The round-up: localise your bar cart with Southeast Queensland’s best craft spirits
If the COVID lockdowns were good for one thing, it forced us to pay more attention to our home bar situation. With local watering holes shuttered for a lengthy stretch, many of us chose to support the independent craft spirit scene by stocking up on bottles for at-home consumption. Even though the bars are back open, we’re still invested in making our cocktail cart as good as it can be. Southeast Queensland’s boutique distilling industry is booming right now, with many small-batch operations putting the state on the map when it comes to craft sips. We’ve collated a list of top-notch distilleries from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, helping you fill any gaps in your collection or encourage you to replenish depleted stocks.
Brisbane and Ipswich
Winston Quinn, Fortitude Valley: Much like the perfect jacket or a pair of pants, sometimes the best fit is the result of tailoring. With that in mind, consider Winston Quinn’s range of bespoke spirits tailor made to suit your taste. Winston Quinn gins are handcrafted in a copper still, delicately tweaked and coloured until it becomes one of the brand’s four main concoctions. Like a good pair of jeans, the Dry Cut is versatile, with a balanced citrus-forward flavour that can match any pairing and climate. The Double Denim navy strength sip is punchier on the palate, but is perfect for a classic negroni. Skinny Jeans is a riff on the London Dry variety, naturally coloured blue by a floral infusion that makes it an eye-catching sip when mixed with soda. Sometimes we like to be seen, and the best way to do that is with a bit of colour. Pink Fit achieves this by infusing strawberries, grapefruit rind, wild apple and a selection of seven other botanicals to get its bright hue. Finally, the Slim Crop is an earthy and herbal number, with a cucumber-heavy flavour making it a refreshing fit. Get a taste of all of Winston Quinn’s drinks at its Fortitude Valley tasting room, or nab a bottle of your preferred variety here.
Brisbane Distillery, West End: Taking a grain-to-glass approach to gin, vodka and rhum making, the crew at Brisbane Distillery are committed to delivering the goods straight from the source. The distillery’s range of gins (made from grains milled, mashed and fermented on site) feature a host of experimental infusions, from the incredibly solid Brisbane Dry and choc-orange variety to gins imbued with sun-dried tomato, eucalyptus and chai spice. Gin not your thing? No stress – perhaps the Pine Splice vodka is more up your alley? Or maybe the un-aged and unwooded agricole Brown Snake rhum is your sip of choice, which has been made following the French Caribbean AOC rules of Martinique. Whatever your poison, you can sample the range at Brisbane Distillery’s West End tasting room or purchase a bottle from the online store.
Fonzie Abbott, Albion: The caffeine fanatics at Fonzie Abbott are making waves in the spirits scene, racking up several accolades (including a gold medal at the 2019 Australian Gin Awards) for its Wishbone Spirits range. Served in ultra-cool tin vessels, Fonzie’s spirits are not only eye catching stylistically but tongue tantalising, too. The Wishbone Gin is double distilled and unfiltered, with a flavour mix featuring notes of orange, grapefruit and kaffir lime, while Wishbone’s vodka has some grassy notes on the nose and a smooth and slightly heated finish. Both are exceptional options and are available at Fonzie Abbott’s Albion headquarters and online here.
Milton Rum Distillery, Milton: Queensland has a rich rum-based history. The team at Milton Rum Distillery (which draws inspiration from the original Milton Distillery – one of the largest rum producers of its time) is looking to honour old traditions while taking a fresh approach to the craft at its urban distillery. Milton Rum Distillery’s signature spiced cane spirit should be the first choice for any rum lover. Crafted using vapour-infusion methods similar to that of gin distillers, a mix of five spices, fresh citrus, lemon myrtle and rose petals help create this drink’s deep flavour profile. Pick up a bottle here.
White Lies Brewing, Sumner: Although it made its name in the local craft-beer scene, the team at White Lies are looking to match its sudsy success with its new range of spirits. The team has taken a less-is-more approach to the creation of its Ginesis range, highlighting a core selection of botanicals that look to complement the juniper berry and coriander base. Ginesis currently boasts six varieties in its roster, starting with its take on a London Dry gin and then following up with options infused with finger lime, mandarin, wasabi and hibiscus, plus a beer-inspired number imbued with Galaxy, Mosaic, Cascade, and Citra hops. Grab a bottle via the White Lies online store.
Finesse Spirits, Brisbane: Distilling is a craft that requires finesse. If one is too heavy-handed or too delicate with their approach, the end result won’t see much action at the next cocktail party. Thankfully, Finesse Spirits walks that fine line deftly, nailing the right balance across its range of high-quality locally made craft spirits. At the moment, Finesse Spirits has three varieties in its core range – the refreshing and smooth classic gin, the subtly earthy Gold Standard Dry Gin and the naturally sweet Gold Standard Wheat Vodka. Each bottle is made in hand-numbered batches of 99, so you have to act quick if you’re keen to add a dash of Finesse to your home mixology. Browse the range here.
Idle Hour, Brisbane: Distilled right here in the River City, Idle Hour is a flavour-forward rye vodka worth savouring. Although relatively new to the scene, the spirited crew has fashioned two core options for sippers to enjoy – a charcoal-filtered and an unfiltered vodka. The former boasts a balance of sweetness and spiciness (perfect for martinis and Moscow mules), while the latter is a full-bodied libation that features a silky texture and a chocolatey character (perfect if you enjoy your sips neat). You can purchase both varieties online.
Laceys Hill Distilling Co., Moreton Bay: If you love local, handcrafted products, look no further than the bottles from Laceys Hill. Located 39-kilometres north of the inner city in the back hills of Brisbane, this upstart Moreton Bay operation is all about capturing the peaceful feeling that comes with sun-dappled skin, soft breezes and relaxed days. The Laceys Hill Distilling Co. range features a dry Australian gin, a lemon myrtle-infused gin, the Moreton Sunrise botanical gin and a neutral Australian vodka. You can browse the distillery’s online store here or seek out the closest stockist here.
Imbibis, Ipswich: Promising luxury in a bottle, Ipswich-based operation Imbibis not only celebrates the finer things, but also Queensland’s landscape, flavours and colours. This team specialises in two spirits – gin and brandy – with the former drawing upon the rich bounty of local ingredients (think bottle brush, lemon myrtle, native pepper berry and anise myrtle) for its textured sip, while the latter is crafted using the finest local grapes. The most luxurious items are always the rarest – Imbibis makes small runs of its product (with small tweaks added each time a new batch is concocted), crating a bespoke allure and a one-of-a-kind product that’s a must own for spirit connoisseurs. Check out the online store now.
Beenleigh Artisan Distillery, Eagleby: Between Brisbane and the Gold Coast sits the famed Beenleigh Artisan Distillery – the home of some of the finest Queensland-produced rum. Loaded with heritage and a rich history, Australia’s oldest registered distillery is a must-visit for anyone with a comprehensive home cocktail bar. When it comes to rum, the crew here isn’t messing around – each bottle is crafted using a heady mixture of pure Queensland rainwater, premium molasses and the distillery’s own proprietary yeast. The concoction is blended in a 15,000-litre copper pot still before the new-make cane spirit spends time in American oak, ex-bourbon casks. What results from this process is a range consisting of nine rum varieties, from Beenleigh’s own spiced rum and clear and bright white rum to robust honey liqueur rum and the vaunted ten-year-old rum. Browse the range online.
Granddad Jack’s, Miami: One of the coast’s most beloved dispensaries of craft gin and whisky draws upon some rich family history for inspiration. Miami’s Granddad Jack’s boasts three flagship gins in its selection, all of which are based on age-old family recipes. There’s the juniper-heavy Two Pencils (akin to a London dry gin), the easy-to-drink citrus-style Greenhouse (a good place to start for non-gin drinkers) and the 65 Miles gin – a Navy-strength drop that will surely put some hairs on your chest. Granddad Jack’s single malt Not Whiskey circumvents the old-school minimum ageing process by using unique 20-litre craft barrels to age the drop to perfection. It might not be legally classified as whisky, but it’s just as good. Finally, the team’s grape-based Penny vodka is a smooth, clean and crisp addition to any cocktail cabinet. Click here to view the Granddad Jack’s online store, complete with some limited-edition varieties.
Moreton Distillery, Tweed Heads: A relative newcomer on the scene, Moreton Distillery is wasting little time making a great first impression. Although originally developed in Brisbane, licensing restrictions forced production over the border to Tweed Heads South. Nevertheless, this is a distinctly Queensland-minded operation. Border Run is the name of Moreton Distillery’s debut 437 bottle gin release, brewed with the aim to craft a gin that tastes like Queensland. The resulting concoction features a mix of sustainably sourced Queensland native botanicals (such as Atherton raspberry and native desert lemongrass) and traditional gin ingredients, creating a sip with juicy berry and citrus scents, hints of rosella on the palate and a finish of balanced spice. While Moreton Distillery isn’t yet readily available in bottle shops and bars, you can buy a bottle here.
Wildflower Gin, Varsity Lakes: The team behind Gold Coast-born boutique distilling operation Wildflower Gin look to capture Burleigh in a bottle. They’ve done this by harnessing the subtle flavours added to Burleigh’s flowers by the local bee population. That’s right – in addition to core notes of juniper and lemon myrtle, the signature Wildflower gin also boasts a dash of backyard honey. If you’re looking to add a bit of colour to your G&T, Wildflower’s Pink Gin uses Australian raspberries and hibiscus for its natural colouring, capturing the taste of coastal summer in a bottle. Hit the distillery’s web store to stock up!
Panezski Artisan Distillery, Southport: Poland has rich distilling culture, especially when it comes to vodka. Southport’s Panezski Artisan Distillery draws upon the rich traditions of Polish distilling, creating small batches of spirits using centuries-old manufacturing techniques and family recipes. The distillery’s range include wheat vodka, rye vodka, citrus gin, Triple Sec and whisky, each made using raw ingredients and the best grains available. Panezski Artisan Distillery is currently only selling bottles from the distillery directly, but you can peruse the range here.
Tamborine Mountain Distillery, Tamborine Mountain: Head inland from the coast and soon enough you’ll find your way to Tamborine Mountain, which boasts a artisanal distillery that shares its name. This award-winning manufacturer is known for its incredibly diverse range of boutique liqueurs and spirits, each lovingly crafted in handmade copper-pot stills. A splash of Russian and Ukrainian family heritage sits at the heart of each Tamborine Mountain Distillery recipe, from its apple schnapps and absinthe to the wild-citrus vodka and Davidson plum gin. One could fill a home bar almost exclusively with Tamborine Mountain Distillery products. If you’d like to test this statement, head to the online store to start your collection.
CAVU Distilling, Woombye: While the name CAVU Distilling might not be overly familiar, there’s a good chance you’re well acquainted with Sunshine & Sons. The Woombye-based crew has been making waves with its range of coastal-inspired spirits, from its traditional dry gin and volcanic rock-filtered vodka to its herbaceous Jet Juice Maroochy River sugarcane spirit and the cold-brew coffee and double roasted macadamia-infused organic molasses spirit. If your cocktails could use a dose of sunshine, hit the Sunshine & Sons website and pop a bottle or two in your cart.
20 20 Distillery, Cooroy: Although 2020 will remain an inauspicious year in the history books, 20 20 Distillery will be remembered for much more favourable reasons. Dedicated to making high-quality spirits using high-end ingredients, 20 20’s boutique booze artisans are putting their best foot forward with the debut drops – an East London Dry Gin containing just seven botanicals and a single-malt whisky distilled in a traditional copper pot, old-school-style. You can get a taste from the distillery’s on-site tasting room or sign up to one of 20 20’s founders clubs to get the first taste of the team’s forthcoming drops.
Noosa Heads Distillery, Noosa Heads: Fortune favours the bold and it also favours those that extend their spirt-sourcing radius to include the products from Noosa Heads Distillery. Famed for its ‘Fortune’ fine spirits range, this distillery uses a 2000-litre copper-pot reflux still to create a host of unique flavour profiles. If you dig a bit of diversity, you’ll love the varied ‘Fortune’ selection, which includes five kinds of gin, a French Caribbean-style new-make agricole rhum, a single-origin and single-malt white spirit, and a vodka made using Australian-grown wheat and filtered Noosa water. To peruse the selection, click here.
Pomona Distilling Co., Pomona: Pomona is a quiet town that sits in the deep heart of the Noosa hinterland. While it might be unremarkable if you’re cruising by on the M1, the town is actually home to a remarkable craft distillery. Pomona Distilling Co. is an operation that talks the talk and walks the walk, not afraid to get experimental with its botanical blends and ingredients sourced from its own farm (the only exception being the juniper berries, which are sourced from Europe). The process sees the spirits (made in the London Dry vapour-infusion style using non genetically modified wheat and organic botanicals) undergo activated charcoal filtration using wood and peat moss to remove impurities. The resulting drops – Pomona’s signature dry gin, grapefruit-infused pink gin and double-distilled vodka – are must-have additions to any back bar.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.