Kilderkin Gin

With Co-director and distiller Chris Pratt

Tell us about Kilderkin Gin’s origins (when/why was it founded, how did you come together, etc) I'm a psychologist by trade, and I  met Scott Wilson-Brown (Red Duck Brewery owner) at Red Duck on my quest to drink a different craft beer every day of the year. 

Since I'm Scottish we soon started talking about whisky, and our early plan was to make whisky - this is still in the pipeline for 2009! But after discovering the wonders of small-batch gin, both in Australia and overseas, we decided to launch two of our own in March this year: The Scoundrel – a London dry style with juniper, coriander, cinnamon, coriander and both green and brown cardamom – and The Larrikin – made with Australian botanicals: three myrtles, pepper berry leaf, roast pepper seed, fresh lily pilly and river mint.

What makes Kilderkin Gin stand out from the pack? The particular balance of botanicals we use in each of our gins, the passion involved, and hopefully the experience it leads to when being drunk.  Our Australian gin, other than the juniper and coriander, uses entirely Australian sourced botanicals.  

Tell us about your first gin experience and why you chose to create it yourself. I suspect my first gin experience was not really a gin experience at all.  No doubt it was one of the better known international brands which someone would have prepared for me and drowned in tonic – serving it as a long summer drink.  My first real gin experience, however, came many years later when I discovered the world of different botanicals in gins that are crafted in small batches by distillers who take great pride in their products.  For me, there was an explosion of tastes in sipping neat gins, and whereas I still enjoy a gin with a mixer as well, I would certainly not drown out the gin.

There are four of us as partners involved in the business – Scott and Vanessa Wilson Browne, me (Chris Pratt) and my partner Rebecca Mathews.   So firstly, we all love gin.  And more importantly, for us gin opens up a world of opportunities – there is a vast range of botanicals one can use and the art is to balance these perfectly to complement the juniper and produce new experiences for drinkers.  There is nothing more rewarding.  And once distilled, the opportunities to experiment continue.  

Simply, describe to us your distilling process? We start with 96% ethanol, a wheat-based product, that we bring back to 40% in our spirit pot still.  We then use a vapor extraction, by turning the spirit water mix to a vapour through careful and controlled heating and allowing it to pass through a perforated basket which holds the botanicals. This way we gently extract the flavours for a complex and balanced experience. The vapour is then condensed and collected as our next batch of quality small batch gin.

What are your favourite ways to enjoy gin? There are no rules about how to drink gin, only customs such as drinking it with tonic and a bit of lemon that need not be followed.  It is such a versatile spirit and we encourage gin drinkers to try different mixers and different garnish.

I love sipping it neat or with a block of ice and savouring the flavours. This is not for everyone though, I admit.  I also enjoy it with a mixer.  For me a small amount of CAPI ginger beer is ideal.   And of course, we have so much fun developing and tasting new cocktail combinations. 

Why did you choose Ballarat as a location and what does it mean to be in regional Victoria? Kilderkin is housed at Red Duck Brewery, which had already been established by Scott. We are proud to be distilling in Ballarat where the first distillery in the colony (now State of Victoria) was established in 1863 producing in the years that followed a range of spirits including whisky and geneva  (a forerunner of modern-day gin).  Sadly it closed in the 1930s so it is good to be responsible for returning the art of distilling to Ballarat.  

Try Kilderkin Distillery’s gin at Coburg Night Market, taking place every Friday from Friday November 24 until Friday December 15. Kilderkin Distillery is located at 11A Michaels Dr, Ballarat.