I had one free day during my visit to Sydney and of course it was a Sunday. When traveling and visiting distilleries for weeks at a time you often forget what day of the week it is let alone that the people and families that own these distilleries have personal lives. I didn’t want to rent a car and so it quickly became one of my favorite traveling games which is how far out can I get with public transportation? A few Sydney friends had mentioned a distillery that was only about a year old, making coastal gin. I hopped on a bus from Maroubra, south of the city and headed North for about two hours to a small distillery called Manly Spirits. The coastal drive by itself is worth a trip up to the Northern Beaches and even better now that you have a distillery to stop at for a few cocktails. Roll down the windows and live that Australian surf, ocean dream that we all fantasize!
The distillery is in a slightly industrial area, but it quickly reminded me of the young and hip vibe you can find at Seven Stills Distillery in San Francisco. It was a bright and breezy afternoon as I signed in for my Sunday tour and I quickly realized that the guide was not just a tour guide. I was being walked around by the founders of Manly Spirits, David and Vanessa. All different sizes of newly filled whisky casks line the wall to your left as you leave the tasting room and head out to the production floor. There is a significant amount of copper at Manly Spirits. You can see that they mean business and focused not only on their gin but also their single malt production.
The first still you will see is a hybrid column and pot still from Arnold Holstein Still Manufacturers in Germany. This is used for their gin production and just beyond that are two beautiful pot stills for their single malt. They are sourcing barley from the mainland of Australia. It is then malted for them and brought on site to be milled, mashed and fermented. They use a combination of distillers and brewers yeast and their fermentation periods last about 5 days to get to that 7-8% ABV. It’s interesting listening to pioneers and new world producers like David and Vanessa because they are creating the data on how this process will work in their local environment. Distilleries like Manly Spirits and Archie Rose are some of the first distilleries in Sydney to see how fermentation and angels share are affected by not only their climate but their slightly urban locations. After the double distillation they age all their single malt casks on site.
In Australia, whisky needs to be aged in oak for a minimum of 2 years but their two styles of gin, which are both wheat-based spirit, can be bottled immediately after distillation. I have reviewed their clear spirits below and listed their latest accolades from the Australian Spirits Awards 2018. They use a variety of botanicals that range from juniper, coriander, native Australian lime and even coastal sea lettuce. Another differentiating factor for Manly is their impeccable branding. Their custom, ocean themed bottles and labels convey their attachment and emotion to the water and how the gin reflects that lifestyle.
Coastal citrus gin
Bottled at 43% ABV I called this the Arnold Palmer due to the unsweetened tea and lemonade dance that was happening on the nose. I will never forget having this personal realization and connection to Arnold Palmer (which I happen find quite refreshing) but David definitely looked bewildered by my tasting note. Learn from me, Australia doesn’t have Arnold Palmer. It is completely an American experience. I will be bringing David and Vanessa a few samples, so they understand where I’m coming from next time I visit!
Australian Spirits Awards 2018 – Bronze in the New World/Contemporary Gin Category
Australian dry gin
10 botanicals including juniper at 43% ABV – I called this one the tangerine creamsicle.
Australian Spirit Awards 2018 – Silver in the London Dry Category
Botanical infused vodka - Marine
Bottled at 41.6% ABV this has been distilled with local marine botanicals.
Australian Spirits Awards 2018 - Silver in the Flavored Distilled Vodka Category
North Fort White Dog Spirit
I can attest to their latest “Champion” award status. I tried the Manly new make spirit and it was alive with character and a great grit to it including olives, almonds, trail mix, pear and biscuit on the finish. It is exciting to think about how his full bodied new make spirit will age in all of the different style casks they have. *Their aged whisky won't be ready until 2019.
Australian Spirits Awards 2018 – Gold in the New Make Unaged Spirits Category
Make sure to check out their website and follow David and Vanessa's journey from the northern beaches of Sydney.