The Never Never Distilling Co launches at Indie Spirits Tasting Sydney

Sean & George at the Distillery

Indie Spirits Tasting Sydney is back for its third year – this time at Restaurant Hubert on Sunday, 17th September from 1pm till 4pm. The event, which is also staged in both Brisbane and Perth, is all about great spirits and good times.

Tickets are just $55 (plus booking fee) online and include access to over 30 exhibitors showcasing more than 120 craft spirits, with master distillers on hand to chat and free seminars diving deep into the world of indie spirits. There’s only 4 days left of our early bird discount ($20 off!) Click here to get your tickets now.

If you like supporting small brands and uncovering little known gems then the Indie Spirits Tasting is tailor-made for you. Officially launching their brand new hooch at the upcoming event are the team from The Never Never Distilling Co. We sat down with their ‘Hoarder of Orders’ and well-known industry personality Sean Baxter to find out about what happens when three mates pool their cash and buy a still named Wendy.

Give me a little bit of background on your brands and what prompted you to start them. The Never Never Distilling Co. was formed after three friends decided to join together, pool their cash and collective experiences, and buy a still. Having spent my entire adult life working in or around bars, I wanted to create something that celebrated what bartenders like to drink. Looking across the Australian spirit category, there is certainly some room for reinterpretation of spirit style and flavour, to do something a little differently. It’s not enough to just create delicious spirit, we want to make them the most flavoursome spirits on the market. This return to flavour is at the heart of everything that we create.

What products do you have in your portfolio? Currently our signature release is the Triple Juniper Gin. We treat the juniper in three distinct ways, partially steeped, partially in the pot and partially in the vapour, in carefully selected balance, to capture both the bright and the earthy qualities of our favourite botanical.

We will also be releasing our first Dark Series bottling. The Dark Series is something that happens in the shadows, away from the conventions of the industry. It communicates something uncertain, unworldly and experimental, a place where we can be creative and invite our collaborators to do the same. This will be our testing ground for potential future releases.

Tell us a little bit about your distillery and your distilling process. Our distillery is currently situated in a space leased from the Big Shed Brewing Concern in Royal Park. Big Shed started in a similar way to Never Never, with a couple of mates in the back of a shed spending every second of their spare time on their passion. We were in need of a space and Big Shed were kind enough to make room for us. Not only that, but the team there were more than happy to give us an inside look at their brewing operations.

We are currently distilling a couple of days a week. The still is a 300L copper pot, heated using a pressurised water-filled stainless steel jacket and electric elements. The set up includes an offset 5-plate rectification column and gin vapour basket, both of which can be disconnected from the copper pot if required. This gives us extraordinary flexibility in terms of what we can create and suits our varied production schedule and spirited ambitions.

Tell us some of the highlights of a day in your life making booze. Currently, production duties are shared between all three of us. George Georgiadis usually takes the lead in distillation, and shares a few insights into what inspires him. “When making whisky, it’s definitely the smell of mashed grain. So much goodness in that grain! For gin, it’s when the spirit first flows over the parrot and the bright aroma of juniper fills the room. It marks the beginning of something special.”

Upon leaving his previous fulltime career in finance, he wanted to do something that was creative and exciting. “I was drawn into this line of work because if the enormous pleasure involved in creating a spirit that leaves an impression on people. I remember the wow moment when I first tried certain drinks and want to give that experience to others.”

The spirits industry has changed a lot in the last 5 years, making way for events like the Indie Spirits Tasting. Why do you think this is? I have been on the front lines when it comes to witnessing the development of the Australian palate. When I first stepped into a bar in the year 2000 (jesus, that’s a long time ago), the beer selection was lager and the wine was red, white or sparkling. Over the next several decades we have seen an awakening of the palate that has grown through every category in Australia. The craft cocktail revolution of the last twenty years is beginning to be felt in the craft spirit categories, where flavour has finally trumped price point. People want better quality products from local providers and are happier to pay a slightly higher price for them.

Where do you see the craft spirits industry heading in the next ten years? Hopefully we see the small spirits industry in Australia continue to prosper and grow each year.  The more the merrier. Even though Australians continue to enjoy spirits across every category the percentage of those drinking Australian spirits is still very small. We want to change that statistic. I think you will begin to see more and more spirits entering the market and really push the boundaries in terms of flavour and style.

What do you think will be the hot new trend in the drinks world in 2018? I think we will begin to see a few off shoots occur from the gin industry. I agree with a few other industry legends that Aquavit will pop it’s head up a little more than it currently is. I also think brandy will continue to gain traction especially Pisco-style white spirit and apple brandies here in Australia with a greater focus on varietal style. We have massive grape and apple industries, it’s only natural that more spirit brands will emerge to take advantage of these local producers.

What are some of your favourite craft spirit brands (other than your own) and what do you like about them? Four Pillars set the benchmark for the Australian small gin category. I’ve always loved the way they are able to excite and innovate, which is hard in an industry as congested as ours. Their Bloody Shiraz is not only a brilliant gin product, but a brilliant wine product as well, it merges categories and brings new drinkers to each.

However Peter Bignell at Belgrove Distillery takes the cake. What one man has the capacity to achieve on a limited budget and sheer hard work is an inspiration to us all. Whether it’s his converted spin dryer turned drum malter, or his own hand-hammered still, or his personally coopered barrels or the fact he still drives around Hobart collecting spent cooking oil for his bio-diesel that runs his entire operation. He typifies the fire in the belly of independent distillers and is a bloody national treasure.

Are you launching anything new at Indie Sydney? If so, what is it? Who will be on hand to discuss the brands at the event? The Indie will effectively be our launch in Sydney, with Triple Juniper Gin and our first Dark Series release being available to taste. It will be an opportunity for bartenders and punters alike to come in and try our spirit for the very first time. At this stage it will be George and I sharing the role of taking customers through the brand, with Tim staying home to continue our production roster.

Triple Juniper Gin Tasting Notes

“Our Triple Juniper Gin is a juniper judo chop right in the flavour bone”

Nose: Pine needle, brushed rosemary, lemon oil, earthy root vegetable extending into fragrant pepper.

Palate: Immediately fragrant with a bright citrus character up front. Oily and intense, the juniper is prominent, supported by the earthy undertones of angelica and orris root and extended by the addition of wooded spices and pepper.

Finish: Long and complex with a rich creaminess that dries out almost immediately. There is a changing dynamic of juniper, first bright and fragrant that develops into an earthy more resinous finish. The length is long and luxurious.

Make sure you head to the Indie Spirits Tasting in Sydney to find out more about these new, homegrown brands. Click here to book your tickets.

To keep updated with all the distilleries, spirits, and seminars at the Indie Spirits Tasting events happening around the country, make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and keep an eye on indiespiritstasting.com.au.

Indie Spirits Tasting Sydney forms part of the massive Sydney Bar Week line-up of events. If you’re interested in exhibiting at the Indie Spirits Tasting Sydney, email david@spantonmedia.com