Foraging around wild Mornington Peninsula beaches for sea kelp, saltbush and samphire is all part of a day’s work for Daniel Calvert. “It’s really great,” says Bass & Flinders’ distillery production manager. “You get down to the beach when the wind is right and there have been some heavy swells, and the kelp we target washes up to shore. Sometimes you feel a bit like an ibis but it’s very rewarding.”
Bass & Flinders became the first distillery to call this renowned Victorian cool climate wine region home when it opened in 2009. Initially focusing on brandy, it evolved to encompass gin as well, with limoncello and liqueurs playing back-up. (Explains Dan of the shift: “Brandy has to spend two years in barrel, so it was a natural progression.”)
The family-run distillery’s difference lies in the meticulously handcrafted process, which begins, says Dan, with the base spirit – “eau de vie”. Meaning “water of life”, the base is made from grapes and serves as the foundation for Bass & Flinders’ entire product range, infusing it with local flavour. “Most gin distilleries buy in their base spirit, and some make their own grain spirit, but grape is less common – it’s our true house style,” he says. “You get seasonal variations based on the shiraz grapes we use from a single Peninsula vineyard.” For example, a cooler season might have more white pepper than black pepper or the fruit profile might be different. “In that way, it’s almost like another botanical than just a neutral spirit,” explains Dan, “and we slightly change our botanicals to suit the variations in the eau de vie each year.”
Under the direction of head distiller Holly Klintworth, daughter of Bass & Flinders founder Wayne Klintworth, the two original, multi-award-winning gins launched by Bass & Flinders are still growing strong.
The Maritime Gin is a fresh, savoury gin designed to evoke the Peninsula’s salty sea breeze and bushland surroundings, with its uniquely Australian twist to a classic dry gin conjured by locally foraged botanicals. “It’s great in a straight-up G&T,” says Dan. “There’s no need to add anything else to it.”
The Orient Gin is a mandarin-driven gin based on Asian botanicals, including Szechuan pepper, along with Australian native ingredients such as wattleseed. “It’s the sister gin of the Maritime and just a deliciously tangy play on Asian flavours – fantastic with food,” says Dan.
Bass & Flinders moved to its architecturally striking warehouse in Dromana’s vibrant Habitat artisan precinct in 2019. Visitors can drop by for a tasting at the distillery door, book a gin masterclass or head to the umbrella-shaded outdoor tables to indulge in a seasonal cocktail or classic gin and tonic, along with charcuterie and cheese boards.
“Our gin masterclasses are a really popular way to see what goes into the production process and demystify it for a lot of people,” says Dan. “We keep it nice and relaxed.”
Adding to the chilled vibe is the easy-going nature of weekend afternoons, when live acoustic acts play and a convivial family and dog-friendly atmosphere prevails.
Products featured are available from 17/05/23 to 27/06/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.