30 October 2023

Meet the Makers: Local flavours in the bottle at The Canberra Distillery

| Lucy Ridge
Woman stands behind table with many bottles of spirits. A sign reads "The Canberra Distillery"

India Brown at the cellar door. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

The Canberra Distillery was started in 2015 in founder Tim Reardon’s garage. Now they distil thousands of litres of spirits from their two warehouses in Mitchell, and you can find them in bottle shops across the country.

Events and marketing manager India Brown told me that Tim had a very special taste tester in the early days of the distillery.

“Tim’s mum was the person who gave his recipe the go-ahead. We actually originally called the Canberra Gin ‘Gin 47’ because that’s the number of times it took for Tim’s mum to give it her approval!”

And thank goodness she did because The Canberra Distillery’s range now encompasses six multi-award winning gins, a vodka, and a handful of specialty spirits. They’ve just recently released their first whisky and rum.

A line-up of bottles with different labels

There are a number of unique gins and flavoured liqueurs in The Canberra Distillery range. Photo: Supplied.

The day I visited the distillery in Mitchell, the air had a distinctly yeasty scent and I could hear something bubbling enthusiastically. India explained that the team was making the ‘wash’ for their whisky, which she describes as “basically distilled beer.” It’s the first time they’ve done this step of the process themselves (their previous whisky produces use a bought wash), and they have collaborated with Canberra brewery Bentspoke for the ingredients. Once their beer has fermented, head distiller Léonore Salançon will distil the liquid and age it in specially chosen barrels. After three years, it will be whisky.

“Those barrels will spend the next couple of years in the shed of Tim’s family farm on the banks of Lake George while they age,” said India.

“That’s why we’ve called this whisky Old George Reserve.”

Bottles of whisky and rum on a barrel with distilling equipment in the background.

This release of Old George Reserve was aged using externally sourced ‘wash’, but the team is now making their own from scratch. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Whisky isn’t the only exciting new project at The Canberra Distillery. There are two newly released spirits using local ingredients.

The rhubarb liqueur makes a zingy and refreshing addition to cocktails with a subtle hint of lime leaf and the caramelised Tarte Tatin liqueur is simply dessert in a glass (try pouring it over ice cream!) The apples for this spirit came from Tanbella Orchard in Pialligo, who sent the pulp leftover from juicing to get a second life at the distillery.

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These two special releases are the first in a planned series of limited-edition spirits to be released four times a year. They’re planning to collaborate with local businesses to create distinctly Canberran flavours.

Two stainless steel 'stills' in a warehouse.

The Tin Man (L) still was named because the ‘hearts’ are the best part of a distilled spirit. The team is looking to name their new 1000-litre still. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

There’s also a spiced rum in the works to be released in time for the festive season.

But the heart of the distillery is still gin, and each of their six releases is uniquely delicious. All are made with what India jokingly refers to as their ‘Holy Trinity’ of botanicals: juniper, coriander seeds, cardamom and cinnamon.

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Another critical element in their gin is tangelo, but the sweet and sour citrus fruit only has a short season in which the team needs to peel and freeze enough to last them for the entire year. This year, they had customers participate in the process, enjoying cocktails, music and a festive atmosphere (with a thank-you bottle of gin at the end). A process that used to take distillery employees weeks was all done and dusted in one fun day.

“It was such a success,” India said.

“People loved being a part of the process.”

A woman holds up a long piece of zest and a man smiles next to her.

Customers recently enjoyed helping out with Tangelo Day at the distillery. Photo: Supplied.

If you’d like to become better acquainted with The Canberra Distillery gins and spirits, customers are encouraged to drop into the cellar door for a tasting. There’s also a range of experiences like the G&T masterclass with a distillery tour and grazing plates. India explains that they take participants through the tasting process and allow them to experiment with their favourite mixers and garnishes to create a bespoke G&T according to their tastes. Large groups can arrange a private class.

The Canberra Distillery cellar door is located at 70 Dacre St, Mitchell.
They are open from Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 3 pm Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. Groups are advised to book ahead for a private tasting due to size restraints. Keep an eye out for The Canberra Distillery at pop-ups and events around town.
Follow The Canberra Distillery on Facebook or Instagram and find out more about their range on their website.

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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