With the number of Australian distilleries increasing from around a dozen to more than 300 over the past decade, and the accolades for Australian spirits flowing both at home and abroad, it’s fair to say that the Australian distilling scene is booming. The Vintage Cellars Best Of Awards celebrates the best of the lot. We ask the Best Of judges to talk us through the hottest made-in-Australia spirits, and provide top tips on how to drink them like an aficionado.
Victoria’s Four Pillars Gin has achieved critical acclaim for its inventive flavours that celebrate local botanicals. Born of an experimentation steeping dry gin with cool climate shiraz grapes, Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin (awarded Best Flavoured Gin) has aromas of fresh pine needles, citrus and raspberry. Sip on ice, or do what Melbournians do, and mix with fresh lime juice and ginger beer for a semi sweet Bloody Floradora.
As for native Australian gin: “Some of the best are the ones that take a less-is-more approach, showcasing native Australian botanicals without being overpowering,” says Eddie Brook, CEO and co-founder of Cape Byron Distillery. Made with Tasmanian pepperberry, lemon myrtle and organic oranges, Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin (awarded Best Dry Gin) delivers an intense citrus burst, ideal for a fruity gin cocktail such as the Spiced Gin Bramble.
Spiced Gin Bramble
¼ cup tin berries in syrup
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp honey
Juice of half an orange
40ml Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin
½ cup crushed ice
1 cinnamon quill (to garnish)
Hot tip: For a warm ‘mulled’ version of this cocktail, combine the syrup from the berries, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, honey and orange juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the berries and gin and stir to combine. Take off the heat.
Serve with cinnamon and oranges.
“The use of native grains and sometimes brewing barley, as opposed to traditional distilling barley, gives Australian whisky a distinct flavour and profile,” says Robyn Stracey, store manager at Vintage Cellars Albert Park.
With a distinct maritime theme that pays homage to the coastal lifestyle and sandstone cliffs of Sydney, Manly Spirits Coastal Stone Single Malt Whisky (awarded Best Australian Whisky) is bold, sweet and aromatic. If adding water to your dram, make it spring water (the same applies to ice cubes) as its neutral taste won’t distort the carefully crafted flavour of your Single Malt.
Inspired by Australia’s long history of spirit-making and its native flavours, Archie Rose Native Botanical Vodka (awarded Best Vodka ) boasts the complexity and aromas of an Australian craft gin – think lemon-scented gum, Geraldton wax flower, peach and sunrise lime. Wondering what are some good mixes for vodka? For this style, a light craft soda is the perfect pairing, garnished with air-dried oranges and a sprig of Geraldton wax or fresh mint.
Best known for its world class wines, the Mornington Peninsula is also home to bespoke distilleries such as Bass & Flinders. Bass & Flinders Limoncello (awarded Best Liqueur) is made to a classic Italian recipe and hand-crafted with local organic lemons and zest, and sweet spring water. Serve chilled (direct from the freezer is best) as a digestif or add lemon sparkling water and Prosecco for a refreshing Limoncello spritz.
“RTDs have been enormous in Australia forever, but consumers are more educated
and they want better quality, especially in the premixed cocktails,” says Matt Sanger, managing director and co-founder of Curatif. Answering the call for all-natural, low-sugar and low-calorie RTDs, Fellr Passionfruit Brewed Alcoholic Seltzer (awarded Best Seltzer RTD) brims with the flavour of tangy passionfruit and crisp citrus. Serve with fresh passionfruit and muddled mint leaves for a passionfruit mojito (with or without rum.)
Are you a fan of gin? Ruby grapefruit and fresh juniper are balanced with the subtle spice of aniseed myrtle and cubeb pepper in Patient Wolf Dry Gin & Tonic (awarded best Gin RTD). The smooth taste deserves an elegant presentation – try a copa de balon (balloon-shaped glass) and garnish with grapefruit and a sprig of fresh rosemary.
In the world of tequila, Curatif Tequila Tromba Margarita (awarded Best Cocktail RTD) packs a citrus punch and blends Tromba tequila with slightly sweet Australian Central Coast limes and locally prepared agave syrup. Serve on ice with lime and fresh strawberry and, if going for a salt rim, try adding some orange zest for extra colour.