1. How did you become a distiller? Nature or nurture?
A long story…I was raised in a very religious household, It was so religious that on my 16th birthday, I was asked to join the priesthood. I think my response was along the lines of “fuck-no”, perhaps the first time I swore in front of my parents as well. Needless to say my parents never drank alcohol and there was never alcohol in the house. However, periodically as I grew up, I visited the UK and spent time with my English family and importantly my grandmother. My English family didn’t share the same beliefs as my parents and while in the UK I was introduced to G&T’s in the afternoon, sherry before dinner and Spanish wine at dinner. These were significant spirits and wines to my family as a few generations earlier my grandmother’s family had run gin and whisky distilleries and were connected through family to sherry from Jerez and wine from Spain. My great great great grandfather and his brother established W&A Gilbey which existed until the 1960’s and made Gilbeys’ Gin, which is still sold today. Later, in my 20’s, my girlfriend and I moved to London and spent lots of time with my grandmother, Nancy. Nancy always encouraged me to pursue my interests and passions. Sadly, she passed away while I was in London, but this made me realise that my connection to the spirits industry was severed unless I did something about it. A few months later my (by then) fiancée and I moved back to Australia and as soon as I could I built a distillery (and brewery) in my garage and began immersing myself in making gin, whisky (and beer). So…Nature.
2. What’s the best thing about being a distiller?
Exploring flavour, aroma and texture with some of the most talented people in the drinks community. It’s just the best job.
3. And the worst?
There are very few downsides. Even cleaning the floors is a labour of love.
4. What’s your first drink of the day? Coffee, tea or ethanol?
First is water.. but followed by 1/2 a dozen coffees before lunch.
5. Awards or sales?
The distiller in me says awards, the business owner in me says sales; but they’re not mutually exclusive. For a new brand, awards are an objective way to benchmark yourself against the best producers in the world and that’s something we’ve always enjoyed doing. Achieving good results consistently across multiple awards and geographies is great validation that you’re on the right path from a liquid point of view. Growing our sales means Never Never is sharing our gin and other creations with more and more people and that’s awesome. Sales also mean the family gets to eat regularly.
6. Negroni or Martini?
1 dozen martinis please. I love martinis and I love seeing variants on the classic serve, just as much as a classic gibson martini made with Never Never Southern Strength Gin and an onion garnish.
7. What’s the question you get asked the most?
At the distillery’s cellar door, it’s probably our customers’ curiosity about juniper. Gin has exploded in popularity over the past 10 years and there are still so many people discovering it for the first time, or becoming more curious about the spirit and wanting to know more about how it’s made. Never Never is synonymous with classic, juniper-forward gin. When guests visit the distillery for the first time, they’re literally surrounded by tonnes of juniper, and naturally they want to know more.
8. And what’s the answer?
Get a drink, sit down, this could be a while but it starts with – you can’t have gin without juniper….
9. One (or more) tip for budding distillers please.
Study and experiment endlessly, learn techniques from other areas of food and beverage production. Take lots of notes and don’t throw them out…When you have something to reveal, seek out the most qualified and experienced opinions you can find, but ultimately trust your gut and your own palette. Spend lots of time in great bars and talk to lots of bartenders – they’re incredibly talented, creative and passionate about flavour.