Eleven years ago, as the craft gin movement was just gaining momentum, Frank Bethel was inspired to make a spirit that would tell a story. So he called on master distiller Philip Moore, who not only brought his experience as a horticulturalist to the project, but also the stunning surrounds of Erina’s Fragrant Gardens.
The Scent of Summer
“The inspiration for our gin came from that garden – it’s just such an impressive place to walk around,” says Frank who, alongside co-founder Will Miles, briefed Philip to come up with a gin that was “evocative of the Australian summer garden”. The result is Garden Grown Gin’s floral-forward offering in which two botanicals – murraya and rose – truly blossom alongside chamomile, sage, angelica, orris root and, of course, juniper. “We have a philosophy which dictates that everything in the bottle is grown in the garden,” says Frank. “It’s just the juniper that we have to buy in, as it’s very hard to grow good juniper in Australia.” Thanks to Philip’s botanical background, the distinctive flavours and aromas of the Erina gardens are perfectly captured using a process called enfleurage, which is more commonly associated with making perfume than distilling alcohol. “We use such delicate flowers and herbs, and Philip realised that if we took a more traditional gin - making process and just blasted the liquid through a basket of plants, we might not get the gentle and soft characteristics we were looking for.” With enfleurage, the flowers are picked by the Garden Grown Gin team and arranged on a bed of coconut fat for a few days. The essential oils are absorbed into the coconut fat, which is then added to the alcohol. “It’s a slightly unusual technique,” Frank admits, “but it preserves the natural aroma of the botanicals as much as possible. I love to smell the gin before I drink it, because the smell is so perfumed and it’s due to that technique.”
When Frank says handpicked, he really means handpicked. “Once those flowers are in bloom, you only get two or three days to pick them while they’re perfect. Otherwise you’ve missed your opportunity. Luckily, murraya can flower more than once a year, but you still need to be alert and ready to go.” Provenance is also really important and, after launching, Frank started looking for other opportunities to share his passion for botanicals. He approached the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, which resulted in the creation of 1,000 bottles of limited-edition Rather Royal Gin. “ If a member of the public wandered into the gardens and started picking flowers, they would be fined,” laughs Frank, “but we were very fortunate they wanted to work with us.” The collaboration has since borne even more gin. “We were asked to source ingredients from the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan, which documents the botanical life of Australia and is home to an amazing seed bank collection.” Profits from their Botanic Garden Grown Gin go directly back to the garden’s vital conservation initiatives. As Frank says: “The world relies on plants and botanicals for its future and, through the work they’re doing, we can help guarantee that.”
Smell the roses
If you find yourself on the NSW Central Coast in the future, swing by the cellar door and have a wander around the garden. In the meantime, pour yourself a serve and breathe in–on the nose, there are hints of jasmine, sweet honeysuckle and orange blossom. “I think it’s a beautifully balanced gin,” says Frank.“The thing that always strikes me is the floral nature of it – it’s very soft, very delicate. It’s the kind of gin that you shouldn’t overpower. I’m quite a traditionalist so I mix with a tonic, while pairing it with a soft herb garnish like tarragon or thyme brings out its floral nature.” And we can’t go past that beautiful green bottle. “The intention was to have something hopefully desirable, which would have a value beyond being a bottle of alcohol,” says Frank, who suggests using it as a vase to display flowers when you’re finished. Like everything else, the design was a labour of love, but Frank knows it was worth it. “We wanted to present the gin in a thoughtful and considered way, because the same care has gone into making the liquid inside – the effort that goes into a handpicked gin is huge, but it’s a level of attention that I’m very proud of.” Click here to shop all gins from Grown Spirits.
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