Masterclass: Spirited away

Charge your glass because Australian boutique distilleries are raising the bar with impressive spirits that tell a local story
Yasmine Parker

There is a new cry from Australian cocktail sippers for local, independently produced spirits. And luckily, there are bartenders and retailers stepping up to answer the call. “There is a demand in the same way beer took off a few years ago,” says Will Edwards founder of Sydney’s Archie Rose Distillery Co. “Before, people were happy to have a house gin and tonic. But now, if there’s a local Sydney gin, they’re keen to try that instead.” With a growing industry of more than 50 distilleries operating in Australia, we get into the spirit of things and visit two local makers creating truly unique drops. 


The city’s first independent distillery in more than 160 years, Archie Rose’s inviting bar, distillery tours and blend-your-own-gin classes, Sydney’s Archie Rose Distillery Co, nestled in the inner-city suburb of Rosebery, is built on the spirit of sharing. “We found a site as close to the city as possible so people could come and see how spirits are made,” says founder Will Edwards.

During a trip to New York, Will visited distilleries that had popped up in Brooklyn. “For the first time I saw an urban distillery vaguely in line with a vision I had,” he says. “I came home and wanted to know why no one had set one up in Sydney. I assumed it was either illegal or far too difficult to do.”  The trip kickstarted six months of research, which included trips to Tasmania, where Will learnt about distilling from Bill Lark of Lark Distillery and also met his now head distiller, Joe Dinsmoor. “The industry is small and for the most part, willing to share information,” says Will, who quit his job as a consultant and signed a lease for the space at the end of 2013. Archie Rose Distillery Co then opened in 2015 with three spirits – including their ‘Signature Dry Gin.’

Will has found that a mix of modern practices combined with traditional techniques is the recipe for quality, hand-crafted spirits. That, and the personalisation from being able to change your own spirits through its website, selecting botanicals to be handcrafted by the team. “We offer tailored gin and vodka at a single bottle scale, as well as tailored whisky at a cask level – an offering that hadn’t been done in that format anywhere in the world before,” says Will. You may just have to patiently wait a little while for the first taste! Find out more about Archie Rose here and see a little more behind-the-scenes on our @hbcreativecollection Instagram feed.


After more than 20 years as a nurseryman and horticulturist, master distiller Philip Moore turned his thumb to distilling gin infused with botanicals grown in his garden. In his Erina distillery, about 90 minutes north of Sydney,  Philip crafts spirits using ingredients hand-picked from the gardens of the verdant property.

“When I started the nursery, a friend of mine started a vineyard in the Hunter Valley and I was always envious,” he says. Soon after selling his nursery, Philip built Distillery Botanica, which now makes a collection of award-winning spirits and liqueurs he produces himself and as part of various collaborations. For instance, the Distillery Botanica gin, a collaboration with marketing whiz Frank Bethel, was released in November 2015, following the brief for a gin that evoked the essence of a summer garden. “Gins have five main flavour categories: juniper-dominant, citrus, floral, herbal or spice,” explains Philip. “Distillery Botanica gin is a very floral gin.”

To get the essence of a garden into a glass, Philip uses techniques not usually seen in spirit making. He distills each plant separately and also uses an ancient French method of extracting aromatic oils from flowers called enfleurage. “I’ve never read of any other gin using this process,” he says. “Basically, we’re putting the actual aroma into the spirit, rather than just a distilled liquid from the petals, which can sometimes change its character through the distillation process.”

The result is a fragrant summer gin that Philip suggests serving with good tonic water and three frozen blueberries – or try it neat. Find out more about Distillery Botanica here and see a little more behind-the-scenes on our @hbcreativecollection Instagram feed.

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