Vintage Cellars

Meet the Maker: Tim Stones, Head Distiller, Hickson House Distilling Co.

With his career kicking off bartending in the UK, Head Distiller at Hickson House Distilling Co. Tim Stones shares how he transitioned to a gin maker.


At 18, Tim Stones began working in bars in rural England to save money for a trip to China, where he taught English.


When he returned to the UK, Stones quit his studies and went back to bar work at a number of famous London venues, including jazz club Ronnie Scott’s.


A later role as Global Brand Ambassador for Beefeater – and a friendship with bar legend Mikey Enright, Director & Co-founder of Barrelhouse Group – led to his role as Head Distiller at Hickson House Distilling Co. in Sydney’s The Rocks, after a stint making Lilly Pilly Gin at Manly Distillery.

How did you get your start in bars?

I ended up moving to London on a whim and collecting glasses in a pub in Leicester Square. Back then, it was mostly just pints and G&Ts but there were these little bars popping up doing some interesting drinks.


They’d moved on from terrible Sex On The Beach things from the ʼ80s and into some decent cocktails, so I locked on to that.


At LAB (London Academy of Bartending) in Soho, I started work with Richard Hargroves. We were always encouraged to create recipes, and if you came up with something good, they put it on the menu, which was an honour back then.

How did you transition from bartender to gin maker?

I was always known to favour gin and I was also on a tasting panel for Oxley Gin. But I was tired of the late nights as a barman and I quite liked the idea of being a brand ambassador. At Beefeater, I was only supposed to be there for six months but I eventually became a global ambassador. I also spent a lot of time at Beefeater with Master Distiller Desmond Payne.

Why come to Australia to make gin?

I was all set to move into making gin at Beefeater but my partner – who is Australian – and I decided we’d give it a go here. I ended up being put in touch with Manly Spirits in Brookvale. I told them my background and what I wanted to do and, basically, I got the job as their first distiller.


Coming here, I found this incredible array of ingredients that I’d never seen or heard of before, with ridiculous flavour profiles. While that was hugely exciting, it was also a massive learning curve.

How do you create a gin brand and bar during a pandemic?

Mikey and Julian Train (Director, Barrelhouse Group) had been planning to build the distillery for about 10 years. I came on board when the pandemic hit, so I got to sit in my garage for a year to test stills and create recipes. I’d drop off packages to them, then we’d do a Zoom tasting.

How do you mix your gins?

Desmond always used to say, ‘Gin is a very sociable spirit. It mixes with a lot of things.’ So, it really needs to be versatile. It’s got to go with a tonic, because if it doesn’t work with a tonic, you’ve lost 90 per cent of the market. I’ve always been a martini drinker, so it has to be able to go in a martini and a Tom Collins.

What else do you have in the pipeline?

Our limited run of barrel-aged gin from a tepache (a fermented pineapple drink) inspired witbier. Also, this is the first gin that is truly mine and I’m off to the US with a few samples.


Mikey and I are also very excited to take our gins back to the UK. In the future, people will be asking, ‘What did you do during the pandemic?’ and our answer will be, ‘We built a distillery!’

Hickson House Distilling Co. gins to try

Hickson Rd Australian Dry Gin

Amped up by Australian botanicals, including native thyme, finger lime and aniseed myrtle, expect your gin martini to be citrusy with lingering herbal aniseed tones.


Hickson Rd London Dry Gin

Comes with an Australian accent by way of native Oldman Saltbush, leading to a savoury style, with gentle salinity that creates a dry, herbaceous finish.