Luke Ridden, Granddad Jack's

I think people are more in search of drinking better – not always more ...

It’s been almost a year since craft distillery Granddad Jack’s gifted the Gold Coast with its presence. The distillery and cellar door’s owners, father-and-son duo David and Luke Ridden, have quickly garnered a hefty following at the Miami sipping spot – and it’s not only because their spirits are pure magic, it’s also because they are bloody great blokes. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Luke Ridden yet, then allow us. We hassled him into taking a few minutes to chat to us about all things gin and whisky …

Let’s go back to the very beginning. Who or what first sparked your passion for distilling?
When my father and I first thought about opening a distillery I really had never thought of becoming a distiller, you know I had seen a few episodes of Moonshiners in high school but other than that I really didn’t know anything about distilling. I think what sparked my interest was a few things, such as Travelling down to Tasmanian to meet local distillers and understand their processes and what makes their products so unique, flying over to the USA and seeing all different styles and sizes of distillery’s in California and New York opened my eyes to the possibilities for craft distilleries in Australia and really got me thinking of all the delicious and exciting things I could make. For me it isn’t so much what started the spark as it is everything new I learn along the way that keeps the spark going.

What has been your biggest learning curve so far since opening Granddad Jack’s?
I think understanding what it takes to run a small business that is profitable and fast growing has been a massive learning curve, luckily I love it so having the buck stop with me and consistently putting in the 12 – 15 hours a day it takes to keep it going is anything but a problem.

Your newest release is It’s Not Whiskey, which is your own expression of whiskey. Can you tell us a bit more about this ‘new-age-‘ thinking and how this particular whiskey release came to life?
Well it all kind of started when we were in the USA at San Diego Distillery with the owner and head distiller Trent. We spent a few hours chatting and tasting out of barrels. None of the barrels we were tasting out of were bigger than 100L and most had only been sitting for 9 – 18mths but all tasting truly exceptional. This is when we really figured out that is doesn’t always take 10+ years or even 2 years to make great tasting Whiskey. As soon as we were up and running we started brewing and distilling whiskey and storing it in 20,50 and 100L Barrels, However in Australia if a Whiskey has not been aged for 2 years you cannot labelled it as Whiskey, hence the name ‘its not whiskey’. As it is everything a whiskey is except aged for 2+ years, and this too adds some complexity to the spirit.

What are your thoughts on the rise of craft distilleries in Australia? Where has this particular industry come from and where is it headed?
It’s great to see, I think it’s not only a rise of craft distilleries but of craft, boutique and small batch industries in general. I think it’s come from a consumer desire in Australia to support local as well as make things for themselves, Gin in particular is heavily influenced by the large array of native botanicals you cannot find anywhere else in the world. As it is growing very fast with a high demand for export to country’s  all over the world I think we will see more distilleries opening up that use Australian botanicals and branding to directly cater to Individual export markets. We will see unique spirits crafted for the purpose of becoming Australia’s national spirit and I think we will see more distilleries keeping it close to home and really becoming local neighbourhood distilleries.

In your opinion, how have the attitudes of consumers / sippers of spirits changed over the past few years?
I think people are more in search of drinking better – not always more. Generally most drinkers are getting much more educated when it comes to spirits, beer etc. that they enjoy so it keeps us producers on our toes. I’ve see a big change also in peoples willingness to try new things or even try things they may have hated before.

What changes would you like to see in the industry as a whole?
It’s a fantastic industry to be a part of and almost everyone is happy to give advice and pass on knowledge that they have. It’s really the things outside the direct producers that need changing, such as more small cooperages so it’s more accessible and cost effective to have access to new barrels. Also the excise tax in Australia is the second largest in the world and equates to almost half of all tax revenue in Australia so to see some changes to give local, small batch producers a leg up when it comes taxes that would be great to grow the industry more and really create a name for Australian-made spirits as it did with wine a few years ago.

How would you best describe the Granddack Jack’s philosophy when it comes to crafting spirits?
Experiment, experiment, experiment! We plan to bring out a small batch release with under 100 bottles at least once a month, meaning there’s always a lot of experiments happening.

What can we look out for next from Granddad Jack’s? Any secret batches in the works? C’mon, we won’t tell! (Lies, we will tell)
July’s release will be Batch 2 of our Barrel Aged 65 Miles gin which was a huge favourite when we released it the first time. Then rum, agave, liqueurs and more gin and whiskey will always be on the way!

Finally, what’s your go-to drink after a hard day at work?
Depends on the day, but I have two –  either a 65 Miles Gin and tonic that we make in the tasting room or I head around the corner to Black Hops for one of their recon series beers.

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