Many of us have experienced the whimsy of a Friday knock-off with mates, pondering a life overhaul. For some, it might be dreams of sea change, for others it’s a new career direction, and for Dave Irwin and his mate Matt Argus, it was about distilling. Longing for a drink that was distinctly Melbourne, and belonged in those special moments of connection, they kicked in their house deposit savings and tinkered with some 90 botanicals to help them land on a recipe that put them firmly on the “gin map”. Fast forward 10 years and Patient Wolf has been crowned the winner of the Australian Gin category of our 2023 Best Of awards, proving dreams really can come true. Here, Dave shares his path to gin glory.
No, my business partner Matt and I were colleagues in financial services marketing – I wore a suit for a long time. I took a break from work and spent three months in South America, and by the end [I knew] I didn’t want to go back to [that job]. That started the conversation – Matt and I would go for a drink after work and talk about what else we were going to do.
We felt there was an opportunity to create something that was based on the tradition that had that real juniper backbone, but with a little bit of edge to it. We’d seen the explosion in the UK and the US and were very keen to give it a go.
I’d done a bit at university. I’d take my friend’s home-brew into the labs on the weekend, which I probably wasn’t supposed to do, and I’d distill it down, then take it back and show them. I wasn’t game to try it – it was rocket fuel! But it taught me the principles.
We spent about two years researching and talking to distillers and business owners who gave us some really good advice. In the end, we tried about 90 different botanicals – we’d sit at the table, blend them all together and score them as we went. We also posted little distillations to a master distiller in Denmark called Anders Bilgram who gave us feedback on the flavours. Eventually we got to the point where we had one that we knew was really good.
We import tonka beans from Venezuela and Brazil – they [deliver] caramel, ryegrass and vanilla when they distill [to give] this viscosity to the gin and a really balanced flavour. We also vapour-fuse ruby grapefruit, which means that only the alcohol vapour touches the grapefruit, so you get this super bright citrus nose, and we have a little bit of aniseed myrtle. You can drink it in a Negroni, you can drink it neat and it makes a great G&T.
One of [my highlights] was seeing Sebastian Mueller serve Patient Wolf at his wedding. He’s from Mueller Copper Stills, who made our still. We met him when he came to Melbourne to help us put [our still] together and since then, we always catch up with him and take him [around Melbourne] when he’s here. They send stills everywhere, and out of all of the world, he chose our gin [for his special day]. That was really cool.
Patient Wolf Melbourne Dry Gin: With 10 hand-selected botanicals, including ruby grapefruit, orange and aniseed myrtle, you won’t be surprised this bottle was named Best Australian Gin at our 2023 Best Of awards.
Patient Wolf Native Spirits Melbourne Classic Gin: Fresh lemon and thyme create a bright bottle inspired by a Mediterranean sea breeze. Another award winner – this one took out silver at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Patient Wolf Native Spirits Marigold and Honey Gin: Honey, coriander, calendula flowers and Victorian Marigold are just some of the hard-working botanicals used to create this sweet, yet earthy, gin.
Patient Wolf 6FT6 Pinot Noir Gin: What do you get when you pair Patient Wolf with 6FT6’s beloved pinot? A punchy, flavourful bottle of gin that belongs on your next long lunch.
Patient Wolf Dry Gin & Tonic Can: When time is pressing or you’re at a picnic, crack this quick, clean G&T.
Products featured are available from 06/09/23 to 10/10/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.