A Guide to Great Gins and Spirits to buy for Christmas
Manly Spirits, Manly, NSW
Capturing the harmony between carefree beach life and urban sophistication for which Manly is renowned, the founders of Manly Spirits – David and Vanessa and their team create Australian Gins, Botanical Vodkas and Whiskies that rival the best in the world. Much of their inspiration is taken from the spectacular coastal environment in which they live.
The much-awarded Manly Spirits has released a new gin for Christmas. Amber Spiced Gin is a festive summer gin, with sweet flavours of infused cascara and vanilla, balanced with candied citrus peel and a subtle hint of spiced cinnamon. This gin is a collaboration between friends, tying together the distinct coastal and citrusy notes of Manly Spirits gin, layered with an infusion of Campos cascara, the dehydrated aromatic coffee cherry husks from the coffee plant. Even the label is gorgeous – featuring ‘The Drop’ a painting showing two surfers lost in the moment in summer – by Australian artist Craig Parnaby. 700 ml $95.
Manly Spirits also offers a cocktail masterclass at their Brookvale location every second Friday. The two-hour class is perfect for friends who want to have fun learning to make delicious cocktails. Learn how to shake stir and strain three signature cocktails with their professional mixologist.
Manly Spirits also offer a Gin Distillery tour and tasting on weekends. Go behind the scenes to have an overview of their production processes and area, with the opportunity to view the stills, botanicals used, and bottling setup. Your friendly and knowledgeable spirit guide will give you a history of Gin, the opportunity to touch, taste, smell the raw ingredients including their pantry of Australian botanicals.
Then enjoy an in-depth tasting experience, as selected by the Head Distiller, of five of their core expressions to sit, sip and compare.
Underground Spirits, Canberra
One of the most popular is the Australian Bush Christmas Gin Twin pack, with a bottle of their best-selling Ad Crescendum Native Gin, combined with a bottle of their famed Shiraz Gin with Tasmanian Pepperberries. Both gins feature Australian native botanicals and bush flavours. The Ad Crescendum is a special collaboration with the Australian National Botanic Gardens featuring specially foraged ingredients such as Banksia, Rainforest Aniseed, Plum Pine and Native Raspberry. And our striking Shiraz Gin’s red hue is telling of its maturation in shiraz oak barrels handed over from local Canberra region winemakers, and blended with The bold Tasmanian Pepperberry. Order quick – it’s $175.
Fossey’s Distillery, Mildura, NSW
Fossey’s Distillery is located in Mildura and is a must-stop destination if ever you are in the area for a Murray River cruise or on a road trip. Fossey’s is brilliant for both gin and whisky lovers and has a good wine list. Fossey’s showcases fabulous gins and craft distilling that’s done on-site. We order a paddle of gins to try, and although it’s difficult, we manage to taste test six.
The Desert Lime Gin, Frontignac Gin, Shiraz Gin, Broken Heel Gin – named for Broken Hill, Kaffir Leaf Gin and Old Man Saltbush Gin are outstanding with their individual tastes and flavours.
My favourite – the Shiraz Gin won hands-down – and tea has never tasted so good as the Earl Grey Gin, poured from a teapot.
There’s a good range of mocktails as well including Ver-Gin, Bloody Shame, Fossey’s Fanfare, Nojito Mojito and Ginnyless Gin Ginger. Then there is the Christmas Pudding Gin. No wonder owner Steve Timmis is known as the ‘ginovator’.
Pretty Parrot Gin, Tumut, NSW
It looks almost too pretty to drink but Pretty Parrot Gins taste even better than they look. Pretty Parrot is a small batch distillery based in Lavington and Tumut. They use Australian and traditional botanicals to make their gin and liqueurs.
The company won silver at the London Spirit Competition for its Lemon Myrtle Gin which is the most popular gin.
The company is moving its Lavington-based distillery to Tumut but the good news is, you can already have a tasting.
The tasting room is still at the historic Oriental Hotel and sales are available online or at the hotel.
They are also currently working on a Vermouth.
wildbrumby Distillery, Jindabyne, NSW
wildbrumby distillery is a stunning place that knocked my socks off when I visited for the first time in August, 2020, on the way back from a ski weekend in Thredbo. It is incredibly beautiful with spectacular grounds, sculptures, gardens and vista over the surrounding area. The distillery has access to pristine Alpine water and organically grown fruit and native mountain botanicals, which have become the inspiration behind its award-winning stable of schnapps, gin and vodka. Inside, the distillery also has beautiful artworks from founder Brad Spalding on the walls, as well as memorabilia from the area.
If you can’t get to the Snowy Mountains, you can order from their wide range of schnapps, gins and other spirits including vodkas, online. Newly released is the Black Label Christmas Gin, crafted from the award-winning Rubus Patch botanical base. They’ve added twists of festive fruit, elderflower and citrus notes to create this sublime spirit of Christmas. These have been carefully balanced with juniper and native botanicals, such as the mountain pepper berry that grows wild in the Snowy Mountains. Packed in a personalised wildbrumby Gin Tube. 700 mls $95 inc GST.
Another option is the Party Pack which packages up 500 ml bottles of Classic Gin, Vodka and Negroni, as well as three 60ml liqueur schnapps minis to hang from the Christmas tree. $165 inc. GST. The All Things Pink pack combines a 500ml bottle of pink lady schnapps with the seasonal sour cherry, and a 700ml bottle of raspberry-infused Rubus Patch gin crafted using their own organically home-grown raspberries and paired with a 200ml bottle of Fevertree Elderflower tonic. This pack also includes two wildbrumby shot glasses.
Saving the best until last – the Schnappy Christmas Pack (pictured above). This new Christmas party pack combines 500ml bottles of butterscotch, pear william, peach nectar, sour apple and pink lady apple schnapps, along with a 750ml sparkling bottle of wildbrumby brut and two wildbrumby shot glasses! $195.
North of Eden, Bega, NSW
North of Eden Distillery is located on Stony Creek Farm, a 12-acre smallholding nestled in the rolling hills of the Bega Valley on Australia’s pristine Sapphire Coast. Halfway between Sydney and Melbourne and under three hours from Canberra, it’s where heavenly gins are created in a 100-litre copper still named Jill.
This multi-award-winning micro-distillery has been operating commercially since January 2019. They have two signature gins, The Classic and The Connoisseur, both of which have won medals at the two most prestigious gin competitions in the world – the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London and the San Francisco World Spirit Competition.
The Classic features native Australian finger limes grown here on the farm, as well as blood orange, grapefruit, lime and lemon that are also grown on site. The Connoisseur also uses homegrown citrus, but its special connection to place is seaweed that they collect themselves from the local seashore. As for The Admiral, native kurrajong seed from a tree next to the distillery gives this gin a sweet nuttiness as well as a connection to place.
In addition to the two signature gins, they also have a limited edition navy strength gin, The Admiral. Released in June 2020, this deliciously sinful gin is a whopping 57%ABV and won a Silver medal in the 2020 International Wine and Spirits Competition.
All their gins are made in small batches of only 200 bottles at a time. Everything is done by hand using small batch artisan methods.
A great gift idea for a lover of gin is to sign up for the Gin School. Over three hours, four-six people will learn how to make their own bottle gin while learning about the dark arts of distillation. Participants will learn all about distilling, will have access to over 30 botanicals to help create your recipe, and will take home a 700 ml bottle of their very own gin – labelled.
*All images below are of North of Eden, taken by David Rogers Photography