Do you love Australian native plants? Do you love gin? Good news! Botanicals are the essential ingredients of gin, and Australian distillers are capturing our imagination with the use of native Australian botanicals.
And more news just to hand- Brookie’s Gin, created by Cape Byron Distillery (about which you can read more, below) has won 2 gold medals for separate gins at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition. For more details you can go to Delicious Magazine’s article at https://www.delicious.com.au/drinks/spirits-cocktails/article/australian-gin-worlds-best-brookies-gin/riigfm2s.
Gin is surging in popularity in Australia, and world-wide. Around 30 craft distillers in Australia are currently concentrating on the production of gin.
Davidson Plum, a distinctive native Australian gin botanical
It’s the essential oils in the botanicals that flavour gin. These are gently extracted by suspending the plants above the spirit. Heated vapours rise and are infused by the aromatics released by the botanicals.
Australian native Finger Lime (left), and Blood Lime
Typically a fine gin contains six to ten botanicals. The distiller’s art lies in selecting the combination of botanicals and varying their proportions, to produce the complex flavour. It’s common for some of the botanicals used to be harvested from the locality around the distillery.
Juniper berries, familiar from the Gordons label
Traditional gin botanicals are mostly dried herbs and spices. Pine flvoured Juniper berry is the defining ingredient of gin. Coriander, the dried seed of the cilantro plant, has a complex taste that’s a little spicy and citrusy, and nutty when crushed.
Angelica seed heads (left), and dried coriander, traditional gin botanicals
Angelica root, flowers and seeds are used. It tastes earthy and medicinal. Lemon notes come from zesty and sweet lemon peel. Dried orange peels provide bitter citrus or sweet and gentle notes, depending on the variety of orange used.
Orris root, from the iris plant, has a floral and sweet aroma that adds an earthy and woody flavour. Cardamom pods are highly aromatic with a powerful flavour.
Cinnamon bark (left) and cardamom pods, more traditional gin botanicals
Licorice root as used by gin producers is far from the familiar confectionery taste, and can give gin a more viscous texture. Cinnamon adds a fiery, spicy tone. Cassia bark has a licorice-like flavour.
Looking beyond these traditional botanicals, many of which would be right at home in an old-school curry powder, Australian distillers have a strong focus on freshly harvested ingredients.
Mudgee’s local distillery, Baker Williams, produces Gin XLCR.
Its botanicals are a melding of domestics, exotics and locals including juniper, coriander, cumquat, orange, cinnamon myrtle, cassia and secret ingredients.
Cumquat and cinnamon myrtle
At Dobsons Distillery in Kentucky, in the New England region, I was bewitched by the Sweet Pea Gin, a deep indigo colour in the bottle and turning pink with the addition of tonic water.
Its colour is the result of its botanical ingredient, Clitoria ternatea (butterfly pea), and it also contains mandarin, tangelo and grapefruit.
Tangelo and butterfly pea
Cape Byron Distillery, near Byron Bay, NSW, uses 18 locally sourced botanicals, many harvested from the rainforest. These include native raspberries, riberry (a variety of Lillipilli), Davidson plum, native ginger, cinnamon myrtle and aniseed myrtle.
Riberry (left) and Australian Native Ginger
I thoroughly enjoyed my research for this post!
Do you have a favourite gin? Let us know what botanicals are in it!
And it would be good to hear about some other Australian distillers making interesting gin.