When Michael Hickinbotham wanted to combine his passion for Australia and for craft-made spirits, the Australian Distilling Company (ADCo.) was born.
Inspired by the cities and regions of Australia, Michael wanted to create spirits that reflect the locations they represent.
To capture this essence, Master Distiller Graham Jones partnered with local distilleries across the country and explored local ingredients to create flavours that embrace the spirit of each locale. Through this approach, ADCo. has ensured every bottle says something about the community that inspires it.
Michael told Bars and Clubs: “I’m passionate about our country, our cities and regions. Australian Distilling Co. continues a family tradition of premium wine and spirit-making that spans three generations and began when my grandfather Alan R. Hickinbotham established Australia’s first university winemaking degree.
“There’s something about our cities that are all so different with their own unique energy. For me, the appeal of making craft spirits is an opportunity to bottle that character. Our team of distillers journey across the country to undertake the distilling process in each city for which each of our spirits is named.”
He added: “We started with Adelaide, and it was so successful that we wanted to make spirits in and for other cities. I am fortunate to work with Professor Graham Jones – he has a wealth of knowledge about the art and the science of distilling, having lectured at the University of Adelaide for 30 years.
“We tried many different recipes for our first Adelaide Gin, refining a flavour profile that reflects Adelaide as a city, and South Australia as a state.
“That’s where the idea for Kangaroo Island lavender and rose petal originated, marking the start of our journey.”
ZESTY AND CONFIDENT
While it sounds like a great idea, it obviously sets up the challenge of creating a gin or a flavour profile that reflects a particular region.
Michael explained how he and Professor Jones went about this.
“Finding the flavour profile to reflect each city is esoteric and subjective. For example, Sydney is zesty and confident as a city and that’s how our gin comes across,” he said.
“It is bold and confident and the label, as well, reflects some of the glamour of Sydney. It’s a bright, bold, beautiful gin with citrus characteristics.
“For Melbourne, on the other hand, the label is traditional with an urban edge. Melbourne conjures up laneways, art and food culture, so our gin has more spicy characteristics. I enjoy the mountain pepper and fresh ginger, and I know it’s subjective, but for me it’s very Melbourne; it’s a classic dry gin, with spicy notes to it as well.
“While the spirit in the bottle is the most important element, designed to reflect the respective city or region, the visual element is also key to our sense of place. This means the labels on our bottles are an important part of the overall representation.”
Michael also said the team had a lot of fun working with some clever artists to design the labels.
“For instance, while the copper on our Adelaide label symbolises the beautiful handmade copper pot stills we use to make our gin, copper was also significant to the early colony of South Australia,” he said.
Another way to reflect the flavour profile of a region is, where we can, to use ingredients and botanicals from those locations, Michael told Bars and Clubs.
“Our Brisbane Gin contains native finger limes from the region and add an interesting local flavour to what is a classic dry gin,” he said.
“Gold Coast Gin is similar with its lychees and lime. This says something about the Gold Coast as a confident place – it’s no wilting violet.
“Darwin Craft Gin has frangipani, a native flower you see a lot of in the Northern Territory, with a particular flavour profile that also includes lychee.”
The city concept is working, and is being recognised on an international level, with ADCo.’s gins collecting more than 125 awards from around the world.
“We did well at the San Francisco Awards, receiving four gold and a double gold for Gold Coast and Darwin Gin as well as Rhapsody and Shiraz Gin,” Michael said.
“All together our gins have won over 125 awards now, which is fantastic.”
The brand also shone at the recent international SIP Awards, adding 22 awards to its name for its gin and vodka brands. The awards saw Melbourne Gin awarded the triple threat including the brand’s first ever Platinum Award, as well as a Consumer Choice and Innovation Award, while Double Gold was awarded to its signature Australian Distilling Co. Shiraz Gin as well as Adelaide Gin and Darwin Craft Gin.
ADCo. also achieved seven Gold Awards for its various gin and vodka brands including its signature Australian Distilling Co. Gin, Australian Distilling Co. Rhapsody Ruby Gin as well as Brisbane Gin, Gold Coast Gin, Geelong Gin, Sydney Gin and Adelaide Vodka.
Michael said: “The SIP Awards provide an opportunity for consumers to have their say, taste our various brands and be the judge. Consumers are our most important audience so it’s one of our favourite awards on the calendar.
“The SIP Awards provide endorsement at the highest level and these achievements give us confidence that consumers appreciate and enjoy our gin.”
BRINGING JOY TO PEOPLE
While a Sydney gin is an obvious fit for Sydney bars, Melbourne for Melbourne and so on, Michael said there was growing interest from bars to stock gins from different cities.
He told Bars and Clubs: “Our Melbourne Gin sells well in every state. People move around and take pride in their state and where they come from. A lot of bars are collecting all the capital cities, and you’ll also find Geelong Gin in Melbourne bars, Gold Coast Gin in the Brisbane bars and vice versa.
“But what’s interesting is people try them and become curious wanting to know what Sydney tastes like and what Adelaide tastes like, so I think it’s fun to give people an opportunity to try different spirits inspired by towns and regions from all over the country.”
Looking ahead Michael said: “We are playing with whisky now as well, which is exciting. We have bourbon barrels, Champagne barrels and sherry barrels. It won’t be imitations of Scotch or Japanese whisky; we’ll produce a whisky that says something about Australia.
“We started with four phrases and our cornerstones are: Uniquely Australian, Beautifully crafted, Contemporary and Sophisticated.
“We have tried to stay true to those principles and I am proud of what Graham and the team have achieved in a relatively short period of time. We have a range of gins that suit all tastes and are beautifully made and the awards prove this. They are all premium craft spirits, there’s no compromise and people enjoy them. Bringing joy to people, for us, is what it’s all about.”
To find out more about this range of uniquely Australian spirits, head to the Australian Distilling Co’s website.