For some background, Caroline was a judge at the 2022 Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, 2022 American Distilling Spirits Institute Spirits Competition & 2022 World Gin Awards. Locally, Caroline runs the famed Junipalooza series of gin events in Sydney & Melbourne with business partners Gin Foundry, plus she has her business, The Ginporium - Australia's first gin concierge.
The first Australian member to be adopted into the Gin Guild. In 2020 Caroline was also named Icons of Gin 'Communicator of the Year'.
Us Aussies love outdoor life. Whether it's bushwalking, camping, hosting a BBQ for friends or heading to the beach, we can't get enough and making sure the esky is full of chilled drinks is crucial.
But taking your bottles of gin and cases of tonic isn't practical, which is why it's so welcome that your favourite gin distillers have fully embraced premium RTDs and cocktails.
Patient Wolf (Vic), Prohibition Liquor Co (SA), and the ever-popular Four Pillars have all released products that offer a convenient way to enjoy a tipple on the go, with variations available for those who fancy a change from a G&T. Kalki Moon (QLD) offers a Gin Gin Mule (gin and ginger, made with Bundaberg ginger beer) and Wolf Lane Distillery (QLD) has a super refreshing gin and mango seltzer, perfect for hot and steamy Queensland.
Finally, if you want something a little more sophisticated, Curatif and Poor Toms are among many distillers now offering premium, Australian-made canned Negronis.
Not content with inventing the electric drill and WIFI (who knew), Australian gin distillers have created a new category - grape gins.
What are grape gins? Loosely speaking, these gins are our version of traditional English Sloe gins, made by steeping sloe berries in gin before filtering and adding sugar to balance out the sharpness of the berries. However, sloes aren't native to Australia (although found in Tasmania, where English Settlers planted them on arrival), so distillers have created a uniquely Australian style of gin using grapes instead.
Four Pillars were the first distillers in the world to pioneer grape gins, born out of a happy accident when distiller, Cam Mackenzie, plonked some Shiraz grapes into Four Pillars Rare Dry gin to see what would happen.
Their Bloody Shiraz gin was an immediate bestseller, and subsequent batches sold out within days. As a result, four Pillars is now the largest buyer of Shiraz grapes in the Yarra Valley region of Victoria.
Other distillers quickly followed suit but looked to their own regions for grapes. Seppeltsfield Road Distillers in SA uses famous Barossa Shiraz grapes to make their grape gin. It recently scored an unprecedented 99 points at this year's prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition. Never Never Distilling Co. has achieved great success with their Ginache gin, made using Grenache grapes from McLaren Vale.
Typically, red grape gins are the most common, but some distillers are experimenting with white grape varieties. For example, The Farmer's Wife Distillery Summer Spritz Gin is made using organic Sauvignon Blanc grapes and makes a wonderful spritz. While Seppeltsfield Road Distillers are producing a 'Semi-gin', using Semillon grapes (which is delicious over ice).
The beauty of grape gins is that the sweetness comes directly from the fruit, so no additional sugar is needed. Little wonder that there has been huge growth in this category, with now close to 40 grape gins.
Distillers are now forging closer relationships with the winegrowers themselves too. For example, Four Pillars has worked closely with celebrated winery Yarra Yering to create the first single estate release Bloody Underhill Shiraz gin that has also been matured in old Yarra Yering wine barrels.
To date, Australia is the only country in the world that makes this style of gin, and distillers regularly win medals in global competitions.
With a new gin category comes the question 'How do I drink it?". Neat over ice is always a good option, but these gins often work brilliantly with lemon tonic water as the citrus cuts through the sweetness. For something really special, add some Prosecco!
In recent years we've seen another shift in the gin world - colour! Look at the gin shelves and see a dazzling array of pink gins and other rainbow-coloured spirits.
These fruit gins are typically sweeter than traditional London Dry gins, and there is a vast range to choose from. Strawberry, rhubarb and summer berries are popular, but traditional native Australian fruits are being used, such as Davidson Plum and Lilly Pilly. Citrus gins have become very popular too, like Malfy's Pink Grapefruit gin, Manly Spirits Coastal Citrus gin or Ambleside Distillers Mandarin gin.
Colour-changing gins are proving a big hit too, like the blue gins infused with butterfly pea flowers turn pink with tonic water as it changes the pH level of the gin. We'll continue to see more of these gins as they are extremely popular with non-traditional gin drinkers.
Patient Wolf's gin matured in Starward whisky barrels
An exciting trend that looks to continue is that of collaborations. Unsurprisingly, this trend began with a unique idea between Four Pillars and the now defunct Santamania distillery in Madrid, Spain. Each distillery swapped botanical ingredients from their countries and created a gin. As a result, Four Pillars launched the popular Cousin Vera's gin, which inspires their Olive Leaf gin.
Since then, Four Pillars has replicated this idea with Kyoto Distillery in Japan and Hernö in Sweden and in 2023 will announce its latest collaboration with an international partner.
In addition to distillery collaborations, there are now crossovers between whisky and gin brands. Aging gin has a long tradition dating back to the 18th century when gin was transported in barrels. Patient Wolf has recently released a Starward Barrel Aged Gin for one, and their Blackthorn gin is rested in Starward Nova whisky barrel to create a rich and warming spirit.
The Farmer's Wife Distillery matured their Autumn Dry Gin in a former peated whisky barrel from Black Gate Distillery, the aging process elevating and developing the botanicals in the original gin.
There are also collaborations with non-spirits producers that illustrate how innovative Australian distillers have become. These partnerships not only create delicious gins but also highlight some of the best Australian products.
Puss & Mew Distillery in Victoria uses locally produced Castlemaine Honey in the distillation of their Honey and Coconut gin. 78 Degrees and ethical chocolate producer Loving Earth recently created a chocolate gin together. Leftover cacao husks from chocolate production were steeped in 78 Degrees gin to make a rich, smooth drink.
It's an exciting time to be an Australian gin lover. We are still a relatively young country making gin and are not restrained by some of the rules set by traditional producers like the UK. Innovation and a deep connection to local ingredients will ensure we continue to see exciting gins released.
Photos sourced from Instagram