The entire idea for making Four Pillars barrel-aged gins was inspired by what Stu calls 'a revelation in a bottle' which he and Cam tried during their now infamous US gin-reconnaissance road trip.
It was an Old Tom style of gin from Ransom Spirits in Sheridan, Oregon. And we were completely and utterly seduced.
We encountered flavours we had never seen in gin before – toasty oak nuances in the background, a softness on the palate and yet still enough botanicals for it be unmistakably gin.
We could sip it neat. We could imagine it in a hundred cocktails. We were a little bit in love. And we wanted to make one of our own.
So, we started to put some Rare Dry Gin into old chardonnay barrels as we were bottling our first batches at the end of 2013. We wanted to make a Barrel Aged Gin that was uniquely Four Pillars.
The choice of barrel was of course crucial, and it was an easy choice to look to our neighbouring wineries in the magnificent Yarra Valley region.
Our first two barrels came from the cellars of Tom Carson. The first winemaker to win the prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophy, Tom's vigneron skills have seen to the creation of the wines of Yabby Lake, Heathcote Estate and his own label Serrat. So needless to say, we were pretty confident in his purple hands.
We filled them straight away with Rare Dry Gin at a slightly higher proof. We also subtly adjusted the level of each botanical to allow for the oak.
As the assertiveness of American oak bodes well with bourbon, so does the delicacy of French with gin.
So our first two seven-year-old 225L barriques from Yabby Lake were previously used to mature premium Chardonnay, coopered by the outstanding Redmond and from forests in Limoges.
These barrels leant a distinct blonde colour to the gin – so we christened them the “Sisters Golden Hair,” a tribute to our inspirational road trip and that awesome song by America (which was the soundtrack to our trip).
Six months later our first Barrel Aged Gin came to be. Then our second release won gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2015, and it's just been getting better ever since...
Our solera of Chardonnay barrels has grown from two barrels to 16 since our first release. You can see the solera sitting tall behind and to the right of Wilma in the distillery. From release No_7 we have christened this our Chardonnay Barrel Gin.
And then we have our Sherry Cask Gin, a blend from our solera of 42 Spanish Sherry and Australian Apera casks (from one of our mates who makes famous Australian fortified wines). This solera stretches out behind both Jude and Wilma.
The final blend has been given a tweak of Amontillado Sherry from Spain, producing a sipping gin with nutty, sweet flavours plus juniper and notes of crushed coriander seed. The response to this new barrel aged expression has been phenomenal, and it won a Gold at the 2018 Global Gin Masters.
We released our eighth Chardonnay Barrel and second Sherry Cask on Saturday 20 April - check them out here!
We'll be straight up here in saying these aren't tonic water gins - they're so interesting and nuanced, we suggest enjoying them neat or on the rocks. But you can check out a few more suggestions here.