Tassie’s dashing artisan gins

Juniper Berries (Photo: Toni Paterson MW)

It was not that long ago that big brands dominated the spirit scene. However, just as craft beer revolutionised the beer industry, artisanal spirits have captured the heart of minds of sommeliers, mixologists and curious consumers.

And none more so than gin. In the 2017 Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, there were almost eighty gin entries, up from eighteen two years earlier.

Gin is certainly attractive from a manufacturing point of view. A rather lucrative business involving a relatively simple production process involving the extraction of flavours and aromas from plant derived ‘botanicals’ into a neutral spirit.

Distillers love to make gin because it is creative, relatively easy, profitable and quick to market. And spirit aficionados enjoy the sense of discovery, taste and image.

There’s almost no such thing as a standard G&T anymore in hip bars and high-end restaurants. Top establishments offer a host of options, with synergistic tonics and garnishes.

Why are consumers so fascinated with artisanal spirits? With a host of products now available, many prefer handcrafted, unique, local products which they can connect with over big volume, impersonal, mass-market labels.

Dasher + Fisher, produced by the Southern Wild Distillery in Tasmania is a new player on the Australian gin scene, co-owned by food scientist George Burgess and the Hirst family. Greg Logan, one of the directors, has been instrumental in the branding and packaging. It’s a slick operation with big plans, underpinned by high-quality product.

Burgess is the distiller, self-taught in his craft though armed with production, quality assurance and operational skills. He has worked with dairy giant Fonterra, the seaweed extract company Marinova and the pharmaceutical poppy industry.

Burgess is an affable Tasmanian with an inquisitive mind, entrepreneurial outlook, a passion for complex flavours and an enthusiasm for process. His interest in spirits started with whisky and grew from there. He perfected his methods and ingredients until he created his ultimate gin. He talks about the importance of the umami core and speaks of building layers into his gin as perfumers do with fragrance.

Along with juniper, each of the Dasher + Fisher gins contains over ten different botanicals including Tasmanian seaweed, lavender and native pepperberry. Burgess refers to these are the “Tassie Trio”, and the concentrations vary in the different gins.

Burgess places great value on his supplier relationships and farmers will spontaneously drop into the distillery with different botanicals for him to use.

Rather than aiming for homogeneity, Burgess embraces the seasonal variability that exists with some ingredients. For example, either Valencia or Navel oranges are used depending on the time of year, imprinting a subtle seasonal accent on style. Burgess likes to think of it as a ‘snapshot in time’, reflective of region and season. He uses a single shot distillation method to achieve this.

There are three core gins in the Dasher + Fisher range.

Ocean, their ‘coastal gin’, has high amounts of seaweed, with subtle yet complex notes of fragrant rose and chamomile. It is sweet-natured, soft and gentle, with wafting floral top notes and subtle pepperberry. The recommended garnish is a slice of radish. Burgess calls it a “sipping gin”, though it’s also good with tonic or in a martini. The distillation technique used is simultaneous vapour infusion and maceration.

Meadow, a modern style, is focused on lavender and balanced by citrus, rosemary, bay and sage. It is savoury, complex and expressive with spice and sweet orange. Burgess calls it his “herb garden in a glass”. Serve neat with a twist of grapefruit or use in a Negroni.

Mountain, which they call a Tasmanian Dry Gin, is the boldest of the three with pepperberry the champion. Rich, spicy and exotic, with excellent depth and persistence throughout the length of the palate. If serving neat, throw in a sprig of lavender for balance.

The copper still, designed by Burgess, allows the botanicals to be placed in three different zones. With his new-found knowledge a joint venture company, Stillsmiths was established to manufacture stills with a short lead time.

One can visit the distillery in Devonport and sample the Dasher + Fisher products at the Southern Wild Lounge + Bar or partake in a tutored gin workshop. Enjoy live music on weekends with bar food and visiting food trucks. There are plans to relocate to Providore Place, inside Devonport’s Living City development in late 2017. Future range extension will include the production of whisky.

The three Dasher + Fisher gins are distributed nationally and are available in restaurants, online and through independent liquor outlets. A sampler pack of Ocean, Meadow and Mountain is also available. The individual gins (700ml) and sample packs (3 x 200ml) retail for AUD $90.

Southern Wild Distillery

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