Gin and Tonic. Martini. Negroni.
These were the drinks used to entice us into trying the new Four Pillars Gin at a launch at Mother Vine, a wine bar in the East End of Adelaide.
Four Pillars is a small distillery in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, operating since late 2013, with distiller Cameron Mackenzie at the helm. Their star is ‘Wilma’ a copper pot still, built by CARL, a world-renowned manufacturer of artisan stills based in Germany. Wilma is named after MacKenzie’s mother.
The Four Pillars gin is crafted on, as the name suggests, four pillars: Wilma, water, botanicals and a commitment to the craft. And there is certainly a lot of passion behind this brand.
The three gins we tasted were the Rare Dry Gin (41.8% alcohol by volume), the Barrel Aged Gin (43.8%) and the so-called “gunpowder proof” Navy Strength Gin (58.8%).
The Rare Dry was the first gin Four Pillars produced, adding botanicals to make it different to the London Dry Gin. And wondering how their gin would compare on the world stage, they entered it into the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and won double gold!
And it’s the botanicals that make this gin different. Four Pillars originally distilled with over 80 different botanicals and ended up with these 10: juniper berries, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, Tasmanian pepperberry leaf, cinnamon, lavender, angelica, star anise, lemon myrtle and fresh oranges.
While some might think it’s unusual to use fresh oranges in the distilling of gin, Mackenzie explains that it supports the spicier botanicals like coriander, cardamom and star anise. He says the aim of the Tassie pepper is to provide warmth rather than heat, and the lemon myrtle adds a beautiful, complex and unique alternative to the more common lemon peel.
The Barrel Aged Gin is rested in French oak barrels between three and six months, and has a hint of nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon.
Four Pillars will also soon be releasing the Navy Strength Gin – described as “gunpowder proof” because of an old seafaring tale. The tale goes that a gin was only worth drinking if it spilt onto gunpowder and the powder still lit! At 58.8% ABV, you can believe there’s plenty of firepower behind this gin! To the existing botanicals Four Pillars has added fresh ginger and turmeric to complement the Asian spices, and replaced two thirds of the whole oranges with fresh finger limes.
The G&T we tried was made by the expert bar staff at Mother Vine with 45ml Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, 90ml Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic water and either ruby grapefruit or blood orange. A lovely refreshing start.
Following this was a Martini with 60ml Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, 15ml dry vermouth and orange or lemon peel.
And finishing up with a Negroni: the recipe provided by Four Pillars describes it as 45ml Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, 45ml Campari, 45ml Vermouth and an orange segment. However, we were treated to the Navy Strength Gin, and wow – it certainly packed an explosive punch.
Mother Vine was an ideal venue, with room to mingle and delight in the drinks and hors d’oeuvres, which included dukkah-crusted salmon with tahini and dill, mushroom taleggio with dill and pork belly (with crackling!) and sweet and sour onion jam.
While the gins themselves were impressive, so were the stories behind each creation. Hopefully Four Pillars will soon release a marmalade with all the oranges they have left over from the distilling process.
* I was an invited guest.