Has there ever been such an explosion of interest, the variety of production and general weirdness in the spirits world (as opposed to the spirit world) as there has been with gin over the last decade? No séance needed to predict that this is going to continue for some time.
Words by drinks writer, Ken Gargett
Why gin, you may ask. My view is that a cracking G&T is a near perfect drink for our Aussie climate, though this doesn’t explain its worldwide popularity.
Good gin can be made much more quickly than whisky or rum, both of which require time as an integral component. So producers can have it on the market, and get some return for their efforts before they have to hand the distillery over to their grandchildren. Pragmatic perhaps, but this does not stop some seriously innovative gins hitting the market. We should rejoice in this.
Weirdness, you ask? Black Truffle Gin, Green Ant Gin, Butcher’s Gin (flavoured with beef), Seaweed Gin, Lobster Gin, The Archaeologist Gin, which literally has a piece of a Harley-Davidson engine in every bottle, Bloody Shiraz Gin…but we’ll get to these in time – not all today.
Among numerous Aussie operations, few have caught the imagination like Four Pillars from Heathcote in Victoria. Paid mouthpiece, Stu Gregor; wine man, Cam McKenzie, and branding brains, Matt Jones, have only been going for around five or six years and already have an international audience clamouring for their gins.
They love indulging in the one-offs (Underground Sydney), thrilling collaborations (Cousin Vera’s with a team from Spain and Modern Australian, with the guys from Rockpool), seasonal specials (Christmas Gin – see below) and fun stuff (Breakfast Negroni, Orange Marmalade). But they have established a core range which no serious Aussie bar, nor self-respecting gin-lover, will not stock.
All of these gins sit between $75 and $100 and can be found at good retailers or www.fourpillarsgin.com.au.
FOUR PILLARS RARE DRY GIN
This is their go-to London dry style gin. 42% and the winner of a bag-full of bling; there is a lovely citrusy note to it, which is from oranges rather than the more traditional lemons. Spices, a note of pepper and plenty of juniper.
FOUR PILLARS SPICED NEGRONI GIN
You have to love a gin with a purpose. This is designed specifically to cut through the Campari/vermouth in the search for the perfect negroni. Nuts, dried herbs, rose petals – this is a delightful result. They toss in some grains of paradise (an exotic West African spice), blood oranges and Tasmanian pepperberry leaves. Perfectly acceptable to drink this anytime, whether or not a negroni is involved. 44%.
FOUR PILLARS NAVY STRENGTH GIN
Pushing 59%, this is the hairs-on-your-chest, no-prisoners gin. Powerful and yet it offers a seductively gentle finish. Finger limes and ginger are integral to the flavour.
FOUR PILLARS BLOODY SHIRAZ GIN
Gin does not come much more whacky than this. A stunning purple from the gin being steeped in Yarra Valley shiraz (much stronger, at around 38%, than a traditional sloe gin). A tiny amount was made in 2015 and much more in 2017 with the next release slated for June. That 2015 gin was especially exciting, but the line is now a cult favourite and will sell out. Spices, herbals, pepper, fun.
FOUR PILLARS CHRISTMAS GIN
This weird and wonderful gin has become one of the most eagerly awaited releases of the year. Available Derby Day every year, it is based on an old family recipe. Distiller Cam McKenzie fondly remembered the Christmas cakes his late mum, Wilma, who has also given her name to one of their stills, would make. He found the recipe in an old box and made some of his own and then thought it would be fun to soak one in gin. And so was born this fabulously exotic gin.