Botanical Gin | AmberChes Distillery
What happens when you put a chemical engineer, two mechanical engineers and a lawyer in a COVID lockdown? Only good things, it seems, with the result in this instance being the creation of a fantastic new distillery in the heart of Western Australia’s Swan Valley. Alicia Stewart, the head distiller at AmberChes (pronounced Amber- Chess) is the chemical engineer in this story; incidentally chemical engineering is a field of study strongly associated with the art of distilling. It was Alicia’s knowledge of chemicals, a keen interest in spirits, and a sudden large amount of time on her hands due to COVID lockdowns, that led her and her family down the path of distilling, and as they say, the rest is history! Well… almost…
AmberChes Distillery is the true definition of a ‘family affair’ – Mum, Dad, two kids and their dogs! Dean (Dad) and Heather (Mum) are both successful professionals in their own right; Dean a mechanical engineer, and Heather a lawyer. Both girls followed in their engineer father’s footsteps, Alicia taking the decision to study chemical engineering and Lauren choosing the mechanical route.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Lauren and Alicia were, sadly, forced to head home to Western Austalia from their studies in the UK. Although, this is now where the fun part of the story begins! Alicia’s fi nal year Master’s project involved researching the conversion of whey (a by-product of cheese) into ethanol to produce gin and vodka. The idea being to help dairy farms reduce waste, and ultimately create an additional revenue stream. A dairy farm that produces cheese AND gin - sounds like a dream come true to us!
Using whey in distillation is something that only a few distilleries do, as it produces a very low ethanol yield. Thankfully Dean, Heather and Lauren were more than happy to help with the research, and often volunteered to visit local distilleries to sample their goods! They found themselves chatting to distillers, learning all about how they started, and what challenges they faced when setting up their distilleries. True to form, they found everyone in the industry to be incredibly helpful and encouraging! With the family’s strong engineering background, they began to think to themselves, “Why don’t we start our own distillery?”
With the spare time that they found on their hands as a result of the pandemic, Alicia and Dean embarked on an distilling course offered by ‘The Distillers Institute’. After completing the course, and with some investigation into the approvals necessary to open a distillery in Australia, they ultimately submitted their application towards the end of 2020. In true Christmas spirit (pun intended) they were granted their license on Christmas Eve. They tell us it made for a very merry Christmas indeed!
Both the Chesters!
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Lauren and Alicia were, sadly, forced to head home to Western Austalia from their studies in the UK. Although, this is now where the fun part of the story begins! Alicia’s final year Master’s project involved researching the conversion of whey (a by-product of cheese) into ethanol to produce gin and vodka. The idea being to help dairy farms reduce waste, and ultimately create an additional revenue stream. A dairy farm that produces cheese AND gin - sounds like a dream come true to us!
The family then embarked on the journey of converting their barn into a distillery and developing their first few recipes. While working and living together, it’s no surprise that things got a little tense at times, but thankfully the family are all very close and get along like a house on fire (most of the time)! Along the way they bought a still named Chester, which happens to also be the name of their puppy. We told you it was a family affair!
Chester the puppy also happens to be the inspiration behind the name AmberChes, which wasn’t the original name of this distillery. They initially launched under ‘The Crafty Botanist’, and for those of us who know our gins well, it’s not difficult to guess which distillery came after them with a name change request! The gin world is still a small world, and the easiest way for the team to move forward was under a new name – AmberChes, and so the journey began!
About Botanical Gin
Fast forward to today and the distillery is in full operation with Dean and Alicia as head distillers. After trialling a few (read: many) recipes and asking their friends to suffer through several notso- amazing tasting sessions, the family settled on a recipe they loved, and their Botanical Gin was released. Their fi rst gin and first submission was awarded a gold medal at the Global Spirits Masters 2021 in the UK. This gin was Alicia’s fi rst recipe and at 24 years of age, she is possibly Australia’s youngest female distiller!
The Botanical Gin is a bright, fresh gin, featuring a number of traditional botanicals such as orange peel, cardamon, orris root and angelica root. The use of elderfl ower and apple are what make this gin stand out though – they are the predominant fl avours that come through and are responsible for the lovely fl oral notes on the nose and palate. Pairing their Botanical Gin with Fever-Tree’s Elderfl ower Tonic makes a cracking G&T that can be enjoyed with just about anything.
The gorgeous label on their Botanical Gin bottle was inspired by the typical botanicals that are used in the making of gin. Alicia and Lauren also wanted it to refl ect the fl oral notes of their gin and worked closely with a local artist to create the design. Initial attempts to apply the label to their bottle were a disaster though; apparently even the smallest taper of a bottle can wreak havoc! Thankfully with the help of a local printer they were able to develop a label which is easier to apply and is the fi nal design you see before you today.
The distillery is ticking along nicely now, and the family is working hard to improve workfl ows and expand production. So far, they have also released two additional gins: their Orange Infusion Gin and Raspberry Delight. Both are made using Australian grown fruit and have very distinct fl avours as a result. We’ve heard whispers that there’s a Christmas Gin on the way, and maybe even a few liqueurs to complement the perfect cocktail. We’re hoping that their plans to open a distillery and cellar door to the public come to fruition sooner rather than later... We can’t wait to head over to Western Australia to visit and meet both Chesters one day!
Gin and Tonic Pairing
This month’s gin pairs with an Indian Tonic, we have chosen Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic.
- 30ml Botanical Gin
- 90ml Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic
- A wedge of fresh / dried lime
Method: Add a heap of ice and serve in a nice big glass.
Botanical Gin and Tonic
Clear and Bright
A floral burst featuring sweet citrus tones and soft juniper
Silky smooth with a light juniper spice and fresh spring citrus
Elderflower, apple, juniper, orange peel, cardamon, orris root and angelica root
Apple and Elderflower
Cocktail of the Month
Elderflower Gin Mojito
Picture - Elderflower Gin Mojito
- 60mL Botanical Gin
- 15ml lime juice
- 15mL elderflower cordial
- Soda water
- Few leaves of mint
Muddle mint in glass with a splash of soda water. Add lime juice, elderflower cordial and Botanical Gin. Stir and fill with ice. Top up with soda water and garnish with mint and lime.