Updated: Sep 1, 2019
-North of Eden’s two gins win medals at the 2019 International Wine & Spirit Competition
-Small batch distillery uses 1000-year-old technology and South Coast botanicals
-Leap of faith pays off for spirited couple behind these premium gins
A small start-up gin distillery on NSW’s Far South Coast has taken the extraordinary step of winning medals at the benchmark International Wine and Spirit Competition in London less than a year after starting production. North of Eden from Bega won medals for both its gins; a silver medal for its Classic gin and a bronze medal for its Connoisseur gin.
Gavin Hughes and Karen Touchie are the spirited couple who swapped busy careers to make these premium gins. Hughes manufactured biofuels before running bars in Melbourne when he took the logical step of distilling his own drop. The couple bought a small farm outside Bega then spent 12 months transforming an old farm shed into a distillery on a shoestring, sometimes having to take work thousands of kilometres away to keep afloat. “I think most people thought we were mad when we upped sticks and left our careers to start a gin distillery in regional Australia,” Touchie says. “I’d never lived far from the city and suddenly I’m miles from the nearest town so I quickly had to learn to drive if Gav was away.
Hughes says: “We always knew we were making a quality product but getting two awards from such a prestigious international competition so early on in our gin journey is just fantastic. It certainly makes up for all those sleepless nights when we wondered if we’d done the right thing.”
Both of the award-winning gins are true London Dry gins, meaning no flavours or syrups are added at the end. The gins are all hand made in small batches in a beautiful copper alembic still and feature ingredients from the farm’s orchards including native Australian finger limes and locally foraged kelp.
“The technology we’re actually using to make these gins is over 1000 years old,” Hughes says. “We do everything by taste and nothing is automated. It’s a very traditional way of making spirits and, in a way, every bottle of our gin is a homage to those ancient alchemists and distillers.”
Hughes is particularly proud of keeping faith with artisan distilling traditions while using as much local produce as he can: “There are certainly quicker and easier ways to make gin, but I reckon you can taste the love and attention that’s gone into every one of our bottles.”
The gin is currently only available from 20 bars and outlets along the east coast or online, but that is sure to change as demand skyrockets following the break-out wins.