Interview with renowned herbalist and maker of great gin, Phillip Moore from Distillery Botanica
How did Distillery Botanica come about ?
Prior to Distillery Botanica I was the founder of Renaissance Herbs, Australia’s largest wholesale herb nursery. It got pretty busy, we got to growing close to a million plants a year at one stage! After 20 years or so I decided to change direction, but apply my knowledge of herbs to a distillery which would specialise in botanical spirits and liqueurs. It became Distillery Botanica, in 2007.
What makes your Gin unique ? Is there anything different about your distilling process ?
The Distillery Botanica Gin is (as far as we know) the only gin in the world that uses enfleurage to extract the pure aromas of rose, chamomile and murraya flowers. Enfleurage is a centuries old technique used by the French perfumers of Grasse to capture the aroma that fills the air around the finely perfumed flowers. We use it as these delicate botanicals scent and flavour often perishes under the usual distillation techniques.
Your Gin is known as Garden Grown, what does that mean ?
It’s known as Garden Grown Gin as all the botanicals (except Juniper) like the flowers of rose, chamomile and murraya and the leaves of a rare German sage (Salvia Bergarten) are grown in our garden just outside the distillery door. Hand-picked fresh they’re carried straight from the garden beds to the still to start the gin making process.
How have you chosen the botanicals and fragrances that make up Distillery Botanica Gin?
Juniper obviously picks itself as every gin must have it to qualify as a gin. We trialed a number of different Northern Hemisphere junipers, where it grows more abundantly, and settled on Macedonia where we found the fruit had a more rounded and balanced flavour. You then decide if you want to be a citrus or floral or spice or herbal. As we chose to make DB Gin a floral gin we then selected perfumed plants which would grow reliably in our climate and flower throughout the year. Hence the rose, chamomile and murraya. As a bonus our hero botanical, the murraya, is an Australian native plant which flowers very predictably, pretty much after every rain.
You did an interesting collaboration with the Sydney Botanic Gardens, tell us about that.
In 2017 the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney approached us to collaborate with them and their Harbourside Gardens. We’d done an event with them perviously and on that night we joked that we should make gin out of their garden. Just a few weeks later, with plants all carefully plucked from their iconic garden we began to make our Rather Royal Gin. We only made a limited run, all the bottles sold out and we were very humbled when it won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition. A great result but more importantly the funds generated by this venture were used to fund further scientific research at the garden.
Are there any other site-specific collaborations on the horizon ?
We are currently researching a gin to be made with some rarely seen plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens research centre at Mt Annan. Plus were always on the look out to make gin from interesting gardens (big or small) so if you come across any….let us know!
How would you suggest Gin is best served ?
There’s lots of gin out there at the moment, and many, many different serves, garnishes and twists. But as our gin is delicate and subtle in flavour we do actually recommend the simple gin and tonic. Keep it simple and enjoy! (30ml DB Gin, 100ml Fevertree Indian Tonic Water, garnish with 3 frozen blueberries)
What makes you most proud of Distillery Botanica ?
It’s honestly not about awards and accolades. We genuinely try and make the best spirits we possibly can and be at the forefront of the Australian Spirits Industry to help lead by example and inspire future spirit makers. But winning seven golds and half a dozen silvers at the most prestigious spirit shows in the world certainly helps you know you’re making good stuff!