GIN SOCIETY FOUNDER
Gin Society Founder, Andrew is passionate about gin and sharing his experiences with like-minded individuals, which compelled him to create a business around it.
How did you come to start the Gin Society?
I have a real love and appreciation of gin. About a year before launching the Gin Society, I started broadening the types of gin I was drinking and ended up trying lots of quirkier, craft gins. Once you go down that rabbit hole, a whole new world opens up. Gin is a compelling spirit. There’s a lot of noise around the whole market – so many people are discussing it and so many new distilleries have opened in Australia in recent years. I’m just fascinated by the whole industry. So, my passion for gin and my background selling subscriptions – which is what we do at isubscribe, which I started in 2000 – came together in this new business idea. I had a look around at the market, thought it was a good opportunity and away we went.
What do you love most about the Gin Society?
There are a few things. There’s the challenge of creating something new, of starting a business and doing something that no one else has really done in Australia. Then there’s the passion I have for the gins we’re trying and the experiences we’re creating for our members.
I’m also really enjoying being involved in the alcohol industry because it is hugely collaborative. Every distiller, distributor and bar owner I’ve spoken to has been so open and honest, and very generous with their ideas and thoughts.
What do you look for in a gin?
I’m not technical about why I like a gin. It’s not necessarily about the mouthfeel, the heat or the spice. For me, it always comes down to flavour. Every gin I try I have neat – to pay due respect to the distillers and the effort, craft and passion they put into them. When it comes to choosing a gin, it’s really about what appeals to me.
I see similarities between gin and abstract art. With abstract art, if you’ve got a good eye and you’re drawn to it, there doesn’t have to be an underlying reason why you like it. I think it’s the same with gin. The more you try, the better your palate gets. You can tell straight away whether it’s for you.
The Gin Society turns one this month. What have been some highlights from this first year?
There have been so many! The top three would have to be seeing the business grow, importing two fabulous gins that have never been drunk here before – Juno Gin from New Zealand and Le Tribute from Spain – and putting on events where we get to meet the members, which is the whole purpose of the Gin Society.
What’s the response been like from Gin Society members?
It’s been really humbling and encouraging. Everyone has been so supportive and the feedback has been very positive. The members I’ve spoken with have loved the range we’ve provided so far and really enjoy the informative and educational element of the Gin Journal as well.
Do you have a preferred way to drink gin?
It can be influenced by factors like weather, mood, environment and whatnot, but I tend to only drink gin in four ways. I often sip it neat on a cold winter’s day – like you would a whisky – in a G&T, in a Dry Martini with a twist, and also a Negroni. I don’t really broaden my horizons past those four.
What’s the best gin experience you’ve ever had?
In February this year, I spent a night exploring the gin scene in Singapore. The highlight was spending a few hours at ATLAS bar, which is probably recognised as the world’s best gin bar. Head bartender Jesse Vida gave me a peek at their gin collection, which has more than 1300 diverse and obscure gins.
What’s your favourite bar in the world to drink gin?
Without a doubt it’s Dukes Bar in London. I lived in London for 10 years and I’ve been there so many times. Alessandro Palazzi, the head bartender, is always there, and he makes the best Martinis. Dukes has a maximum two-Martini rule and they police it, with good reason!
What are some of your current favourite gins?
At the moment, I’d say KI NO BI Gin. It’s an amazing dry gin made in Kyoto with lots of Japanese botanicals. The other one I just discovered at my local bottle shop Chambers Cellars in Mosman. The manager there regularly rotates his gins and he always has some fascinating drops I’ve never heard of. I’m currently enjoying a bottle of Gin & Jonnie by GastroGin – it’s a great Dutch gin that was created by a three-star Michelin chef called Jonnie Boer.
What three gins would you bring with you to a desert island and why?
I would bring The Botanist from Scotland. It’s such a versatile gin you can have it with anything. I particularly like it with an Aperol ice block, Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic and a wedge of lime. The other two would be Melbourne Single Shot Gin, an artisan gin made by Andrew Marks – a master distiller and winemaker from Victoria’s Gembrook Hill – and Audemus Pink Pepper Gin, an outstanding and unique gin created by an Aussie, Miko Abouaf of Audemus Spirits, in Cognac.
What do you think makes Australian gins special?
Australia’s gin industry is quite young, so distillers aren’t bound by any traditional constrictions – outside of needing to have a certain level of juniper – on what a gin should be. The other thing is the broad range of really unique botanicals in Australia that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Many distillers are also creating their gins with botanicals drawn from the regions they’re based in, all of which makes for some really exciting and different gins.
It’s an exciting time for gin in Australia. A decade ago there was only a handful of gin distilleries and there are now around 180 distillers making more than 700 different gins.
What does your personal gin collection look like?
It’s growing reasonably quickly! I’d say there are around 70 or 80 bottles with different types of gin from around the world. I’m sure there would be Gin Society members with many more gins than that at the moment.
The problem is the better the gin, the faster it gets finished – especially when I have friends around. A lot of it is obviously research! I’m fortunate to be creating a business around what I love.
Has there been a place you’ve visited that really impressed you with their gin?
Tasmania, for sure. It’s home to so many great distilleries and passionate, creative makers who are also big foodies. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Tassie and was there in January for Gin-uary, a gin festival in Hobart where local distillers all showcase their products.
Is there a country whose gin scene you’d like to explore?
I’d love to visit Scotland and Spain to learn more about their amazing gin scenes.
Any future plans for the Gin Society that you can share with members?
We have lots in store. Next year, we want to have a greater focus on member events – we’re currently in talks with some Australian distillers to host masterclasses with us – and we want to bring more exquisite gins to Australia that members have never seen before.
We’re working on redesigning the website and want to include more content and a members-only section. We’re also exploring different publishing angles, potentially around gin guides. We really want the Gin Society to go above and beyond just being a subscription.
Anything you’d like to add?
We’re so excited for 2020. The momentum has been building – particularly in Australia – over the last few years. We’ve seen an explosion of smaller distilleries open. We’ve seen the range of gins sold in bigger liquor retailers almost double in the past 12 months. Australian consumers are only now really opening up to this amazing world of gin. The next few years are going to be huge for gin.
The UK, for example, is one of the first countries that comes to mind when I think of gin – and its popularity is still growing there. Recent research found that gin is forecast to surpass vodka and become the biggest spirits category in the UK in 2020, with gin growing 45% in the year to June 2019. So it’s bound to be a huge few years for Australia.
ANDREW’S DESERT ISLAND GINS
The Botanist “It’s such a versatile gin you can have it with anything. I particularly like it with an Aperol ice block, Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic and a wedge of lime.“
This is a unique dry gin made in Islay, a remote island off the west coast of Scotland. The Botanist features 22 wild foraged botanicals from the island, including water mint, chamomile, downy birch, meadowsweet and wood sage. Rich and mellow to taste, this it is a versatile and complex gin.
Audemus Pink Pepper Gin “An outstanding and unique gin created by an Aussie, Miko Abouaf of Audemus Spirits in Cognac.”
The first gin created by the dynamic French distillery Audemus Spirits. Made with nine botanicals including pink peppercorn (of course), cardamom, juniper, honey, vanilla, tonka bean and three secret ingredients, Pink Pepper is a new-style gin that is aromatic, complex and bold.
Melbourne Single Shot Gin “An artisan gin made by Andrew Marks, a master distiller and winemaker from Victoria’s Gembrook Hill.”
Another gin that we shared with Gin Society members this year, Melbourne Single Shot Gin is a juniper-forward, full-flavoured gin. This impressive spirit is made with seven botanicals – juniper, orange peel, angelica root, cardamom, lavender, Tasmanian leatherwood honey and Australian bergamot – in a single distillation.