That’s right—Winemakers of Rutherglen has announced that in 2020, its iconic Winery Walkabout will transform…
Look everybody! We made gin!
Canberra women aspire to greatness in many fields – public administration, law, medicine, entrepreneurship. But for a week or so earlier last month, the women of HerCanberra aspired to just one over-arching and lofty goal.
We aspired to distil gin.
Not just any old throw-in-some-tonic-and-you’ll-be-right gin. But Holy-Cow-I-will-have-another-and-make-mine-a-double gin.
Under the careful tutelage of award-winning The Canberra Distillery’s Tim Reardon, we spent a day tasting, smelling, debating, and—finally—distilling a gin designed by HerCanberra.
Our Associate Editor Emma Macdonald is a devotee of the stuff. Her take on it was to create something floral, sweet and feminine and her marketing ploy was that if we made a French Earl Grey gin, not only would it be fragrant and beautiful, but you could mount an argument that if it was time for a cup of tea, it could also be time for a Gin and Tonic. Clever, right?
Meanwhile, our resident style guru and food editor, Belinda Neame, was keen to ensure that the flavours were understated and not too overpowering on the lavender or lemon side (and that Emma didn’t get too carried away with the process because she was SO excited…).
Our CEO Amanda lived vicariously through us all, as she cared for a sniffly child at home.
Online Editor Beatrice Smith and HerCanberra ACTIVE Editor Ashleigh Went, meanwhile, wandered off to try some of the samples in Tim’s well-stocked garage and then tucked into some of the cake that head blender at Tea Garden Co. Mikhaila Pennell had baked us for the occasion. They seemed happy enough to go with the consensus.
Mikhaila works closely with Tim on providing the best botanicals and dried florals and herbs for his alcohol and she had bucket loads of beautiful product ready to go. Mikhaila’s expertise is in distinguishing the notes of the botanicals that come through the gin and register on the palate.
Tim then pulls it all together in a very scientific way. Now there’s an interesting story. Tim is actually an economist who has spent decades connected to Parliament House working on energy policy. He fell into distilling by accident, experimenting in his garage after assisting a friend set up a distillery in Tasmania.
In 2015, Tim started the process of becoming a licensed distiller. And, much to the alarm of his wife, he soon became the only licensed distillery on a residential block in Australia. At the time, he had no idea that there was a market in Canberra for craft spirits, but after a few visits to bottle shops to see if they would sell his product, Tim discovered there was. He sold out within two weeks and has been “peddling flat out since”.
Tim can barely fit his equipment in his garage these days and is desperate for a place to set up a full distillery, shop and teaching space. If anyone has space for some cool looking equipment and wants to draw an eager crowd, just let him know.
Meanwhile, we just took over the dining table and got to sniffing, and tasting.
The basic process
Step 1: Tim ferments a base alcohol at BentSpoke Brewing Co. in Mitchell, using wine or beer with an Alcohol By Volume of 10 per cent. Wine makes a sweeter gin.
Step 2: Distilling. This step is about removing all flavour. The alcohol is boiled for eight to 12 hours to separate the water.
Step 3: That’s where the HerCanberra brains trust comes in and we add the fun bits. Gin is based on botanicals including juniper berry. In our gin, there were the requisite French Earl Grey flavours of lavender, bergamot and lemon myrtle. There were also some other little bits and pieces in there, but—just like Colonel Sanders—we are keeping those top secret.
Step 4: We chuck all the ingredients into what looks like a flux capacitator from Back to the Future (ie a highly-specialised piece of distilling equipment), and boil it for four to six hours.
Post production is a whole other thing—filtering, flocing, bottling and labelling. Then everything needs to be cleaned.
But we didn’t hang around for that step—instead, we wandered giggling down the driveway and left that all up to Tim.
“The truth is, 90 per cent of distilling is simply cleaning things,” he says with a resigned sigh.
Two weeks after our little experiment, Tim allowed us to have a taste. The product is sweet and fragrant and, frankly, delicious.
Our graphic designer Katie Radojkovic, meanwhile, got busy on creating a beautiful label which encapsulates a cool feature Tim has built into the HerCanberra experiment.
Using Butterfly Pea, our gin starts out in the bottle with a blue tint. But once you add a squeeze of citric acid (lemon) or a splash of tonic water, it turns to pink. The team almost lost its collective mind with excitement at seeing this take place for the first time.
Tim delivered it into the office and we had a little party…
GET YOUR OWN BOTTLE!
We knew you’d love our gin. But we didn’t realise you’d go quite this crazy over it!