To say gin's popularity is booming in Australia is an understatement.
Up until the early 2000s, you’d be hard pressed to find more than a few different types of gin at your local Bottle-O, but in the past decade, gin has exploded and is fuelling a boom for Australian distillers, who are each peddling their own unique botanical blends. While vodka has seen a steady decline in recent years, Mother’s Ruin has seen a revival. Gin is cool again. We’ve reached peak gin. Welcome to the Gin-aissance.
Australia’s love of gin is currently being thrust front and centre this weekend with the return of the inaugural Sydney Gin Palooza. Right now, over 40 distillers from around Australia and New Zealand are under one roof until Sunday 24 November.
Besides bottomless tastings of over 200 craft gins and premium tonics from proud gin houses like West Winds Gin and Here’s Looking At You, Kid, the Sydney Gin Palooza gives you the opportunity to chat with the makers, learn how they make their gin and how best to serve it.
While you’re there, soak up all that juniper juice with some tapas. The Sydney Gin Festival has invited four of Sydney’s top tapas makers to join the party at the Paddington Town Hall for the four-day festival.
If you want more than a taste and want to immerse yourself in gin culture, book in for a gin master class with Bill Lark – Australia’s grandaddy of modern craft distilling and the chairman of the Australian Gin Awards. In his class, Bill will give a history of the spirit and give you a taste of six trophy-winning gins, explaining how they were made and what makes them trophy winners. The Giniversity Master Class is led by founder and master distiller Cameron Syme from Margaret River and will explore just how far you can push the boundaries of the white spirit. Karu Distillers will be celebrating all things juniper before throwing a high G&Tea party.
Penthouse headed to the festival on the Saturday for a tasting and a chat with some of Australia's gin distillers. Here are some of the best tasting gins we came across over the weekend.
West Winds Gin
Paul from West Winds Gin was grinning from ear to ear when we met up with him, and we can hardly blame him, having just won three gold awards and a silver award for four of West Winds gins at the Sydney Gin Awards. One of his gold award-winning gins (and our favourite of the weekend) was the Wild Plum Gin, which features the native Davidson plum and is balanced by the warm sweetness of Banksia honey and sloe plums. The Wild Plum Gin is perfect for creating cocktails, sipping over ice or garnished with a twist of orange peel in a classic G&T.
Wild Plum Gin from West Winds Gin
Here’s Looking At You, Kid
Sunset Gin tasting at Here's Looking At You, Kid
We also caught up with Liz from Here’s Looking At You, Kid, a family-run small batch distillery based in bayside Melbourne, who create spirits inspired by the romance of Casablanca. Here’s Looking At You, Kid have three gins in their repertoire: an award-winning Wild Rose Gin that’s smooth enough to be enjoyed straight and versatile enough to feature in a cocktail or classic G&T; a Christmas Gin that has been inspired by pavlova and bursts with infusions of flavour from strawberry gum, river mint, lilly pilly, finger lime and passionberry (serve with a premium tonic or on ice with cranberry soda); and their most recent addition – Sunset Gin – which is a combination of Yarra Valley Shiraz and their classic Wild Rose Gin (add a dash of soda or a light tonic and garnish with strawberries). When asked what her inspiration for the Sunset Gin was, Liz said, "I love gin and I lose Rosé, so I thought, why not combine them into one?". Why not indeed.
Here's Looking At You, Kid Christmas Gin Mini Pack
In a room over over 200 gins, the fluroscent pink glow of Artisan Settlers Pink Gin stood out amongst the room. We assumed the brightly coloured gin might have been more of a novelty than a tasty drink but we were wrong. This contemporary gin had the aromatics of rose petals and tasted like a punnet of fresh raspberries. Best served with a splash of tonic and garnished with a strawberry, mint leaf and a slice of lemon.
Abel Gin Co.
Based in Tasmania, Abel Gin Co is the shared dream of Natalie and Kim - a talented winemaker and an experienced hospitality worker. The women pretty grow most of their own botanicals and everything else is foraged from around Tasmania. Able Gin had two gins on offer at the Sydney Gin Palooza - a day gin and a night gin. The "day gin" - Essence - was vibrant and fresh, with refreshing citrus notes and a delicate floral background, best enjoyed with a premium tonic and garnished with a wedge of fresh pink grapefruit. The "night gin" - Quintessence - was much richer and more complex, making it the perfect gin for a martini or just enjoyed over ice with a bit of citrus peel.
Get your tickets to Sydney's biggest Gin Party here. General admission tickets start from $73.72, which includes unlimited tastings.