Republic of Fremantle Distilling is all about the ethos of ‘grape to glass’

Republic of Fremantle Spirits will be showing their wares at the upcoming Indie Spirits Tasting in Sydney on Sunday, 19th September, a key event in the Sydney Bar Week line-up. To find out more go to sydneybarweek.com.au or indiespiritstasting.com.au

Republic of Fremantle’s Flagship Range of Aromatic Gin, Full Bodied Gin and Signature Vodka is now available to purchase online and in a selection of premium Western Australian bottle shops, bars and restaurants.

An urban distillery in the heart of Fremantle’s bustling West End, Republic of Fremantle was established in 2019 as a collective for the independently minded. It’s a place for those who shun convention to pursue the different and the better, and it’s this ethos that is imbued in every corner of the distillery.

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One of the few distilleries in the world crafting their spirits from scratch, Republic of Fremantle use innovative ‘grape to glass’ distilling methods to create their base spirit from locally sourced wine.

Sourcing Verdelho from 100-year-old vines in the Swan Valley, Republic of Fremantle’s Master Distiller Oliver Kitson carefully double distils the wine in the custom-built Müller copper still. It’s this process of double distillation that creates a base spirit that is pure, clean, crisp and exceptionally silk smooth, whilst uniquely also retaining the perfect hint of character from the wine.

Q&A: Oliver Kitson

We took the chance to have a chat with Master Distiller, Oliver Kitson and find out more about this brand.

Tell us a little bit about your distillery/brand I.e. when it started, where it is, who’s behind it etc.?
Republic of Fremantle is an urban distillery in the heart of Fremantle’s bustling West End on Pakenham St established in 2019 by Fremantle locals Jason Townes and Matt Giudice (the partners behind Fremantle’s Strange Company and Ronnie Nights) and John McVeigh.
We are a collective for the independently minded. Those who shun convention to pursue the different and the better. We start our meticulous process not at distillation but from the harvest of locally grown grapes in Western Australia, to craft the ultimate pure grape based spirit. Our grape base spirit is a vibrant canvas on which we bring our uniquely silky-smooth and complex vodka and gin spirits to life. Using a grape base is a labour of love, but we do it we believe it’s worth it.

“I originally set out to be a scientist completing an Honours degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is an amazing city to explore and I would go to the amazing bars and cafés and quickly spend all the money I’d have saved up working over the holidays. This eventually led me to home brewing and discovering you can do a Masters in Brewing and Distilling in the same city.”

In addition to producing world-class gins and vodka, our Distillery, a renovated warehouse, features a Bar + Kitchen, where guests can come together and share the spirit. Meanwhile, ‘Gin School’ sessions offer gin aficionados the opportunity to blend their own botanicals in mini pot stills and take home a bottle of their own uniquely crafted spirit.

Why? What made you go into such a challenging industry? What were your motivations?
I originally set out to be a scientist completing an Honours degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is an amazing city to explore and I would go to the amazing bars and cafés and quickly spend all the money I’d have saved up working over the holidays. This eventually led me to home brewing and discovering you can do a Masters in Brewing and Distilling in the same city. I have always enjoyed making something and being able share stuff with people and celebrate it and so I thought this is the job for me.

What’s a typical day like for you?
I get the boiler on straight away and then load the still with wine. Once it is being heated up it’s finally coffee time! I check emails while I wait for the foreshots cut and then start collecting the good stuff (the hearts). Then I load our gin still with the unmacerated botanicals into the pot and flavour chamber and begin distilling that too. Have a snack on the excess figs or apple prepared for vapour infusion while checking our distillate coming of both stills. Prepare the wine for the following day’s distillation in the conditioning tank keeping an eye on when to cut the tails on the gin still and feints on the spirit still. Assess our grape to glass spirits in the distillers’ lab to make sure they’re up to scratch. Cool, empty and clean the stills while I have a G&T with the Aromatic or a negroni with the Full Bodied.

We’ve had to deal with a pandemic. How has this affected you?
We were developing our gins just before the first lockdown and having a base spirit we make from scratch with its own unique flavour profile made balancing the recipes more difficult than using neutral spirit. While the pandemic did delay our bottles it did take the pressure off with research and development allowing me to create a duo of gins that I’m very proud of.

Tell us about your brands/ products?
Our flagship spirits start life as Verdelho from a 100-year old vineyard, one of the original plantings in the Swan Valley.

The concentrated sugars in the grapes and our 36 plate column still allow us to take the base spirit to 95% – the magic mark that allows the subtle fruit flavours and delicate floral notes of the grapes to carry through to our eau de vie – the flawless heart of the distillate – is captured to create a base spirit of unmatched purity and smoothness.

For our double distilled Signature Vodka, the base spirit is simply blended with pure water to bring it down to a bottling strength of 42%. With no flavourings or aging to hide behind, it is a testament to our Master Distiller’s craft.

To create our two flagship gins; Aromatic Gin and Full Bodied Gin, the base spirit goes on an additional journey through bespoke copper still, where our distillers tease out select flavours from an array of botanicals.

Plans for the future?
All our spirits are distilled from grape to glass with a commitment to provenance and quality. We are looking to continue as we have started making characterful products from Western Australian wine. COVID gave me time to lay down a several casks of rather special brandy, we distilled Plantagenet rosé and returned it to some of their red wine barrels and it’s now aging at our distillery.

Tips on becoming a distiller…

  • If you want to build a career in the industry the first thing you need to do is get a little work experience. Understanding whether this is really for you is important, it’s naive to think that the job of a distiller is just tasting spirits and lounging around in tweed because of Instagram. The reality is early mornings, late nights, hard work and a lot of laundry.
  • Secondly get a formal qualification and learn about the science of distilling. The WSET level 3 or IBD certificate in distilling are both excellent qualifications for those wishing to begin their journey in making spirits. Having a background education in STEM is a huge advantage too but don’t stop learning, things have moved quickly with technological advances as well as new trends and it’s easy to get
    left in the past.
  • Be kind and be humble. The distilling community is a tight knit crowd and there are always people excited to see what each other is making and to help each other out.
  • Work for a reputable distillery and seek out great mentors who are genuine experts. Learn how to operate everything safely and manage every aspect of production operations involved in making not just the specific spirit that interests you but a whole range of products.

Tasting Notes

SIGNATURE VODKA:
A subtle and elegant vodka with hints of citrus and honeydew melon, whilst the finish has a remarkably clean character and is silky-smooth. A gin lovers vodka.
AROMATIC GIN:
A contemporary citrus forward style gin for ultimate refreshment.
Tasting notes: A zesty burst of fresh citrus, with subtle fresh apricot tones, and a lively honeyed ginger finish. Delicate lavender floral notes slowly reveal themselves.
BOTANICAL BILL:
Juniper, Coriander, Lemongrass, Apricot, Lavender, Ginger, Grapefruit, Apple
FULL BODIED GIN:
A classic dry gin with bold herbal and peppery flavours featuring a luxurious spiced finish.
Tasting notes: An elegant aroma of ripe red fruits and rosemary, before a domineering juniper, forest fruit flavours and a teasing woody undertone combine for an alluring long peppery finish.
BOTANICAL BILL:
Juniper, Coriander, Pink Peppercorn, Cranberry, Cinnamon, Clove, Figs, Rosemary

Republic of Fremantle Spirits will be showing their wares at the upcoming Indie Spirits Tasting in Sydney on Sunday, 19th September, a key event in the Sydney Bar Week line-up. To find out more go to sydneybarweek.com.au or indiespiritstasting.com.au. For all exhibitor enquiries email david@spantonmedia.com

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