenes insights and stories that would otherwise be missed out on.”

Having experienced Local Spirit, I completely agree. I left the tour with a stronger appreciation for Canberra’s spirit industry, a far greater knowledge of spirits and the distillation process, and of course, a few bottles of amazing spirits that I nabbed at a special discount. What more could you ask for?

the essentials

What: Local Spirit Luxury Distillery Experience
When: tours are run on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm
Where: departing from Grease Monkey, 19 Lonsdale Street Braddon
How much: $220 per person including lunch, tastings and a cocktail
Bookings: www.localspirit.com.au

The author received her tour courtesy of Local Spirit, however, her opinions remain her own. 

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Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author

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