The huge boom in the popularity of gin in recent years means we’re in for some exciting new blends by distillers - Australia included.
Gin is in
The pace at which gin has reinvented itself as the “it” spirit of our times has been dramatic. Today, there are more than 150 gin distilleries here in Australia, whereas five years ago there were just a handful. Total global gin consumption is predicted to rise again in the next three years, with sales of premium gin set to outpace overall growth at more than 10 per cent. All this is great news for our boutique producers and their loyal followers. But while it’s certainly been enjoying its time in the sun over the past few years, gin has been around for at least a millennium.
Along with most other spirits, gin started life as a medicinal drop, made by pioneering Roman distillers. It was popularised by the Dutch who called it “genever” and flavoured it with juniper berries. But it was the English who made it a household name, shortening it to “gin” and taking to it like the proverbial duck to water.
Gin’s popularity with the eager 18th-century masses led to quasi-catastrophic levels of consumption, earning it the euphemism “Mother’s Ruin” in the UK, after it was marketed to women as a way to ease the drudgery of daily life. Taxes on gin were increased by the UK Parliament in the infamous Gin Act of 1729, making it difficult for the masses to afford, and gin quietly took a back seat.
Fast forward to 2009, and the first new small batch gin distilling licence was granted in London in almost 200 years. That seemed to many like a good idea and within months, small distilleries were opening their doors around the UK, and soon, the world.
In Australia, the gin scene is thriving. Distillers have gained worldwide recognition over the past five years, regularly winning medals at the most prestigious global competitions such as the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the World Gin Awards and the International Wine and Spirits Competition. Four Pillars, Archie Rose, Brookies, Never Never, West Winds and 78 Degrees are just a handful of the local names that are talked highly about in international gin circles.
Where once the choice of gin in a bar or bottle shop was limited to a few international brands, these days there are likely to be dozens of options, many of them locally produced. But there is still plenty of room for growth.
Adam Chapman, head distiller at CAVU and founder of Wine and Spirit Inc, says: “In Australia, locally made spirits account for just 1 per cent of the total market. This is on the rise, but it means there is still a lot of room for growth.”
How to make the perfect G&T
Ask a dozen people how to make the perfect gin and tonic, and you’ll most likely get a dozen different answers. But there is some common ground! That includes large cubes or balls of ice (so they don’t melt too fast), one part of the best Aussie craft gin you can buy, to three parts good-quality non-flavoured tonic water. The jury is out on garnishes, but Adam recommends keeping it simple and serving without, as the strong flavour of a garnish will overpower the juniper in the gin… which defeats the purpose for true gin lovers.
Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin
Steeping shiraz grapes in gin results in a rich, aromatic spirit with notes of spice on the finish.
Squealing Pig Rose Gin
Dry and refreshing with subtle juniper, bright citrus flavours and balanced spices.
Antipodes Pink Gin
Kakadu plum, olida (also known as strawberry gum), blue chamomile flowers and red grapefruit make a complex bouquet in this organic beauty.
Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice Gin
This crisp, light gin is infused with refreshing floral essences.
When mixed with soda, this gin holds its vibrant colour. Add tonic water and it changes from blue to blush pink.
Tanqueray No. Ten
Lime, grapefruit and oranges provide citrus undertones, making this award-winning gin perfect for cocktails.
23rd St Signature Gin
Mandarin, coriander and fresh lime follow juniper on the palate, while spices provide complexity.
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Notes of angelica, coriander, almonds and lemon peel make this gin light, crisp and refreshing.
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