Vintage Cellars

What the locals are loving: Manly Spirits Co.

The makers behind this Sydney distillery have to battle the ocean’s tides (quite literally) in their efforts to bottle a taste of the beach life.


The coastal suburb of Manly in NSW’s Northern Beaches is where husband and wife Vanessa Wilton and David Whittaker call home. But it isn’t just where they live, it’s a way of life for them. “Being avid ocean swimmers, scuba divers and surf lifesavers, the coastal Aussie lifestyle is everything to us,” says Wilton.


So when they decided to launch Manly Spirits Co. distillery in their local area, it had to capture everything they adored about it. “Life doesn’t get much better. We wanted to infuse this place, this vibe, this type of living into our brand and liquid.”


Using coastal botanicals in their range of spirits seemed logical. But it’s not the most simple process. “Collecting sea lettuce is a potentially hazardous activity,” says Wilton. “We can only collect it on the turn of low tide. We’re at the mercy of the elements and there have been a number of times we’ve had to delay a gin run.”

The taste of success

It takes months to get the balance of flavours right, but when they do, the result is worth it. Like the sea parsley which Wilton says makes their Manly Spirits Coastal Citrus Gin taste like “warm summer evenings by the ocean”.


They’re nailing the flavours across the board, with their Manly Spirits Lilly Pilly Pink Gin being named best contemporary Australian gin within months of its release in 2020. Their secret? Doing things their own way.


“There are pink gins which taste sweet and artificial, then there is Lilly Pilly Pink Gin which tastes like a ‘real gin’ with zero sugar added and balanced fruity flavours,” says Wilton. You can even get a pre-mixed version in the Manly Spirits Pink Gin and Tonic Bottle.


They’ve also put their own spin on a traditional Italian liqueur, in the Manly Spirits Zesty Limoncello. “The botanicals in our limoncello recipe were hand-foraged by my father, a crazy horticultural scientist who lives in the hinterland of Byron Bay,” says Wilton. You’ll still find the familiar lemon zing, with fruit grown and picked on the Central Coast.


Also home-grown are the ingredients in the Manly Spirits Grape and Grain Vodka. It’s a “pure, crisp vodka”, made with their signature sea minerals and pure water that’s been “filtered through coastal sandstone”.


Sandstone is in their packaging, too – the Manly Spirits Coastal Stone Nor’easter Single Malt Australian Whisky has a stopper made from it! This level of detail seems almost unnecessary, but for Wilton, it’s what sets them apart.

See it for yourself

The vibe at the Manly Distilling Co distillery tasting bar is super cool. There’s lots to see (and sip on) but the ultimate gin enthusiast should give Gin School a go. You can create your own gin recipe by choosing from an extensive range of botanicals and be guided through the distilling process, including when to make those “all-important cuts” which will influence your spirit’s flavour. Sample and name your creation before bottling and labelling it.


Products featured are available from 06/03/23 to 11/04/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.