Originally published on weekendnotes.com
We are greeted at the Whiskery door by Teddy, the gentle staffy after whom the Teddy and the Fox Gin is named. Legend has it that when his owners, Lorelle and Russ, first visited the property, Teddy took off at lightning speed, risking his life as he chased across the highway after a fox. The idea for the label was born.
Stepping into the showroom we are greeted by one of the owner’s best friends, Caroline. Her Scottish accent attracts us, as does the gin bottle she is wielding and pouring out measures for us to taste. Caroline has been helping her friends as they set up their ambitious distillery, The Whiskery, in Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula. It’s only 90 minutes from Melbourne but we are in a rural area. The sheds are rustic but sturdy and have been fully renovated to house the brand new distilling equipment.
It is the wineries in the Bellarine that usually garner the most attention, but Russ and Lorelle have changed all that since ANZAC Day when they threw open the doors and invited the public in to drink gin and relax in the pleasant garden or in the cosy dining room.
Already, the fireplace beckons and I can imagine sitting here with a good book and a dram of whiskey, come winter. But for now, the sun shines on this road to the seaside and we bask in its rays on the outdoor deck. Set up under the enormous shade of the tree, planted originally for its timber but now useful only for shade, are a dozen bright white Adirondack chairs, perfect for lounging, gin in hand, as a band plays in the late afternoon sun. I suspect next spring will see this vision come to fruition.
Lorelle blends the gin herself with orange, juniper, coriander, lemon myrtle, orris root and star anise. She distils each flavour separately, the combines the lot to create a wonderful, aromatic gin, which is then bottled and labelled, ready to sell.
Russ is a charming, engaging, relaxed man. His ginger whiskers cover his face in a friendly fuzz and one might think that it is actually after these that the place is named. However, it is surely the Whiskey.
Built on an old chicken farm, the soil is rich and fertile, as you would imagine. Loads of fruit trees on the property; oranges, pears, walnuts, figs, and more. There are even beehives and a local apiarist has plans to make honey which Russ is considering incorporating into his recipe.
The gin itself is delicious. Just like up at Four Pillars in Healesville, we are encouraged to taste the gin neat, before we add tonic water to sweeten it. Caroline explains the flavours and fragrances that we can taste and smell, then launches into a dissection of the different tonic waters, asserting that some of the sweeter ones go with Gordon’s gin but that their gin was perfect with the Fevertree grey label. I must say, I agree with her completely and could drink Teddy and the Fox quite happily, with or without tonic.
Our little sidekick, 5-year-old Sophie, was with us during this interview and it was wonderful that Russ was able to stop what he was doing and spend some time with us. He was so attentive, taking us the long way across a field so as the ladies didn’t get dirt in their shoes, and diverting the course so that Sophie could see the Fairy Tree.
I suspect his generous, hospitable nature and Lorelle’s genuine skill in the blending department will be the root of the Whiskery’s future success. I’ll drink to that!