RARE OLD TOM GIN | FOUR PILLARS

WRITTEN BY REBECCA WELLWORTH

ABOUT THE DISTILLERY 
This month we return to Healesville; an emerald haven of scenic countryside winding through the Yarra Valley. Though Four Pillars has humble roots, it’s one of the most prolific craft gin brands in Australia and a player on the global stage, needing almost no introduction. If you’re into your gin, or perhaps have been a long-time member here at Garden Street, you’ve likely heard about the champions behind their award-winning gins!

The original Four Pillars team, affectionately dubbed the Tinker, the Drinker and the Thinker, are otherwise known as Head Distiller Cameron (Cam) Mackenzie; Four Pillars’ voice and Head of Trade Stuart (Stu) Gregor; and Head of Brand Matt Jones. 

Cam is an Olympian who ran the 4x400m at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He began a scholarship with Stu in the wine industry in 1998 and they spent ample time together sipping, judging and writing about wine. Cam’s running career rapidly declined once he started hanging out with Stu and dabbling in wine; Stu has felt guilty ever since! 

Four Pillars Rare Old Tom Gin, exclusively available at Garden Street Gin Club

After a successful 15 year stint in the industry – with Cam making and selling wine, and Stu talking about it – the pair turned their sights to a new venture, seeing a gap in the Aussie market for locally-made craft gin. However, to take it seriously they knew they needed a third voice in the mix. Enter Matt, who had just returned from New York working as a Brand Strategist. The three hit it off, and then (as many of these stories go) continued to dinner and a drunken planning session at Cam’s place. Matt wrote up the plan afterwards, and jumped on board as the third partner. 

In order to envision what a modern Australian craft gin might look like, Cam and Stu first explored what other world-class distilleries were doing abroad, and travelled the West Coast of the U.S to “research gins”. Amongst learning distilling techniques and tasting plenty of gin, the pair noticed that all the gins they loved most were made in a CARL still, from Stuttgart Germany. Soon followed their first custom-built 450L copper still called Wilma, after Cam’s beautiful late mother. Wilma has since been joined by four other stills, named after mums behind the Four Pillars team; 600L Jude; followed by Beth, the largest CARL still in Australia at a whopping 2000L; Coral, an experimental 78L still; and another small 70L experimental still, Eileen. 

Since the early days of a bald-headed trio, the company has come a long way. We were lucky to catch up with the Four Pillars team in 2020 to feature their incredible Olive Leaf Gin and see the opening of their Surry Hills Gin Lab. Just two years on, they now have plenty of employees split across Melbourne, Sydney and abroad – some of whom have only met on screen and are well due for a drink or three. Recently picking up Brand Innovator of the Year and Distiller of the Year at the 2022 World Gin Awards, there’s always something new ticking away with the aim of elevating the craft of gin further.

Their Healesville distillery has just seen a massive 1000 square metre expansion over the lockdown periods of 2020/21 and into 2022. Adding a new development directly next door to the existing space, “Healesville 2.0” triples the capacity for visitors, and adds some much-needed production space. A Mecca for gin-lovers if there ever was one! Of course, regardless of which venue you drop in to, you can look forward to fantastic gin tasting classes, with flavour-packed sessions including plenty of G&T’s, nibbles, a little bit of gin knowledge and a lot of belly laughs.

Of their many accomplishments (and there are plenty!), Four Pillars are thrilled to be the first certified carbon neutral gin distillery in Australia. By tracking their gin’s journey from what goes in it, to their production processes and where it goes beyond their distillery door, the team have been able to adopt sustainable practises and reduce the impact of every bottle of gin made. Their ethos of recycling, reusing and reducing has enormous implications throughout the whole company. Whether it’s turning spent oranges used in distillation into their much-loved Made From Gin orange marmalade, or installing solar panels and offsetting what is an energy-intensive production process. With a home as magnificent as the Yarra Valley, they reckon it’s no less than what should be expected, and we love to see them lead the industry by example.

ABOUT THE GIN 
Although Four Pillars has always focused on making modern Australian gins that are bold in flavour, citrus and spice, it doesn’t mean they don’t love the traditions that lie behind gin-making. Dating back to the days of the Gin Craze in the 1700s, gin was made cheaply (and dangerously) in distilleries of all shapes and sizes. Still in its evolution from the popular sweet Jenever, and on it’s way to London Dry, the Old Tom flavour profile sits snugly in-between. Because sales of the spirit were restricted, it was sold covertly through wooden plaques shaped like a black cat – an Old Tom – on the outside wall of some pubs. Although since falling out of favour, one such gin inspired Cam way back during that first US research trip, and has been burned into the back of his mind ever since. Over the years, he secretly dabbled, and eventually found a recipe he liked before entering it into some competitions. The result came back with some awards, and thus the Rare Old Tom Gin was made! Along came Garden Street, and some arms may have been twisted to release something special just for you. 

Rare Old Tom is an interesting twist on Four Pillars’ firstborn, Rare Dry Gin. It has aromas of spicy juniper, alongside the fresh brightness of citrus, especially lemon myrtle and fresh orange. The trademark botanicals are enhanced by a slightly sweetened palate, which draws out bigger flavours and an even longer finish. Perfect for sipping neat or making classic cocktails like a Tom Collins.

OTHER PRODUCTS IN THE RANGE  
The flagship Rare Dry Gin is still one of the team’s most beloved, and continues to collect awards year on year. Rare Dry Gin not only acts as a base for the Rare Old Tom Gin, but also their ever-popular Barrel Aged and Bloody Shiraz Gins, so it’s hard to talk about their gins without first mentioning Rare Dry!

An experiment-turned-right, the Bloody Shiraz Gin sees locally grown Shiraz fruit steeped in high proof Rare Dry Gin for about eight weeks, to create the delicious deep purple tipple.

The newest addition to the core Four Pillars range is the Fresh Yuzu Gin. After playing with some fresh yuzu up the road in the Ovens Valley, and releasing a host of successful limited-edition gins, the team knew they had to make a more permanent fixture. The Fresh Yuzu Gin offers an aromatic mix of lemon, mandarin, cumquat, and grapefruit, alongside ginger, turmeric and sencha genmaicha (Japanese green tea with roasted brown rice) for depth of flavour. 

Trust us when we say we squeezed, but we couldn’t release any other secrets for the time being! We’re sure that with their passion for innovation, and Cam tinkering away in the distillery, there will be plenty of new gins that are both inspired and delicious on the horizon. Not least of all their annual Australia Christmas Gin release, which you will no doubt see here again at Garden Street. 

Cheers to that!

TASTING NOTES
Gin type – Old Tom

Appearance – Clear, bright

Botanicals – Juniper, whole orange, lemon myrtle, coriander seeds, green cardamom, cassia, star anise, lavender, angelica, Tasmanian pepperberry, sugar

Aroma –  Spicy juniper nose with the freshness and brightness of citrus, especially lemon myrtle and fresh orange

Palate – Fleshy oranges and a slightly sweetened palate enhance juniper and spice on the back, drawing out the bigger flavours

Finish – An extra long, sweet, firey finish with subtle peppery notes

Our perfect G&T
• 30ml Four Pillars Rare Old Tom Gin
• 90ml StrangeLove Distiller's Tonic Tonic
• Dehydrated orange

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