Launching on Friday, 13th of May, seven years ago certainly wasn’t unlucky for James Young, the founder of Old Young’s Distillery in Western Australia’s Swan Valley. From his early days spent working in a 36-square-metre, uninsulated shed – that once reached a peak of 57 degrees Celsius – he’s ridden the wave of the Australian craft spirits movement to much acclaim.
James describes those early days as “humble beginnings” with just him distilling, bottling, labelling, signing and numbering each bottle, as well as standing behind the counter and selling them. Awards came early on when he was crowned Australian Champion Distiller in both 2017 and 2018, recognition, he says, that made the brand’s name. More recently, Old Young’s was crowned Craft Producer of the Year at London’s International Icons of Gin Awards, the first Australian distillery to do so. It also took out the 2023 Brand Innovator of the Year (only the second Australian brand to win this award.)
James says the distillery has quadrupled in size in recent years, going from a staff or seven prior to the pandemic to about 45 now. He attributes its success, in part, to Old Young’s unique philosophy, which he describes as “knowing we’re creative, but never just for the sake of being creative… creativity with purpose and passion”. This idea carries through from the distillery to Old Young’s Kitchen, a highly regarded restaurant where chef Rohan Park, known for his respect for native ingredients, employs a level of creativity that is reverential without being pretentious. “We’ve got all these garams and interesting flavours, so we actually have a little glossary on the back of the menu that doesn’t take itself too seriously,” says James of the guide, titled ‘What the f@ck is that?’. “People don’t feel silly because they don’t know what koji is.”
In addition to the acclaimed restaurant, 45-minute cellar tastings are offered to visitors at Old Young’s Swan Valley headquarters. The tastings include four gins and a selection of vodkas, while a weekly Sunday masterclass that includes making your own gin to take home is also popular.
According to James, near the top of the Old Young’s gin list is Old Young’s 1829 Gin. It’s what the distiller calls his “desert island gin, or the day after day gin you never get sick of”. Bright, fresh, citrusy and clean, it’s made for “stinking hot days”, says James, of which the Swan Valley has many. It’s citrus forward and in the mould of a London dry style but with Australian Indigenous botanicals such as lemon myrtle. “It makes a banging G&T and is really good with grapefruit soda,” says James.
Old Young’s Six Seasons Gin is a special occasion drop that’s 50% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) – big, bold and savoury. “When someone walks in the door and says, ‘I know my gin, impress me’, that’s the gin [to show them],” remarks James. Six Seasons is made up of six native Australian botanicals: including the bush mint, sea parsley and juniper myrtle (all savoury), leaving three citrus notes in the background – desert lime, Geraldton wax, and a tiny bit of lemon myrtle. “To smell it, it feels like you’re walking through the bush after rainfall,” he says.
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.