Tuesday 17 December 2013

Botanic Australis Gin & launch party (Sydney)

I know, it's not whisky and it's not even a dark spirit, but Gin does seem to be the one (usually) unaged spirit that Whisky fans enjoy (I know I do). Even Master of Malt feature a "Ginvent" calendar alongside their hugely popular "Whiskey Advent Calendar", and let's face it, the spectrum of Gin can be pretty varied, just like whisk(e)y.

I guess what I'm saying is, it's not vodka.

As most of you would know, we aim to feature as much Australian content on this site as possible, and that's where the Mt Uncle Distillery comes in, and specifically their Botanic Australis gin.

Located in FNQ, Mt Uncle Distillery produce about as wide a variety of spirits as you can get. Vodka, rum, gin? Sure. Limoncello? Yep. Whiskey? Oh yes (hopefully to be featured on this site in the future). Did someone say Banana or Marshmallow Liqueur? (Probably not, but anyway, they produce those too).

A fortnight or so ago Nip of Courage (an Australian distributor also responsible for distributing Belgrove whisky) hosted a media gathering at Cremorne's Cotton Thief (part of a growing 'LoNoSho' small bar trend), with Mt Uncle Distiller Mark Watkins presenting his gin and talking through the botanicals and distillation process. Steph and I were invited to come along and try the gin along with a few cocktails.

Mark, who was genuinely passionate about distilling and making quality spirits, explained that not only are almost all the botanicals sourced from nearby the distillery, most are picked by the Mt Uncle team personally by hand (some home grown, some picked from the roadside)! Those botanicals, by the way include Juniper, Anise Myrtle, Cinnamon Myrtle, Lemon Myrtle, Finger Lime, River Mint, Peppermint Gum, Lemon Scented Gum, Wattle seed, Lilly Pilly, Riberry, Olida, Native Ginger, Bunya Nut and a "secret mystery native botanical" (there's always at least one..). With such unique Australian ingredients, we were pretty keen to taste it straight and see how it faired compared to the more established gins.

In a word...bloody well (ok, that's two words).

I've found some gins I love in a Martini, but wouldn't necessarily drink neat (say Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks), whereas others I could sip straight and neat (like Tanq Ten). Botanic Australis definitely fell into the latter category, but it was unlike any gin I'd tasted. The nose was initially all lemon and anise, but then some peppery notes came through. The palate showed the same, but also hints of mint and lime. The finish was long with slight notes of spice towards the end. Smooth right throughout too. The usual juniper notes were present, but it was the complexity of all the other flavours/scents that impressed me - a complex gin.

Knowing that a number of gins have their "signature' garnish (cucumber for Hendricks, capsicum for West Winds for example) I asked Mark what he recommended, and he said a citrus twist (the Martini we tried later, with a twist of lime, certainly backed this up).

After tasting the gin straight, we moved onto two cocktails, each made with Currong Comestibles shrubs (a non-alcoholic vinegar-based cordial) - one with Riberry and one with Rainforest Lime. Given the botanicals in the gin, both were perfect matches and made crisp and refreshing cocktails.

Botanic Australis has won International recognition for its packaging, which isn't surprising when looking at the bottle up close. Definitely one of the most impressive Australian bottle designs I've seen (up there with Starward).

Expect to see Botanic Australis appearing in Australian bottles hops shortly (in the meantime you can purchase it directly from the distillery). If you like your gin unique, versatile and Australian, this is one to seek out.

- Martin.

Steph & Martin from TimeforWhisky.com attended this event as media guests.

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