Our next distillery visit takes us to Ironbark Distillery in Richmond, NSW with Distiller Reg Papps.
In a small and fully functional 202 square metres of what looks like a factory unit is an Australian craft distillery producing top shelf spirits. Inside the neatly organised space, the eye is drawn to two gleaming stainless steel stills, water tanks and laboratory apparatus that takes you back to chemistry class.
Husband and wife Reg and Greta Papps started Ironbark Distillery in February 2014. A year later they launched their first spirit and won the Australian Gin Distillery of the Year Award at the 2015 Melbourne International Spirit Awards.
Distiller and alchemist Reg Papps traded distilling petrol for Shell for producing some of Australia’s best craft spirits. More recently, his Dry Gin and Watteseed Gin along with his barrel aged and Corn Rye Moonshine have won silver and bronze the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Ironbark Gin is made in the smaller Carter head still with a 60 litre boiler that can produce up to 51 bottles a day. There’s also a 100 litre boiler to cater for larger production.
The gin is produced by the vapour infusion method where botanicals are layered in the basket in a special order. The distillation process takes 5 hours to run.
Vodka and Moonshine Still
The larger 500L still with 8 plate fractination is used to produce vodka and moonshine. For the latter, he uses 200 litre pickle barrels from a local supplier. The Mooshine is made of corn, rye and barley which undergo a 14 hour fermentation.
At Ironbark Distillery, everything is done by hand including bottling and labelling before the bottles make their way to some of Australia’s best venues.
Ironbark Distillery Spirits
Ironbark Distillery Spirits
At the heart of all Ironbark Distillery spirits is neutral cane spirit. Like many new distilleries, vodka was the first product released. Crystallus Vodka (40% ABV) is smooth, soft and clean with a hint of sweetness. Peppery notes lead to a hint of fruit on the back palate.
313 Dry Gin (40% ABV) is made from five botanicals, juniper, coriander, cardamom, lemon zest and vanilla using the one shot distillation method. An elegant gin with notes of juniper, white pepper, and citrus that finish long and warming. Lemon peel is the recommended garnish for a gin that fares well in a Tom Collins and a Vesper Martini.
313 Dry Wattleseed Gin (40% ABV) is essentially the same as the 313 Dry Gin with wattleseed added. The gin retains the juniper notes but with pronounced earthiness and nuttiness. The spice/cardamom notes are enhanced and the finish is long and warming with a delicious nutty character. An excellent sipping gin that adds earthiness to a Vesper Martini. Or simply enjoyed with a cucumber or lime zest garnish.
Neither gin nor vodka, Chai Spirit (40% ABV) is a unique distillate made in the same manner as the gin with vapour infused chai leaves, making for a delicious and refreshing spirit. Use it in a Long Island Tea, in a Margarita style drink with lots of crushed ice or sip neat with a grilled pineapple garnish.
When it comes to Moonshine, Ironbark Distillery produces two expressions: Unaged Corn Rye Moonshine (41% ABV) and 4 week barrel aged Moonshine (41% ABV) in no. 4 charred virgin American oak. The Unaged Corn Rye Moonshine makes for pleasant sipping neat. There’s the sweetness of the corn upfront, followed by peppery notes from the rye then the creaminess of barley. The 4 week old moonshine took four months of trials to arrive at the right age. The influence of the oak is apparent but not overpowering with more vanilla, toffee and caramel notes with more sweetness, lending itself well to cocktails as a substitute for bourbon and whiskey.
For Reg Papps, there’s smoke on the horizon. He started making whisky using peated grain, at the time of visit, the 3 week old spirit displayed a lot of promise with the vibrancy of peat and oak on the palate.
Unlike many other distilleries, the stills at Ironbark Distillery have not been given a name but that is no indication of detachment between man and machine. “The still will talk to you,” Reg explains, and we know he is listening.
37 William St, North Richmond NSW 2754
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