What did you do before creating your gin/distillery?
David was a Chemical Engineer working in the oil and gas industry, with a passion for distilling, Vanessa owned a design studio working in branding, digital communications and publishing, with a passion for gin. As we say, put these skill bases together and you get ‘Booze’.
What made you decide to start Manly Spirits Co, and what's the inspiration behind your gin?
We first discussed the possibility of building a craft distillery while driving through the hills of Tasmania on a foodie weekend in late 2015. In a “light bulb moment”, we realised our complementary skills of creativity and practicality would be ideal for such a business opportunity. We knew we could work well together to make great spirits with great branding and packaging.
We live in Manly (Beach) and wanted to bring a bit of this wonderful part of Australia with its amazing coastline and marine environment into some amazing gins and spirits. A signature element of all our spirits is the use of foraged marine botanicals, either sea lettuce, sea parsley, sea minerals etc which we actually pick ourselves off the sea rock shelf, washed up on the beaches or collected from the coastline or water.
What are the distillery and distillery process like?
The ‘steam punk’ distillery with its 4 beautiful copper stills is located over the hill from Manly (in the aptly nicknamed ‘Brewvale’) due to 4 breweries and now a distillery all being within walking distance from each other. Our spirits showcase foraged marine botanicals from the local area and sustainably sourced native Australian botanicals. We tend to use a one-shot method for our core gins and will create distillates of some of our Gin botanicals which we add into our liqueurs.
What can people expect and experience if they visit the distillery for a tour/tasting?
Interacting with customers is integral to our business. Customers can us for a 1-hour behind-the-scenes distillery tour which is an extraordinary way to learn about craft distillation and Australian artisan spirits. The tour and tasting includes an overview of the whisky, gin and botanical vodka production processes with the chance to view the beautifully engineered copper pot stills and to touch, smell and explore the Australian botanical pantry while being taken through three of the core expressions of our spirits.
What have been the biggest challenges story so far?
As boring as this sounds, handling growth so that cashflow is kept under control has been challenging. We have had some great opportunities to deliver timely large orders which requires tools down for everyone and bottling and labelling around the clock. Then there’s the need to pre-order and schedule production of our custom blue bottles (a minimum of 40,000) to hopefully fill forecasted re-ordering, which is always a touch stressful.
But we have some pretty solid goals which we have set, so it’s heads down and trying not to drink too much of your own product! Although taste-testing new cocktails on the distillery menu and sampling how our whisky is maturing are some of the hardships of the job!!!
What have been your biggest achievements so far?
We are thrilled that our belief in our skills and taking that leap of faith have paid off with Double Gold medal wins in the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Comp, Gold medals for our packaging at the 2018 International Wine and Spirits Comp, UK and ‘Best in Australian’ at the recent 2019 World Spirits Awards, London for both our Australian Dry and Coastal Citrus Gins.
What has been your favourite story since starting Manly Spirits Co?
When we first launched our distillery the 40FT shipping container with our first order of bottles was delivered but not to our address. Someone in production at the large local brewery, a few streets always had just signed for the container and thought nothing off it. We walked the streets looking for our missing container with it finally being found a day before our distillery launch event. We than had to fork-lift (and we were pretty new to forklift driving) pallets of glass bottles over speed bumps around to our distillery to meet the event deadline. All a touch stressful.
How would you describe your gins in 3 words?
Bold, Aromatic, balanced - ‘nature in a bottle’.
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
Our Australian Dry Gin in a Martini, and our Coastal Citrus Gin with tonic or in a Pear and Elderflower Gimlet.
What's next / any exciting plans?
We have just launched 2 new liqueurs, Zesty Limoncello and Blackfin Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur which are proving very popular at our cellar door and trade tastings. Both use Gin distillation techniques to incorporate Australian native botanicals into the recipe to give complex tasty flavour profiles. Australians are renowned for making great coffee and we don’t disappoint with this new liqueur made in collaboration with our local coffee roaster. Expanding to the UK is pretty exciting for us and we truly hope that your followers enjoy our coastal Sydney inspired Gins, Vodkas and Liqueurs with their bold but balanced flavours using foraged marine and native Australian botanicals.