11 June 2024

International accolades for a very Australian gin in world first

| Claire Sams
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A man holding a bottle of gin kneeling next to a dog

A taste of Australia is in award-winning gins from North of Eden. Photo: David Rogers Photography.

A Bega Valley gin distillery has taken home two awards from a prestigious international show in a world first.

North of Eden Distillery’s Admiral Gin was awarded a gold medal (with 95 points) from the recent International Wine and Spirit Competition’s Spirit Judging in London, while its Classic Gin took home silver (92 points).

After waiting through the judges’ rounds of blind tastings, owner and head distiller Gavin Hughes said it was a relief to come out on top of the competition.

“To walk away with those medals was just outstanding,” he said.

“Going up against 4000 different products and actually winning awards like this is something quite special.

“It reinforces that we’re on the right track and we can grow world-class juniper in Australia.”

While North of Eden’s gins have previously won awards, there is a special twist with the Classic and the Admiral gins: both are now made using Australian-grown juniper berries.

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The berry – which is actually a seed cone – is a key ingredient in gin-making, but much of it is imported to Australia.

North of Eden switched to juniper grown less than 100 km away in Bombala, in the NSW Snowy Mountains region.

“You can’t get feedback that’s much better than that,” Mr Hughes said.

The transition began with a relaunched Classic Gin in December 2023.

“The thing about this [Australian] juniper is that it really lifts that piney and fresh note that the berry gives to the gin,” Mr Hughes said.

“Think about cooking a meal. If you use old vegetables, they don’t taste as good as fresh vegetables.”

Side-by-side photographs of two different gin bottles

The two re-launched gins have taken home prizes at an international competition. Photos: David Rogers Photography.

Working with Australian-grown juniper has meant a few extra steps, Mr Hughes said, as they process the berries for storage and, eventually, use.

“The only thing that’s changed in our process is we’ve swapped out the imported berries with local berries,” he said.

“We sort and dry the product so we can continue to use the product all year round [after the harvest].”

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As for the rest of the North of Eden range, that will be moved over to Australian-grown juniper once there is a larger supply of Australian-grown juniper.

“It is a long haul [process], because it takes six to seven years before your plantation actually gets to a point where you’re going to get a commercial harvest.

“It’s not going to happen overnight.

“Going forward, we should have adequate supply to move everything across as the plantation becomes more mature.”

Mr Hughes said the success of the re-released gins helped to place Australian juniper berries on the world stage.

“I believe we’re the first to use Australian juniper and actually win a gold medal for it,” he said.

“Being the first to that shows we’re continuing to innovate at the edge of where the industry is going.

“Now we’ve got some validation that you can actually grow fantastic juniper in Australia, I think we will find more people going down that path.”

North of Eden Artisan Distillery is at 13594 Princes Highway, Stony Creek. Keep up with them via their website and Facebook page.

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