There’s nothing quite like finding that ‘diamond in the rough’ when exploring the High Country. It’s the baker who grinds his own flour, the winery care-taking six generations of muscat stock, or the rustic farm gate that produces polished, adventurous artisan gins giving connoisseurs a brow raise.
If you’re looking for the latter, head to Milawa. Six kilometres down Whorouly-Bobinawarrah Rd, turn onto the Hurdle Creek Still property and you’ll see a big tin shed - The StillHouse. Originally a barn, The StillHouse is clad in reclaimed tin from the old Tawonga South General Store and shaded by the majestic Blakely’s red gum from which eucalyptus is used in gin making. Inside The StillHouse you’ll most likely find founder and distiller of the family owned business, Simon Brooke-Taylor, ready with tasting glass in hand and a smooth English accent to glide you through his repertoire.
Hurdle Creek Still currently produces eight gins, all highly varied from one to the next, but it’s Simon’s process that first pricks the ears …
“We’re a little unusual in the gin world in that we make our own base spirit, whereas most gin makers will buy in their alcohol,” Simon said.
“We start with grain and make it much the same way as you make beer or whiskey until we get to the distillation part.
“Most of the grain we buy locally - direct off farms or from grain merchants.”
Once the grain is used to distil the fermentation it goes straight back into the farm - to feed the cows or to be used as fertiliser.
Hurdle Creek Still uses as many local ingredients as possible, making for some highly unique recipes, including Grain Jenever (Dutch gin - a great gin for whiskey drinkers), Dark Cacao, The Aniseed Gin, Pastis (a French aniseed aperitif), Aronia (made with locally grown aronia berries in the style of a Sloe gin), Cherry Gin (made with local cherries) and Powder Monkey - a special Navy strength gin made with 100% Australian grain and botanicals - not an easy feat when no one commercially grows juniper in Australia.
“We have our own unique recipes in terms of the blends of botanicals we use,” Simon said.
“You have to have juniper in gin, but after that you can have anything you want. We have a little bit we get from a farm up in Kancoona (Bobby’s Patch), where they have about five 20-year-old juniper bushes on the property. We use it in the Navy strength gin as it’s only a small amount - we only got nine kilos this year.
“Our Navy strength is quite unusual because all the botanicals are locally sourced - Juniper, eucalyptus leaves, pink peppercorns and cinnamon, lemon and aniseed myrtles. The peppercorns we pick locally whenever they’re ripe and the gum leaves come from the tree right outside The StillHouse.”
Summer is a great time to visit The StillHouse - the bush is in full flower and you can purchase a bottle of Cherry Gin to team with Dal Zotto Wines Prosecco and make Simon’s favourite Summer drink - a delicious ‘ginsecco.’
“Our new cherry gin is great going into Summer with Prosecco,” Simon said.
“A shot of gin, a few frozen berries and top up the glass with Prosecco. It’s a very good way to lose a Sunday afternoon!”
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