By Allison Caldicott-Levitt;
A girl who hated gin, to a woman whose house feels empty without it
Early in my drinking years, my mother adored Victoria Gin by Victoria Spirits out of BC, Canada. It is a classic West Coast distillery whose flagship gin included classic botanicals alongside orris root, cinnamon bark and rose petals. Growing up, I was never allowed to say I did not like a food or drink if I had not had it, and yet I had an avid disdain for gin despite never trying it, thwarting my mother’s best efforts to get me to give her drink of choice a chance. My intolerance for gin got to an almost phobia-like extreme when I couldn’t have the liquid touch my skin without feeling ill. This is not a great quality when you work in a bar…you’ve never seen someone pour a shot with more focus or fear.
Then one day, in my early twenties, I finally succumbed to giving Victoria Gin a taste and couldn’t remember what I’d been fussing about all those years. Sure, I couldn’t drink tequila anymore (we all know that phase), but I suddenly adored a G&T! Throughout the years that followed I continued to enjoy my G&T, but my palate extended elsewhere, towards beer, and gin slowly fell off my radar. That is, until I moved to Australia and began working at Carwyn in 2017.
The turning point from classic, juniper-heavy gins to modern versions of the spirit is stated to have begun around the year 2000 with great momentum taking place within the US & UK over the decade that followed. The turning point for me, was discovering the immense world of creativity that lies within Australian gin distillers. I’d never experienced, and therefore never considered, the number of flavour, aroma, and texture possibilities within gin.
I have learned that the man attributed with being the godfather of modern Australian gin is John Lark, brother to fellow trailblazer Bill Lark of Tassie’s Lark Distillery, who founded Kangaroo Island Spirits in 2002 becoming Australia’s first gin-only distillery. Last year we featured KIS’ Wild Gin in our Gin Drop subscription which, as is becoming more familiar with Aussie gins these days, utilises ingredients native to Australia. Juniper, though grown here, is an introduced species to AUS, but there is another shrub named Boobialla native to coastal regions of the country, that is not part of the Juniper family, though is known by the name Native Juniper.
This began clearing the path for new gin distilleries to start their journeys. At the same time the hospitality industry was growing, as was the public’s appreciation for gin and cocktails. Piece all that together with an awareness of sourcing products from within the country to support local, and there was the perfect pie for a new Aussie gin market. From there, It didn’t take long before these new gins began to take home global accolades with SA’s Never Never Southern Strength being the first Australian gin to receive the World’s Best Classic Gin at the World Gin Awards.
Perhaps it’s the lack of expectations from historical gin production such as in the UK, or the access to an unimaginable plethora of native botanicals and ingredients to work with that allows every Australian gin to bring something new to the palate and a chance for your imagination to run wild from the senses. When I first smelled and tasted Dasher & Fisher Mountain Gin, I was instantly transported to a bush walk on a warm day, the smell of dry leaf and lemon in the air, and the freshness of coming across a cold brook washing over stones. With that image came a plethora of memories from my days living in California. All from a sip of gin.
I always say that my beverage of choice is based on the weather, the time of day, what I’m eating, my mood. With the variation on the market, there is quite literally, a gin for all my idiosyncrasies! The London Dry Gin will always live on, but as with all great craft beverages, gin producers aren’t playing by the rules anymore and it's benefitting everyone. ♦
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