Earlier this year, we discovered that a new distillery was opening just up the road from our headquarters so decided swing by and introduce ourselves! There we met Kyle and Georgia, owners of the distillery and took the opportunity to find out more about them and their new distillery!
Q: What is it about gin that got you guys excited and why have you started a gin distillery?
G: We’ve both always drunk gin since our early 20s, so gin was a no-brainer for us but the story behind the distillery was basically with a trip we took in 2016. We’d been studying and working full time for about three and a half years and we were getting a bit burnt out and wanted to take a bit of a breath to celebrate finishing our degrees. We thought let’s go away for a week, maybe two weeks, maybe a month and somehow turned into if we could use all of our money, how long could we go for and that was two years. So on that trip we were pretty open minded that maybe we might not come back, we might find somewhere we like and stayed, maybe have a bit of a career change, we didn’t find anywhere that really made us want to give up the Australian lifestyle but we did find a new interest which was the alcohol industry. We visited sake places in Japan, pisco in South America, in Kentucky like bourbon and basically did a distillery tour of Ireland and Scotland and thought “we basically need to get into this market” and we were just sitting in a hotel room in Ireland in August in 2018 and thought – we came up with this idea that we thought would be a really interesting thing to bring into the Australian market that we’ve kept under wraps and will probably launch next month but that was kind of the last push that made us say “let’s just do it”
K: That was the decision that we were like yeah ok this is a great industry, something we want to be a part of, distilling is such an amazing thing and distilling gin is such an amazing creative opportunity and then we had this idea for something new and that’s when we thought “ok let’s do it – this is awesome and let’s take this to Australia, let’s take this to market”
Q: So what hints can you give us about this new special thing that you’re launching?
G: We’ve actually not told anyone and even our family and friends have been hounding us for the last year and a half now. Essentially, the name will make a bit more sense and it’s just something that is a little point of difference that I think will just give us that tiny bit of room in the market.
Q: So what is the reason you choose St Leonards or this particular area to set up a distillery? Why North Sydney? It’s a fairly quiet area and I’m glad to see it’s not so quiet now which is fantastic but what drew you guys here?
K: Well Georgia is from the North Shore originally. Before we left on the two year trip with a gin on the Northern beaches, we loved this area, we loved Sydney. We travelled for two years but with the open mind to stay somewhere overseas but still wanted to come back to this, to this lifestyle, this part of Australia, this part of Sydney. It’s where we wanted to live and wanted to be. It’s where we wanted to do our gin distillery.
G: And we love the thought of being the first distillery in this area. Love being able to walk to work.
K: It is super important to us. It’s in our tagline – spirits from the north side. We are a distillery in North Sydney, to North Sydneyers making gin for North Sydney – at least to start with anyway.
Q: So what are some of the unique aspects of what you make in your gin? So there’s obviously a lot of Australian Gin, so what is Finders bringing that is new to the table?
K: So I guess it starts off with what we wanted to create, how we sat down and said we’re going to make gin – what do we like in a gin and what do we want our gin to express? And for us that was a London dry base, so that flavour, that profile that you specifically associate with London dry but with an Australian twist and our little bit of ourself in the distillery. So we created that canvas and then we’ve added a couple of native Australian botanicals that we were pretty carefully selected. We did hundreds of iterations of distillations to find things that we thought would represent our brand as a North Sydney brand but also that we wanted to be in our flavour profile to match the gin we were aiming for. So we knew what we were aiming for, we knew what it tasted like in our head and then we set out to create it. What makes us different is we have that familiarity with the base standard London dry flavour and then it’s got that complexity and couple of Aussie botanicals. The first time I distilled chamomile, I thought “This has to go in my gin”. When I smelled it come off the still, it had to go in there.
G: We pretty much just tried to find a middle ground between that classic gin and the really big, bold modern Australian ones. We wanted it to hold up in a gin and tonic but also be able to be used in classic gin cocktails as well. And still be an easy drinking balanced, well rounded gin and then obviously we mentioned before, there’s something else unique about our brand that we will be hopefully releasing soon. We are doing a Pozible campaign to pre order our first couple of batches. We’ll talk about it then.
Q: So what are your plans for the future of the distillery? Will you be having a bar tasting room? What sort of facilities will you bring to N Sydney?
G: Yes we are a licensed bar, we are going to have a cellar door, we’re going to have tasting sessions. Step one will be doing the preorder, getting those bottles to market but we do have a plan to open a bar and cellar door as soon as possible.
Q: Do you think you will do blend your own gin type events or anything, things that say less experienced drinkers might be able to get a better understanding of what a gin is because I know there are a lot of people that don’t even know that juniper is pretty important to gin? Will there be a focus on that you think?
G: Initially we were looking at doing basically a distillery tour which would encompass all that, how gin goes from start to finish and then obviously finish with a tasting session but we’re definitely open to, like I know that Archie Rose and there’s a distillery in Brisbane that people are loving those gin making classes – so if there is a market for it, we will in the future.
Q: Do you see much of a focus on the corporate market or just the engaged drinker? What sort of clientele will come through?
K: We want to start off in the North Sydney area and expand out from there. In North Sydney, we want people into their favourite bars to see our product on the shelf. We want to see our bottle in as many bars and bottle shops in this area as we can and we’re going to do local markets so we can get in front of our customer and let them know we’re here, and they can come in and see how gin is made and talk to me. I’m open for anyone to come in to chat and talk to them about how it is made and then use that as our base and then expand from there into the national market and potentially overseas.
Q: What was the first gin that took your breath away? The first gin you sat down and went “Oh"
G: The first gin I ever drank was Bombay Sapphire. The first gin that took my breath away..
K: Me and a couple of friends had a share house when I was in the airforce and we were most Friday afternoons, someone would bring a bottle of gin and we would have a bbq and we would sit around and drink gin. And I guess that was 10-15 years ago. So before it was as popular as gin is now, we always sat around and had a gin and tonic in the backyard on a Friday afternoon. That was when I started drinking gin and thinking “It’s an exceptional drink to have on a warm day – it’s so fresh” The first one that came to mind when you asked the question was when a mate came around and brought a bottle of Bulldog gin. It was a long time ago but the first gin I had that wasn’t Gordons or pub gin and I thought “Oh ok, this spirit is a lot more complex than I have given it credit for. Let’s explore a bit further”
Q: So if you’re not drinking gin, what would be your favourite tipple? What would you go to?
G: I always say there’s a drink for every occasion, I think together we drink whisky.
K: I guess we have went through stages of what we do and don’t like and drink. Whisky at the moment is pretty high on our list.
Q: What about gin do you think that it makes it so attractive to the Australian market? As you know has exploded in the last 10 years, especially. What is it about gin that is really resonating with consumers?
G: I think it’s probably showcasing the Australian produce. I think it’s hard to do that in other spirits and the gin guys have really run with it. It’s something different to offer the gin market and overseas guys are really starting to pick that up too. Some of the companies are doing really well with their exporting and I think that shows that there really is a demand for what we are creating in Australia.
K: And with the market moving towards drink less but better, there’s a couple of people’s mottos there. To me, it seems like before the gin movement there was a lot of people, the spirit wasn’t the centre or the focus of the drink. It was the everything else in there. A gin and tonic was smashed with heaps of tonic whereas people are seeing that the spirit can be the focus of the drink. If you mix a g and t right, if you mix a cocktail with gin right, it becomes the highlight of the drink.
G: I think for at home cocktails especially, the g and t is so easy. It’s not complicated and it’s easy for the customer.
Q: What do you think gin brands can do to bring their point across to the consumer? There’s still a lot of people drinking Hendricks or big brands in back bars. What do you think Aussie gin producers to raise the awareness of what is out there and to get people trying different flavours?
G: I think it’s just really telling the story of the brand – we’re seeing that more and more and they want to support local. Especially with the bushfires, you can see people want to help small towns, small businesses. I think that beyond the crisis Australia is in atm, that is just a trend and we need to amplify that as a brand and make sure customers are aware there is a big Australian spirits industry now and you don’t have to buy an overseas product. You can if you want, but there is also all this on offer if you want to support local.
K: Of course, there are big brands that are great products. The consumers sees the small Aussie brands as an open book in a lot of cases where you know people will know who we are if they are in North Sydney, they know we’re making the gin, we are working on this together here. Whereas you look at a big commercial brand and, it’s not that they’re doing anything wrong, but you don’t necessarily know what is going on behind the doors. Whereas the small brands are transparent and the consumer likes that they can see exactly what’s going on with the produce that they are consuming.
Q: How important to your business moving forward is having that local aspect? Is it something you would love to see when people from North Sydney bring their friends over and they’re exposing their friends from out of state or overseas to your gin and also perhaps giving gifts of your gin?
G: I think getting on board with the local community is a huge step for us and number one for us. It’s the first step in our brand launch it is making sure that North Sydney knows that we’re here and that we are trying to support the community and we would love them to support us as well.
Do you have any plans to produce other spirits or other products other than gin that you can share?
K: Yeah, from what we can share from the upcoming launch is – we have a huge mountain in gin atm and it is a big challenge and it is our focus and our love and what we want to put everything into but to say that we haven’t thought about other spirits would be a bit silly. We would 100% would never say never to those other spirits for sure.
G: And we already have a vodka in the works. WE were planning to launch both at the same time but the Australian dry gin was taking so much of our time, we just want to make sure that we are launching the product in the best place it can be so we have pushed the vodka back now. But at the very least we will have those two and then we will be looking to roll out more products in the future?
Q: And would you be open to collabs or working with other brands to do something?
K: That is a win-win situation. Everybody has something you can learn from so to be able to work on somebody else’s product with them is a no-brainer.
G: And the one thing we have found we love about the industry so far is that it is all about collaboration and not competition which is – we just love that.
K: It is overwhelming to be honest, just how much people in the industry are actually willing to help and share their knowledge. I don’t think it happens in any other industry that I know of as prominently as it has in the distillery industry.
G: I am hoping that it stays around when the industry inevitably grows.
K: I feel like a lot of people have passed on a lot of knowledge and skills to me to me in my journey up to now. I will be hopefully continuing that trend of passing it on to people who are also want to learn about the industry. Pay it forward.
Thanks to Georgia and Kyle for taking the time to chat with us!