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Opening a remote distillery mid-pandemic

Moontide Distillery

When you think of retirement, what comes to mind? 

If you think about travelling to a tropical paradise, perhaps kicking back by the beach with a gin and tonic in hand, you’re thinking about what life was like for Trish and Andrew Davidson. Except the Davidsons took it one step further – they decided they wanted to produce the gin of their beachside beverages, and in the process, have opened Broome’s first distillery. 

Moontide Distillery officially launched on July 1 this year, and despite the challenges they faced being one of the world’s most remote distilleries and launching in the middle of a pandemic, it’s quickly proving to be a successful venture. Trish Davidson spoke to Bars and Clubs about the journey so far, after Andrew retired from being an oncologist.

“We travelled for a little bit, but then came to the point when the idea of lying around and doing nothing was a bit passé, so what would we do?” Trish explained.

“We love drinking gin and we found ourselves living in the most amazing part of the northwest of Western Australia, and it’s just the perfect climate for drinking a gin and tonic – what else do you do on Cable Beach? If you think about what sort of industries you want to get in, apparently the theory was that alcohol is recession-proof and bulletproof. But we didn’t factor in a global pandemic!”

It was the couple’s love of gin and the tropics, as well as Andrew’s creativity that pushed them to explore the idea further. Trish noted the closest distillery was Hoochery Distillery, around 1000km away near the border of WA and the NT, so it was also something new they could offer to the local community. 

It’s this community that has helped the success of Moontide, with locals embracing the town’s first distillery with open arms. It was a welcome source of good news during the large amounts of doom and gloom that 2020 had brought so far. 

“In the midst of a global pandemic people just really need and want positive things. When you live in a place like Broome, which relies quite a lot on its tourist industry, there was such uncertainty and nobody knew what was going to happen… then the intrastate borders closed and the Kimberley was the last border to come down,” Trish said. 

“We were two newbie kids on the block so to speak, and we had gone out on a limb, we purpose built the distillery in a light industrial area. I think people thought, ‘wow, these guys are serious, they’re here for the long haul, they’ve taken a little bit of a risk.’ One of the things that Broome people do know is that you have to support each other and they have supported us, and we’ve been very fortunate.”

It was right when restrictions within WA were easing, including that about the intrastate Kimberly border, that Moontide Distillery launched, and Trish said they were pleased to see people celebrating both occasions. 

With the last easing of that border restriction, Trish said: “everybody partied, and they partied with our gin.

“Whilst we did rip up our 2020 business plan with the advent of a global pandemic, you have to see the upsides and those upsides as I say, were that people were really ready to celebrate something new and interesting and a little bit diverse.”

That essence of crafting something new, interesting and diverse translates into Moontide Distillery’s products themselves too. The range so far includes White Pearl Gin, Black Pearl Aniseed Spirit and Roebuck Bay Bitters. Each is an embodiment of Broome, featuring local and Indigenous botanicals and named with reference to the area and its history.

“We have mango in our gin and the mangoes were brought to Broome by the early pearlers around 100 odd years ago and are a very important part of the Broome story. We also have tamarind in our gin as well and again the tamarind trees are an important part of the Broome story – they were brought over by the traders who traded all up and down the northern coastlines with Indigenous peoples as far back as 300 years ago,” Trish said.

“Then we have an indigenous company that we source native botanicals from and they are just amazing people to work with. Andrew experimented with the Gubinge or the Kakadu Plum and the White Berry Bush and they also are grown locally. And so that’s how we came to, in doing our spirits, use as much as what we could collect locally.”

Moontide Distillery products are available now from their website, with a discount for people in Melbourne lockdown. They also have a trade portal to distribute direct.

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