Sydney Craft Spirits Fair 2016

The Sydney Craft Spirits Fair was held on the weekend at the Oak Barrel in Sydney. Running for the second year, the event showcased an impressive line up of Australian and international craft spirits. Over three hours, the Fair showcased mainly white spirits (vodka, gin, liqueurs, moonshine, tequila, mezcal) with some rum added to the mix.

Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

The Sydney Craft Spirits Fair brought together new and established distillers, a solid range of craft spirits and dedicated exhibitors all sharing their personal stories or stories of the brands. Before we delve into the highlights, I’d like to share a story.

As many of our long-time readers know, Gourmantic has been writing and promoting spirits – in particular craft spirits and whisky – as far back as 2011. We’ve always had a passion for Australian craft distillers and have been promoting their work before writing about the subject became mainstream. In fact, our first documented experience was The Oak Barrel all the way back in early 2011 when Gourmantic was invited to attend a whisky masterclass hosted by Bill Lark. It became a key point in time. That masterclass was held in the same room where today, many craft distillers and representatives, Australian and international shared their craft to an eager public.

Below is a snapshot of the event highlights along with some of the favourites presented in no particular order:

Hellfire Vodka

  • Distilled from potatoes, Hellfire Vodka from Tasmania lived up to its name. A big, bold and ballsy vodka that makes you rethink a a spirit often dubbed as “odourless and tasteless”.

Fire Drum Vodka

  • Also from Tasmania but made from malted barley, Fire Drum Vodka is double distilled, filtered once and has notes of cacao, macadamia, hazelnut and vanilla with malty overtones. Perfect in an Espresso Martini. More about Fire Drum Vodka here.

Distillery Botanica

  • Distillery Botanica showcased their garden gin along with Tonic of Gin, a new gin scented candle with the scent of Murraya, Chamomile and Juniper, and botanicals from Distillery Botanica’s Garden Grown Gin. More about Distillery Botanica and Distillery Botanica Gin here.

Ironbark Distillery

  • Distiller Reg Papps and Greta Papps from Ironbark Distillery in Richmond were on board showcasing their award-winning spirits including the excellent Ironbark Wattleseed Gin, a gin well worth sipping neat. Ironbark 4 week Aged Moonshine, made from a corn and rye blend is another true sipper and makes a delicious Old-Fashioned. More about Ironbark Distillery here and Ironbark Wattleseed Gin here.

Archie Rose

  • Archie Rose showcased their spirits including the newly-released Archie Rose Distiller’s Strength Gin 52.4% ABV. While the original gin can be described as having a light traditional nose, a progressive palate with a citrus note, the new gin sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. New botancials include honey from a hive above distillery, pear, elderflower and rose giving the gin a much sweeter note. Recommended in a G&T with pear or in a martini with lemon twist. More about Archie Rose Distillery and Archie Rose spirits here.

Poor Toms Gin

  • Also showcasing their higher proof gin is Poor Toms with Poor Toms Fool Strength Gin 52% ABV. While the original gin is well suited to a G&T and has been referred to as “Sydney’s Hendrick’s”, the high proof expression is a delicious drop, packs a punch and is ideal in a Martini, even a little dirty, with French vermouth and Sicilian olives. More about Poor Toms Gin here.

Forty Spotted Gin

  • Forty Spotted Gin from Tasmania has changed the original recipe in April this year. They have added kaffir lime leaf which softens the big peppery notes, giving it more complexity. The Forty Spotted Barrel Aged Gin is aged for 40 days in ex port casks which imparts  an oaky and tannin influence along with sweetness. More about Forty Spotted Gin here.

Settlers Spirits

  • Settlers Spirits Distiller, Rowland Short was on hand with five expressions of his gin. Settlers Rare Dry Gin has beautiful aromas of lemon myrtle, orange and native pepper, a bright nose with fresh citrus. A non traditional Old Tom, Settlers Old Tom Gin is spicy with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, well suited to a Martinez. Settlers Oak Aged Gin has a delightful briny character with aromas of oysters. It makes a good dirty martini and even a filthy martini. In a G&T, garnish with orange zest and clove.  Settlers G & Tea Breakfast Gin is unlike any other. Taste it neat, and the honey notes are powerful. Add tonic and the drink shines beautifully with enhanced tea notes. More about Settlers Oak Aged Gin and Settlers G & Tea Breakfast Gin here.

Four Pillars

  • Four Pillars showcased their range including the excellent Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin. However it was the Four Pillars Australian Christmas Gin that stole the show. Christmas puddings were distilled in the botanical basket with juniper, cinnamon, star anise, coriander and angelica over the top. The gin was aged in ex Rutherglen Muscat barrels and finished with a slight tweak of Rutherglen Classic Muscat. The spirit retains its gin character with juniper and warm spices and tastes like Christmas. More about Four Pillars Gin, Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin and Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin here.

OSCAR.697 Vermouth

  • With all the gin tasting, it was good to see a contemporary Italian vermouth on taste. OSCAR.697 Vermouth comes in Bianco, Rosso and Extra Dry and is well worth sipping neat on ice as well as using it in cocktails. More about OSCAR.697 vermouth here.

Baker Williams Distillery

  • Distiller Nathan Williams from Baker Williams Distillery in Mudgee presented/debuted with the Baker Williams New Make, a moonshine made from wheat, barley and rye that is big on spice and demands to be noticed, to be enjoyed on ice or in an old fashioned.  The Baker Williams XLCR Gin has botanicals of orange cumquat, angelica, cassia, pepper berry, lemon myrtle and cinnamon myrtle in a grape spirit base with soft orange notes and citrus on the nose. Big bold flavours of peeper, grass and malt are in evidence in the Baker Williams Wheat Vodka matched with a big bold mouthfeel.  

Sud Polaire

  • From Tasmania, Sud Polaire Barrel Aged Gin made its debut at the Fair, a grape-based spirit aged in French oak barrels. The highlight of the range was Sud Polaire Expedition Strength Gin. At 57% ABV, it has a pronounced lemon myrtle influence with a big hit of citrus. This is a big gin and well suited to a Martini and a Dirty Martini.

Kyro Distillery Company

  • Kyro Distillery Company in Finland started distilling their rye spirits in 2014. The Napue Rye Gin with its rye base with seabuckthorn, cranberries birch leaves and meadowsweet is big on mouthfeel and on spice. Try it in a G&T with cranberries and rosemary. Koskue Barrel Aged Rye Gin is again rye based, aged for 2-3 months in American oak barrels, with distilled orange peel and black pepper with those notes coming through. Think of a Martinez, old fashioned or a very short G&T. The stand-out is the Juuri Unaged Rye Spirit made from 100% Finnish malted rye and fermented for 6 days. There is white cocoa on nose and it is big, bold, spicy and super creamy on the palate. Try as a twist on a Sidecar with pineapple juice or in a Highball with Maidenii La Tonique Vermouth.

Fair Spirits

  • Fair Spirits had their entire range on taste. Fair Barrel Aged Gin (42%ABV). a limited edition release is aged in Cognac barrels for 6 months which gives it a mellow flavour with buttery notes. The other standout was Fair Kumquat Liqueur (22% ABV), made like marmalade and slow cooked with organic sugar and using Fair Vodka as base. More about Fair Vodka, Fair Gin and Fair Rum here.


  • Last and certainly not least, with their eye-catching, jaw-dropping stand complete with carved ice was Chartreuse with Chartreuse Chevalier and Brand Ambassador, Nathan “Stretch” Bradbery on board. Sitting atop an ice presentation a selection that included bar staples / favourites of Green Chartreuse and Yellow Chartreuse, the Chartreuse VEP Verte et Jaune, MOF, Elixir Vegetal at 69% ABV and Chartreuse 1605, a liqueur version of Elixir Vegetal. More about Chartreuse here.

And in the blink of an eye, the three hour tasting session was up. Also featured at the Fair was Ocho Tequila with the new labels, Diplomatico Rum, Portobello Road Gin, Flor de Cana Rum, tequila and mezcal from Mextrade Australia, Mezcal Vago, a range of rums from Hoochery in WA, and El Dorado Rum, Trois Rivieres and other rums from Barbados.

The Sydney Craft Spirits Fair for 2016 was held at The Oak Barrel in Sydney on Saturday 12 November 2016. For more photographs of the Sydney Craft Spirits Fair, visit Gourmantic’s Facebook page.


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.