Craft your own artisanal gin at West End’s Brisbane Distillery Company
The artisan spirit trend has Australia firmly within its grasp, with small-batch distilleries crafting drops to rival international juggernauts in quality. Brisbane is now fostering its own burgeoning distillery scene, with community-oriented Brisbane Distillery Company leading the charge when it comes to variety. Nestled in the leafy heart of West End, Brisbane Distillery is not only producing its own batches of gin, vodka and rhum, it’s on-site gin school is giving folks the chance to concoct and take home a gin of their own creation.
Jon Atherton has held a strong interest in the art of distilling ever since he had lunch with Glenfarclas‘ John Grant in the 1990s. After being hand-delivered a bottle of incredible 40-year old scotch by the famed distiller, Jon started toying around with the idea of trying his hand at the craft. This notion didn’t truly start to ferment until more than a decade later, when on a trip to Canada Jon noticed that nearly every city he visited had a small-batch distillery of its own. At the time, Australia’s spirit scene was just starting to flourish – with Four Pillars, Archie Rose and Melbourne Gin Company earning acclaim abroad and at home – but Brisbane was noticeably bereft of its own home-grown operation, and had been since its last distillery closed more than 80 years ago. Finally Jon committed himself to the goal of opening Brisbane’s first grain-to-glass distillery, embarking on a study trip to the Netherlands to learn the craft and source the necessary equipment. Jon returned with a brain buzzing with know-how and two space-age stills ready to start concocting – setting up shop in a spacious two-level warehouse in West End, a stone’s throw from Davies Park. In early November, Brisbane Distilling Company officially opened to the public, showing off its distillery, on-site bar and upstairs gin school.
Upon entering Brisbane Distillery, the first thing you’re likely to spot is the operation’s fully insulated stills. Unlike old-school copper stills, these iStills are made from six millimetres of stainless steel and come with built-in automated programs for mashing, fermenting, and distilling for the production of whiskey, rum, brandy, gin, vodka, and liqueurs. While the process of distilling utilises a lot of power, Jon and his team have sought to mitigate power use by fixing 30-kilowatt solar panels to the roof of the building. Just past the stills sit the product shelves and tasting station, where curious prospective customers can sample distillates of the various botanicals used to get a deeper understanding of the overall mix. Brisbane Distillery utilises a grain-to-glass process for its clear spirits, with malted barley from Pinkenba milled, mashed, fermented and distilled into pure grain spirit over the course of two weeks. Currently Brisbane Distillery stocks three kinds of gin – the Game of Eucalyptus (featuring strawberry eucalyptus, lemon myrtle, kakadu pluma and finger lime), A Chocwork Orange (juniper, cacao, orange, rosemary, almonds, orris, coriander seeds), and the classic Brisbane Dry (bergamot, lemon myrtle, orange peel, pepper berry, juniper), with the full range set to expand in the coming weeks (monthly specials will also be up for sale). Also included in the range is Brisbane Distillery’s own French Caribbean-style agricole rhum, which is made using sugar cane juice sourced from Rocky Point Sugar Mill. This rhum isn’t aged for two years, but does spend time in sherry and muscat barrels before bottling. Hidden behind the shelves is a secret bar, which utilises Brisbane Distillery’s range across a selection of signature cocktails made to highlight the tones of each spirit. If you’re keen to sample something different, the staff can whip up 90ml batches of custom gin from your choice of botanicals for you to enjoy with tonic on site. Furthering Brisbane Distillery’s effort to minimise waste, the operation employs a free bottle-refilling program for those that return their spent vessels, while the bar utilises excess botanicals and fruits from the distilling process in its cocktail syrups.
Located above the distilling floor is the gin school, which gives spirit enthusiasts the chance to sample and formulate their own gin, which can be bottled and taken home. Rows of gleaming miniature copper stills are set up for groups of 24 to undertake a step-by-step masterclass on gin making. A library of more than 100 botanicals are on hand for folks to craft a gin to suit their specific tastes, with enough citrus, spices, flowers, herbs and bush foods on hand to offer potentially thousands of combinations. Under the guidance of the Brisbane Distillery team, participants will carefully craft their dream recipe, which will be bottled and given a personalised label for a take-home keepsake. Brisbane Distillery also has a contract distilling license, which means batches of bottles can be made as corporate client gifts or house gins for various institutions. Bookings for gin school are online now (the two-hour class includes drinks, light snacks and the take-home bottle) and can be made via the Brisbane Distillery website.
Want to know more? For contact information and opening hours, head over to the Stumble Guide.
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