Derby Day is a special time of year for us all at Four Pillars. For one thing, it's our distillery door’s birthday. And for another, it marks a very special Four Pillars tradition: the annual release of our Australian Christmas Gin.
This gin is Cam's tribute to four things he loves: Australia, Christmas, gin and his late mum, Wilma.
Each year Wilma would use the 1968 Australian Women’s Weekly recipe to make her puds on Victoria Derby Day, while the rest of the family listened to the races. To this day, one of Cam's great childhood memories is how his house would smell like Christmas over Cup weekend.
And so, of course, the 2017 Australian Christmas Gin will be available from Saturday 4 November (Derby Day).
"I found the exact recipe when I was cleaning out some boxes a few years back, and thought it'd be fun to start doing it with my girls every year.
The first time 'round Viv was our chief measurer and in charge of the playlist (Taylor got a decent run). She's was meticulous, down to the last currant.
Lizie was our stirrer (quite appropriate) and literally got her hands dirty - not sure she knows we have a sink because I was chipping dried pudding mix of various furniture for weeks afterwards.
And then we had Alice, because no Christmas pudding day is complete without a supervisor (or heckler), so she talked some good game and was enthusiastic in offering advice on something she knew nothing about.
And Leah and I cleaned up the mess! Our kitchen looked like Santa's reindeer had eaten the mushrooms near the back shed...
But even as I was buying all the ingredients at the shops; mixed peel, oranges, dried fruit; I just kept thinking how well it would all distill. And with juniper having such a great pine needle character to begin with, it just started to make sense really quickly."
So Cam distilled the Christmas puddings by putting them in the botanical basket of our still and distilling a base of juniper, cinnamon, star anise, coriander seed and angelica over the top of them.
He was also working on a gin aged in 125-year-old ex-Grants Whisky barrels that stored Rutherglen Muscat for 80 years, which he blended with the pudding gin. To finish, he added a slight tweak of Rutherglen Classic Muscat to round out the palate with a touch of richness.
The result smelt like gin and tasted like Christmas. With juniper-led Christmas tree notes and plum pudding character it is perfect sipped neat, poured over your pudding or added to egg-nog.
And additionally, for our 2017 release, Cam also added a touch of our own muscat that has been sitting in barrels which previously aged Pedro Ximenez. So we got more depth, more complexity. An even more Christmas-y gin.
It might just be our most lovingly crafted gin, from the multiple techniques and processes that have gone into making it taste extraordinary, to the original artwork commissioned for each label (2016's 'Warm and Christmas' by Australian artist Jade Suine, and 2017's Christmas Beetle by Darren Song).
This year all the Four Pillars kids helped make next year's puddings - Mackenzies, Gregors and Joneses. And as an addition to Wilma's go-to recipe, we even added a splash of last year's Australian Christmas Gin.
Our 2017 Australian Christmas Gin will be released on Derby Day, Saturday 4 November, at the distillery and online.