As the Maroondah Highway snakes from Melbourne into the town of Healesville, you can’t miss the iconic Four Pillars gin distillery, nestled on the left hand side before you hit the main street. Encased by a striking copper façade that mirrors the label’s copper stills, the recently renovated site has doubled its capacity. It offers indoor and garden seating for some 300 gin enthusiasts at any one time – a stark contrast to the original venue, which opened in 2015, and was characterised by round-the-corner queues to get in.
It’s easy to see why this distillery is so popular. “When people come here, they’ll notice the relaxed nature of the distillery,” says co-founder and head distiller Cameron Mackenzie. “It’s a really cool experience to see how gin is made and see the stills and the botanicals … and taste a lot of gin and cocktails.”
At first glance, it looks like Four Pillars is safely housed behind a fence. But that “fence” is actually a revolutionary copper veil made of 1.6km of piping to passively cool water for re-use, saving a whopping 80,000 litres of water a day. Add this feature to the extensive solar panels that have cut the venue’s energy use, plus its carbon neutral status, and it’s not surprising Four Pillars has picked up some major sustainability trophies since its 2022 reopening. “There’s a big sustainability element here,” Cameron says. “We are carbon neutral, we refill bottles behind the bar and we’re fine-tuning our tonic-on-tap to take 800kg of glass a week out of the business.” The aim of this, he adds, is to not fill “14 recycling bins”.
With 90 per cent of staff calling Healesville home, Four Pillars is as much about the community as it is about showing visitors a good time. “There’s a sense of loyalty when you work in a region with a team like this and you empower them to find new ideas and new botanicals,” Cameron says. “I’ve lived out here for 15 years – it’s such a cool town.”
When visiting the Four Pillars cellar door, think of yourself as entering a “choose your own gin adventure”, says Cameron. “You might want to sit down with some friends in Beth’s Bar to try some great cocktails, or perch in Jude’s Gin Garden to casually have a drink and some ‘ginny’ snacks,” he says.
If you’re interested in exploring the process of gin-making, join a tasting or sign up for a maker’s session where you’ll get to distill your own. “We get together and load the still together and bring it to the boil – you’ll see the vapour move through the various chambers and columns,” Cameron says. “You’ll taste gin coming off the still at 90 per cent alcohol, seal the botanicals and release their flavours. And you’ll taste a whole lot of other gins while you’re there – it’s a fun, in-depth look at gin.”
Even the designated drivers are in for a botanical journey with a “bandwagon” cocktail made with the distillery’s painstakingly developed zero-alcohol gin. “It’s a sensory experience for those folks who might not be drinking,” Cameron says. “We use some nice warm pepper to give that warmth when you mix it in a drink.”
Whether you want to try before you visit or recreate your cellar-door experience at home, here are some of Four Pillars’ top picks that reinforce the brand’s mantra “don’t drink more, drink better”.
Bloody Shiraz Gin Steeping shiraz grapes from the local area in high-proof gin for eight weeks prior to pressing, Four Pillars’ popular blend is sweet, spicy and quite simply, delicious.
Rare Dry Gin Four Pillars’ original blend uses nine signature botanicals with whole oranges to create a contemporary classic.
Fresh Yuzu Gin Made with the Asian citrus fruit yuzu, along with ginger, turmeric and Japanese green tea, one taste of this gin and you’ll see why the Four Pillars team took it from a limited edition trial run to a staple offering.
Bandwagon Dry Modelled on Four Pillars’ Rare Dry Gin, this booze-free offering leans on botanicals instead of alcohol to give your palette a wow-ing.
Bloody Bandwagon Using an alcohol-free highly concentrated shiraz juice, this booze-free spirit offers the same flavour as a glass of Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz gin – only you can still drive home.
Whether you’re heading to a picnic or party or you just want to crack open a cold one after a hard day’s work, a ready-made is easy to enjoy without the need to measure or pour.
Rare Dry Gin & Tonic Using fresh orange and Four Pillars’ own tonic in the distillation process, this clean, refreshing mix strikes the right balance between sweet, sour and bitter.
Fresh Yuzu Gin & Soda Native to China and Japan, think of yuzu as a supercharged citrus fruit that brings incredible flavour to this clean, crisp drink.
Bloody Shiraz Gin & Tonic A healthy dash of lemon cuts out some of the shiraz gin sweetness to make this purple drink a delicious go-to.
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.