A GIN-NOVATION, MELBOURNE GIN COMPANY
words by Edana Isobel Jamora
'I exercise strong self control. I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast.'
(n.) 1. A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.
1.1 The medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir.
There is something magical about the way Melbourne Gin Company creates their handcrafted, well considered artisanal gin. We like to think of Andrew Marks as a modern day alchemist led by knowledge, passion and inquisition.
'I found the notion of going in pursuit of a perfection which by nature does not exist, somewhat quixotic and alluring in the extreme.'
Staying true to his roots- Melbourne, Australia, Andrew Marks embarked on a journey of discovery when creating MGC, with keeping in mind to 'embody the culture, style and elegance of a city that has appeal locally but also recognition as being of great character throughout the world'. It's no surprise there are patriotic twists to his gin with very Australian accents such as honey lemon myrtle, cassia bark, sandalwood and macadamia.
Melbourne Gin Company shows us that with a little knowledge, a little love and a little faith one can find the right elixir. Andrew Marks' interest was sparked in creating a crafted gin when coming across a quote by Frank Moorhouse in his piece - Martini - A Memoir, where he states, "Every time it is served the martini represents a journey towards an unattainably ideal drink".
We find this very relative to gin by nature, when consuming, the drink takes you on a journey with its variant tones, accents and flavours constantly hinting at a flavour yet straying you away onto another.
"Oftentimes the best accompaniment to gin is good conversation." - Andrew Marks
1/ What is Melbourne Gin Company's philosophy?
A/ To craft the finest gin possible from both local and exotic botanicals, to create an artisanal product that can stand alone alongside the worlds finest gins on its own merits and to embody the culture, style and elegance of a city that has appeal locally but also recognition as being of great character throughout the world.
2/ Talk us through the processes of sourcing ingredients, also in reverence to season and environment.
A/ My aim is to use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. Of the 11 ingredients only 4 come from overseas. I planted Juniperis Communis on our property about 4 years ago and the plants still haven't produced any berries. I do source the grapefruit peel and fresh rosemary from our vineyard. Seasonality certainly comes into play with the local organic navel oranges which are only ripe during winter. I need to make sure that I distil enough of these to last me through the year. Last year I started distilling them too early in June when the flavours were not fully developed and had to redistill the batch a few weeks later when the oranges were riper.
One of the main components of the gin is the local water that is used to cut back the alcohol. I source this from our rain water tanks at the vineyard in the Yarra Valley. This is a pristine source of drinking water of the highest quality.
3/Drinks tend to have seasonal popularity. For a while Vodka was the 'it' drink and now it seems to have reverted back to gin, scotch and whisk(e)y.
A/ It's hard to put a finger on what exactly has brought this around. In some ways it may be a more educated consumer and certainly a trend back towards cocktail culture driven by popular culture references from sources such as Mad Men. It is worth considering that many of the original cocktails from the 1920s were largely gin or whiskey based.
4/ What are some outstanding recommendations for food pairings or activities to partake in whilst consuming gin?
A/ I think the situation is the key to this. When I think of Gin and Tonics, I think of wicker chairs and sunsets. When I think of Martinis, I think of bars and nightlife and when I think of Negronis, I think of parties. Oftentimes the best accompaniment to gin is good conversation.
5/ Are there any gin innovations that you have created that you would like to share?
A/ I was recently tasked with creating a drink for an association between the cities of Melbourne and Boston. After much trial and error, this is what I came up with:
1 part cold brewed Earl Grey tea
1 part Lillet Blanc
3 parts MGC
Shaken and served in a martini glass with and orange twist.
I call it - The Surgeon.
6/ Your background is in winemaking. why the shift?
A/ I am still a winemaker. It is very much an abiding passion. My real job is working with my parents on their tiny 5.5 hectare vineyard that they planted in the early eighties. The reason I was able to produce my own gin is because I was confident that my winemaking skills would allow me to shape a palate which would taste fantastic.
7/ What is unique about MGC, the distillation process and the ingredients you use?
A/ There is no book on how to make Gin so I have embarked on my own voyage of discovery. It has been a journey in the realms of alchemy. I decided from the beginning that I would distil my botanicals individually to better understand their unique properties and how they would contribute to the final blend. I use a hand beaten portuguese copper pot still of a type that was used to make perfume back in the day. A very gentle distillation process. When I was developing the recipe of the MGC I spent literally months distilling botanicals and then using my winemaking skill to blend them together. Figuring out what did and didn't work. At times the results were counter intuitive. I expected that lemon and lime peel would be important components of the Gin but as it turns out the citrus elements are honey myrtle, organic navel orange peel and grapefruit peel.
The building blocks are juniper berries and coriander seed and the other 9 botanicals form around them to create a unique Melbourne Dry Gin.
8/ How do you believe Gin should be ideally served?
A/ I am not at all prescriptive in the way that others go about serving their drinks. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. My main aim when developing the flavour profile of the MGC was that the gin had to be versatile enough to satisfy the minimum requirements of martinis, g&ts and negronis.
9/ What are some of the finest gins that you have ever tasted?
A/ Martin Millers is very fine. Monkey 47 is a flavour bomb. After all the comparative tastings at which I benchmarked the MGC it was difficult not to conclude that the standard Beefeater is also a very fine gin.
10/ What do you like to drink?
A/ Being a winemaker by profession I think I have wide ranging tastes. As above it depends on the situation. I prefer lagers when it comes to beers. Blanc de blancs in Champagne and dry at that. In whites, I think Chardonnay has no peer. I tend towards lighter reds with texture and a lively edge. I thoroughly enjoy a not-too-sweet rum old fashioned.
11/ What would you say the fundamental difference is between drinking a Gin Martini and a Vodka Martini?
A/ I think it would take a very refined palate to distinguish differences in Vodka, in many cases a flavourless alcohol. In contrast Gins vary in flavour and texture considerably.
12/ Lemon or Olive Martini?
A/ Olive Martini because it leaves you with the problem of what to do with the pips.