Cellar Door Fest begins this Friday and rest assured at this very moment there are thousands of Adelaidian’s training intensely by the bottle to flex that intellectual palate of ours which we all have because we live in the greatest wine country in the world (yep, we’re calling it). Now, while Glam is sure that the stallholders are just aching for you to pontificate about the bold depths of their reds and the honey-melon notes of their whites, wine, beer and cider are not the only sweet boxes of adult treats you’ll be able to take home this year.
They are the only Gin distillery showcasing at this weekend’s Festival. And to lift your spirits, they’ll be offering samples of their full range, which is sure to taste a lot better than that terrible pun.
The McLaren Vale Distilling Company was started just over 12 months ago by Rowland and Shelley Short, who also happen to own and operate Maximus Wines which is how they’ve managed to smuggle their product into the event. Now take note, because their range of Settlers Gins are not to be treated like Beefeater (best served down your sink drain) and if you try to impress Rowland with the same flowery language you’d use to describe that Coolabah cask you hide in your fridge at home, he’ll have security escort you from the premises.
“Immediately apparent is that the alcohol, 43% by volume which is a lot, has a soft flavour,” he explains. “It has an unctuousness; an oiliness if you like.”
Which all comes from the fact they’re using grapes to make gin instead of grains. Honestly, grapes are like the pig of the fruit world – everything you can do with them is delicious! But it’s not just the grapes that create the incredible flavours.
“The way we make our Gin, which is different to 99% of other distillers, is we distill each botanical itself and then blend it afterwards. The analogy I use is when you cook a stew at home over many hours and you’re left with this wonderful flavour afterwards, but you can’t easily discern each flavour from the original ingredients anymore. We avoid that issue with our technique so while it’s a lot more work, our flavours are clean and bright and crisp. It’s a precession of our ingredients over your palate.”
The story of how Rowland and Shelley came to the distillery business is one of the most romantic tales we’ve ever been told, and will immediately make you think far less of your partner for never creating such magic.
“It began a number of years ago when we set out to sail around the world on a yacht we’d just built,” he begins, no doubt wistfully looking across his vineyards as we speak. “We left with 45 litres of gin stored under our bunk, to ensure we neither got scurvy or malaria. And it worked, so we now have a medicinal attachment.”
Unlike countless of the oh-so-trendy-boutique-hand-crafted-small-batch distillers who outsource the production of their Gin, Rowland tells me he is working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week and has had to buy a larger still to keep up with demand for his product. And in keeping with the lavish attention to detail, each Gin comes with garnish suggestions on the bottle, while you can visit their website for recipes of how best to enjoy a particular Gin.
As a fully functioning adult, the way I look at the Cellar Door Fest is pretty much identical to how my niece looks at the Royal Show’s showbag pavilion – it’s hard to describe the joy. And I’d describe drinking Settlers Gin akin to the moment where I get all my Charlesworth nut show bags home, pour them into a kiddie pool and bathe in my food for the afternoon. So leave your friends to dribble on about how “this Merlot smells like old sweaty boots” and go seek Rowland out this weekend (or any weekend at McLaren Vale). And remember, an investment in Gin is an investment in health.
Friday 26 February: 5pm – 9pm
Saturday 27 February: 11am – 6pm
Sunday 28 February: 11am – 6pm