Distilling The West Winds Gins

Posted by Paul White on

The original vision for West Winds was to develop a range of gins that highlighted the amazing native botanicals we have in Australia.  To do this we set out to launch the business with  two gins, both savoury in character, one at 40% incorporating toasted Australian wattle seed and one at 50% incorporating native Australian bush tomato.

Turning the vision into a commercial reality took another year and 45 distillations using a New Zealand Amphora PDA-1 test still before we undertook the process of scaling up to our 150 litre Arnold Holstein copper pot still. During this evolutionary journey we discovered that the creation of a world-class gin involves a mix of artistic vision, science, perseverance and, frankly, a good dose of serendipity.

We firstly selected a beverage grade neutral spirit made from Australian wheat as the starting point for our development.

Most typical gins follow a simple flavor journey of citrus then spice, followed by earth and juniper notes. These flavor profiles can be achieved in an infinite number of ways. Assuming a high-grade distillate base and a pure water source, the selection and ratio of botanicals is the key to developing a world-class gin.

We decided to start by using juniper and coriander seed as a base, and then to build up the profiles of our first two gins, The Cutlass and The Sabre from there.

Using a range of ingredients traditionally used in gin as well as a number of uniquely Australian ingredients that we thought would help us build the flavor profile we were looking for, we macerated and distilled each ingredient separately so that we could identify the characters that each botanical could bring to the final product. Where possible throughout the process we looked for Australian botanicals that would be a suitable substitute for traditional botanicals. The use of locally grown and native ingredients forms a core part of our story - our ‘terroir’ so to speak.

The choice of the fresh botanicals was key to the final profile of the gins. These botanicals and ingredients really help tell our story. Local lemons and limes from Gingin in Western Australia are fresh peeled to provide the citrus component. The addition of fresh coriander root then bought the two gins to life.

The use of both lemon and lime is considered fairly nontraditional but we felt they worked much better than other typical citrus mixes as lemon and lime work beautifully with the addition of lemon myrtle and cinnamon myrtle. The myrtles form a bridging gap between the citrus and spice notes in both The Sabre and The Cutlass.

Fresh coriander root and coriander seed form the predominate spice notes. The fresh coriander is fairly unique in flavor and also provides aromatic grassy notes when used in conjunction with coriander seed.

Earthy tones are achieved using more ‘traditional’ botanicals like liquorice, angelica and allspice.

The smooth textural mouth feel is realized by the addition of Australian wattle seed to The Sabre and Australian native bush tomato to The Cutlass.

Part of the tomato family, there are over 100 species of Solanums (Wild Tomatoes) in Australia. However, only six are known to be edible. In the red, sandy deserts in central Australia the plants grow quickly after summer rains, mainly from dormant root stock which can last for many years between favourable seasons.

We completed our development phase in November 2010 and then scaled up the recipe for our Arnold Holstein still. Just weeks after our first commercial runs we received a Double Gold medal for The Cutlass and a Gold medal for The Sabre at the 2011 San Francisco International Spirits Competition.

We have since added our navy strength gin, The Broadside, to our portfolio along with a number of other small-batch gins and have installed a new 600 litre still, "Pugwash", at our distillery in Margaret River.