Food & Wine

The love affair that led the Ladbrooks to gin and whisky

Edwina Mason30 July 2022

Possibly the highest gin joint in Australia has opened in Tumbarumba and it bears all the hallmarks of a Prohibition-style speakeasy. Photo: Robbie Ladbrook.

Of all the gin joints in the world, there’s one taking the popular spirit to a whole new high in the NSW South West Slopes, putting a botanical spring in everybody’s step.

An unexpected love affair led Neil and Robbie Ladbrook to uprooting their lives, moving kids and cavoodle, Mr Darcy, up the steep slopes of the NSW western alpine foothills into the quiet and quaint town of Tumbarumba.

“We visited Tumbarumba and were quickly enchanted by the magic of the region,” they said.

But a lifelong (adult of course) love of whisky, gin, science and all things creative came together to launch them into a new adventure crafting unique High Country spirits.

Neil swapped a career in IT for whisky, wood and workmanship, taking the reins as head distiller, engineer and craftsman. His days brewing, sparging, malting and smoking are all about achieving the right flavour profile which distills the spirit of that part of the world where wild timbered and wide open spaces dominate the landscape.

Robbie is the gincrafter and botanicals expert whose background in science and education is the reason the Ladbrooks immediately began planting three acres of demonstration foraging gardens onsite in Tumbarumba.

Days spent distilling this into bottles of alcoholic deliciousness also carry dreams of establishing a gincrafting academy so others can enjoy the bush to bottle experience.

Newcomers in the heartland of cool climate wines, the Ladbrook’s small, humble home-based craft business launched as Ladbroken Distilling Co a year ago.

Their first batch of Eliksir Signature Gin went on sale via their website, due to COVID lockdowns.

They were snapped up and sold out in two weeks.

This was their standing start.

“2021 lockdowns and travel restrictions meant we had to focus on our online sales for the first few months before getting out and about to farmer’s markets and events where we were able to properly share with people our taste of the Snowy Valleys,” Robbie said.

The community support, they say, has been terrific with local restaurants, bars, and retailers in the region really getting behind the couple.

The Ladbrooks have been welcomed into the small mountain community which now has a couple of bright new plumes in its tourism armoury. Photo: Robbie Ladbrook.

“The business has continued to grow in the past 12 months, and we now have five different gins available with special seasonal editions showcasing local produce with infusions such as spring strawberry gin, summer raspberry gin and autumn-spiced apple and fig gin,” Robbie said.

Other new releases are still under development but visitors are often able to act as a “ginny pig” and taste some of the experiments as a market testing exercise, Robbie said.

Now the husband-and-wife team have taken to an invigorating new level, officially opening the doors to their shiny copper-door-fronted Tumbarumba distillery tasting room at 7 Albury Street, near the heart of the town.

The space – small and cosy – includes a tasting bar, a viewing window into the production area and a large apothecary of ingredients on display so everyone has the chance to see the distillation process and botanical ingredients up close.

“I love the gasp of surprise that people make as they come inside,’ said Robbie, “the sumptuous décor makes it a warm and cosy place to “gindulge” in a new experience and learn a little bit about what we are crafting here”.

“It’s great to be able to finally welcome people to our site and introduce them not only to our craft and spirits but also show them the different plants that we grow on site and use in our gins”.

The business is growing to include masterclasses, distillery experiences topped with a tasty testing of the merchandise and now includes a Saturday night cocktail club – mimicking a prohibition-style speakeasy where frocking up is highly encouraged.

Sarah Hope, Business Development Manager for Destination Riverina Murray, said the venue was a welcome addition to the numerous award-winning cellar doors and foodie experiences already operating in the Snowy Valleys and Riverina region.

Visit www.ladbroken.com for more information and bookings.

 

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