Move over winery tours, gin distillery hopping is the latest trend to hit Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges with craft distillers making waves across the globe with their award-winning gins. Whether you’re looking to sip an aromatic gin on the rocks or linger with a gin inspired cocktail, here’s a guide to some of the best distilleries in the region to go on the ultimate gin-inspired road trip.
Want to go on a gin road trip but don’t want to drive? Let Shane from the Regional Wanderer do the hard work for you. The Gin Safariis designed as an adventure through Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges gin wonderland with visits to Big Tree Distillery, Mountain Distilling and Animus Distillery. Go behind the scenes of life at a distillery to find out how gin is made while tasting an impressive range of award-winning local gins. Feast on a shared ‘European style’ lunch at the picturesque Mountain Distilling. Finish up by learning how to make the perfect martini by watching the masters at work then have the chance to make your own and marvel at the master you’ve become!
Start your gin journey at the impossibly picturesque Mountain Distilling, nestled in the heart of Mount Macedon. Founders George Cremasco and Michael Harris, produce the gin on-site using their own copper pot stills. New growth pine needles and mountain pepperberry are locally foraged and teamed with fresh orange zest and lemon to craft a gin reminiscent of fresh mountain air and the aroma of tall pines. Their gin has just won Gold in the 2019 International Wine and Spirit Competition. Venture up to the cellar door’s upper deck to breathe in the (actual) fresh mountain air and take in the spectacular views over the vineyard and the ranges beyond. Mountain Distilling hold spirit tastings every weekend at their shared cellar door with Mount Towrong Vineyard. Don’t go home without trying their new gin and tonic cans, the perfect drink for spring.
Big Tree Distillery is the lovechild of Gary Jago and Catherine Crothers, a husband and wife team who loved gin so much they decided to make their own, naming it after the ‘Big Tree’ at their property, under which they were married. Their award-winning gin is created from fresh rainwater collected from Jack Springs Farm and a unique mix of fresh and dried botanicals that are either imported, locally foraged or farm-grown. Perch at their newly opened cellar door and try their full range, including the traditional Elegant Dry or Claude Navy Strength, which packs an extra punch of native Australian botanicals and a touch of Southern Sassafras foraged from the Victorian mountains. Don’t miss their zesty cumquat-infused seasonal gin and Ruby’s elderflower gin liqueur which is made using hand-picked elderflowers foraged from the farm’s elderberry trees during spring. Go behind the scenes in the distillery and meet ‘Beryl’, their Australian copper pot still to find out how their farm-crafted gin is made. Better yet, sign up for their distilling course where you will learn to make your own.
From the humble beginnings of four best friends brewing small-batch spirits in their Fitzroy North garage, Animus has scaled up their operations a notch, moving into a foodie hot spot – Piper Street in Kyneton. This sustainably-minded ‘cocktail bar meets working distillery’ uses the highest grade of 100% Australian grain spirit, which is triple filtered to create the purest base for capturing the soul of their botanicals. Sink into one of their chesterfields and soak in all the aromas of a working distillery as fresh botanicals are prepared on-site, and the gin flows generously from their still. If you prefer things straight up, enjoy a gin tasting, starting with their classic Macedon Dry Gin infused with lemon myrtle and mountain pepperberry, followed by the South East Asian-influenced Ambrosian and finishing with the Arboretum – a complex herbaceous gin with hints of strawberry gum leaf and native bush tomato. Or linger with one of their signature gin cocktails, martinis or an Animus Gin Flight, a must for gin and tonic fans.
Further west, you can transport your senses to a bygone era at Herbal Lore and the Terra Australis Distillery. Housed in the back streets of Daylesford in the Old Buttery Factory, the building has been transformed into a cellar door and distillery dedicated to creating memorable, ‘life-enhancing’ concoctions. Here the staff can guide you on a comprehensive tasting of their range of herbal liqueurs and elixirs made with medicinal herbs crafted by their master blenders, each having their own personality and style. Terra Australis produce three gins – Sweet Jennifer, Lady Susanne and Navy Strength which are expertly crafted with rare and specially chosen botanicals which are top secret.
It would be wise to eat while touring the region’s gin havens. Set on a spectacular 125-acre estate, Sault Restaurant is one of the region’s finest restaurants with a modern Australian menu, which showcases produce fresh from the kitchen garden. Here you can enjoy a spectacular tasting menu crafted by head chef Hugh Maxwell matched with sumptuous gin cocktails. The Berry Bramble, showcasing Animus Gin is a herbaceous melody of cassis, lemon juice, hibiscus and tonic, studded with mixed berries, while the Animus Classic combines the distillery’s award-winning Arboretum Gin with fresh lemon and rosemary finished with pink peppercorns and limes to create the perfect palate cleanser. Kick back, relax and sip on one of their gin cocktails while enjoying the breathtaking views over the lake and the Wombat State Forest beyond.
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All photography by Adam Neylon