Fortitude Valley—home to incredible bars, excellent restaurants, a thriving arts scene and… a gin distillery? That’s right, in news sure to excite the gin lovers out there, Brisbane has scored itself a brand new gin distillery, Winston Quinn, and it’s located smack bang in the middle of the Valley.
Megan and Ryan Sanders are the powerhouse duo behind the craft gin, and were inspired to start their own distillery after a gin-soaked trip to London. Though the gin is currently distilled elsewhere before being driven to Brisbane (by Megan and Ryan themselves) for bottling, the full production will happen at their Prospect Street space just as soon as their stills arrive and they get development approval.
We had a chat to Megan to find out the story behind the new gin, and everything else you need to know about Winston Quinn. If you’re already frothing to get your hands on it though, you’ll find sampling packs available online via The Gin Boutique, with local bottle shops, bars and restaurants soon to follow.
So we have to know—who is Winston Quinn?
Winston and Quinn are our Golden Retrievers. We have had Golden Retrievers since we started dating and adore them, so it was only fitting to name a company that was all about our love of gin with our current 2 Goldies’ names.
What drove you to open a gin distillery in Fortitude Valley?
We have co-owned and run a successful advertising agency in the Valley for the past 14 years and we love the Valley area, and were excited to see Brisbane start representing in the Australian gin movement.
Did you know anything about making gin before you dived in?
Apart from an online course and certificate I completed in distilling, I am an accountant by trade and had no idea. We did a lot of research with other distillers and learnt a lot along the way before we even started our own recipe development process.
Has it been a challenging process? Who’s helped along the way?
It has been an enormously challenging process, mainly due to the liquor licencing restrictions placed on spirits in Queensland (which do not apply to our competing other states). We have found the distillery industry to be an extremely supportive environment in which everyone is willing to help and advocate on behalf of each other to get an equal playing field for Australian gins. Granddad Jacks’ head distillers, Luke and David Ridden, have been our primary source of knowledge, help and support and we like to think that we have learnt from the best as their gin is also standout. Peter at Art of Booze has helped wherever he can also and on our travels, Poor Tom’s gin talked to us about their strawberry gin process, even though we told them we were doing our own and what our challenges were. It is just a really transparent and supportive industry full of amazing humans.
How were the individual botanicals and ingredients chosen?
It was all about keeping it all natural with nothing artificial to colour or sweeten and keeping Australian fresh ingredients at the forefront of the process. From there we played with the flavours that we liked and found not to be overpowering, that gave the end taste result we loved, and the end colour result for the blue and pink gins.
How much gin sampling was done before you got them all just right?
Quite a lot haha. It’s better to get it perfect the first time. I took my gin research very seriously on a few too many occasions…
What’s the story behind the names of the gins?
Skinny Jeans was my original gin idea, named after the Skinny Jeans that I could fit into after losing quite a bit of weight by switching from my rosè and wine obsession to drinking gin. I was originally going to call it Skinny Blue Jeans but we wanted to keep our gin names short so they were easier to order at a bar, hence the blue colour to colour the gin. Our following three gins, Dry Cut, Slim Crop and Pink Fit, were all then chosen in keeping with the jeans theme as we liked the ‘Tailor Made’ reference and the play on words that Slim Crop and Pink Fit gave us with their double meanings.
Which ones are your personal favourites?
Being my original idea, Skinny Jeans is hands down my favourite, the most juniper heavy of all four gins and the one that I put most of my concentration into. I know that Ryan loves Slim Crop as his ‘Hendricks on steroids’ gin that has 11.1kg of fresh cucumber in each litre (which was his idea). Even though it was the hardest to make, and nearly broke us, the tubes to the still and the filters, I knew it was pretty special as soon as I tasted it.
How do you prefer to drink your gin? Classic G&T or a creative cocktail?
In keeping with my weight loss and love of a good gin, I drink mine only with sparkling water or quality soda water and ice. I think tonic usually masks the flavor of a beautifully made gin and some tonics are full of sugar. In saying that though, there are some beautiful tonics around and they do seem to complement our flavours.
We know you’re about to launch the gin online and behind bars around town—will there be a cellar door or tasting bar coming soon too?
This is absolutely our aim however, Queensland licencing restrictions are seriously against us which is totally different to other states. A cellar door would be exciting as we would love to hold gin yoga sessions (like Manly Spirits) so we are hoping legislation is changed in the near future.
In case you missed it, there's also a gin school coming to town.
Image credit: Supplied