Saltbeard Distillery | Grapefruit Gin

WRITTEN BY ALEX FLEISCHER

Saltbeard Distillery was born out of a passion for gin, and a love for the Barossa Valley in South Australia. It’s here, tinkering away alongside another distillery, surrounded by the region’s iconic grapevines that stretch as far as the eye can see, that Saltbeard’s unique spirits come to life. With a focus on quality over quantity, this small-batch distillery crafts delicious and original spirits that are big in heart, from a passionate man and his beloved dog.

ABOUT THE DISTILLERY 
The Saltbeard team comprises of two members; John Trutwin and Otto. John’s journey, winding through diverse landscapes of hospitality, the arts, international sport and even aviation, eventually led him to the art of distillation – a skill he first encountered amidst the storied tradition of German spirits. Joining him is Otto, the Schnauzer; the distillery’s four-legged mascot that brings 13 years of experience enjoying long walks, days by the beach and pursuing his true calling as a ratter. Together, this dynamic duo forms the core of Saltbeard Distillery.

John, with his multifaceted background, brings a wealth of knowledge from various corners of the globe and industries. His journey through life’s many paths has seasoned him well, much like the distillery’s namesake. Meanwhile, Otto, with his keen nose (arguably the best in the business), might just be the secret ingredient in ensuring every batch of gin has that special ‘woof’ factor.

John and Otto - Salty bearded best friends

The first seed was sown in the early 90s, when John was an athlete for the Australian Bobsleigh team. This, naturally, meant long periods of time abroad, competing across North America and Europe. Between events, downtime was often spent billeted with an amazing German family in Cologne. Herr Meurer had a small still setup in the garden shed, which he used to quietly distil Korn, a German grain spirit. John was mesmerized by the harmonious blend of science and artistry – the careful selection of botanicals, the precise control of temperatures, and the patient aging that bestowed each spirit with its unique character and flavour. This experience was a formative education in distillation techniques, passion, and patience; elements that would influence John’s own course in the world of spirits.

After returning to home soil, the distillery seed remained ungerminated until several years ago, when John’s brother-in-law – then a wine-maker – changed tack to start a distillery with his business partners. After being invited into the distillery for a tour and a ‘bit of a play’, it was simply too much fun for John to resist – and so the journey truly began. Within a couple of months, John had enrolled in the ‘Fundamentals of Spirit Production’ through the University of Adelaide, and the rest as they say, is history.

Leasing out a shared space alongside another established distillery, Saltbeard makes the most of a top-notch fit-out. While the stills bear other names, John refers to them as simply ‘The Big Still’ (3000L) ‘The Still’ (300L), and ‘The Little Still’ (50L). Recipes are designed and iterated in ‘Little Still’ before being meticulously produced in 300L still batches.

In developing the brand, John and Otto wanted something that represented them both; their love for gin, and for each other. In the end, they decided upon a shared physical characteristic – at one time that may have once been ‘Blackbeard’, but the pair have since earned their salty stripes! “Of the two of us, it was always going to be Otto who had the face and personality to become the figurehead of the brand”, explains John. “I’ve been very fortunate, along this journey, to have been able to draw upon the expertise and kindness of friends and family. Another of my brothers-in-law, Jacob Logos, is an artist based in Adelaide and was good enough to provide me with several drawings to use across the brand.” He wanted the portraits to be freewheeling and slightly obscure, while still showing Otto for those who took the time to look a little longer. This means that each product bears a different facet of his quirky personality.

John met long-time friend Vanessa Tamblyn of VALT Creative while she was Head of Creative at the Sydney Opera House, who also took a personal interest in bringing the project to life. To complement the amber coloured bottles, the labels feature a vintage colour palette with contemporary flair. “We didn’t want the labels to fall into a parody of old medicine or snake-oil bottles… so we kept the fonts modern-classic alongside the illustrations.”

About Grapefruit Gin

Zesty grapefruit, lemon, orange and cinnamon work together perfectly

When purchasing a home with his wife 12 years ago, the number of fruit trees on the property was a huge draw card to John – offering quinces, peaches, apricots, plums, apples and ruby grapefruit. “The grapefruit tree became something of a family favourite, and it was fitting that I include that in a recipe when starting out.” The Grapefruit Gin made use of what was on hand and plentiful at the time. Zesty grapefruit, lemon, orange and cinnamon work together to create a robust, well-rounded and refreshing citrus flavour, alongside juniper and traditional gin botanicals. In addition, secret ingredients build a delectable texture and mouthfeel to match its taste. The recipe didn’t take too long to land on, but many, many more attempts were required to get the ratios just right.

The result is a flavour profile that is a delightful interplay of freshness and depth – the initial aromas burst with juniper, leading into a bright, citrusy palate dominated by the tart-sweetness of grapefruit. The finish is dry and clean, leaving a refreshing aftertaste that beckons for more. It’s a gin that not only excels in a simple G&T, but also shines in more elaborate cocktails, offering versatility and a bold flavour.

Keeping local to Adelaide, Mischief Brew’s No. 2 tonic presents a perfect pairing for this Grapefruit Gin. With a light and delicate balance of citrus, lemon myrtle and aromatic rosemary, there is ample room for the gin to shine through in all the right ways, even without garnish. That said, we highly recommend trying 2:1 tonic to gin here!

Unabashedly his favourite product so far, John is yet to discover a food that isn’t improved by a Grapefruit G&T. It’s a quintessential Summer staple, working well alongside everything from seafood, charcuterie and cheese selections to tart berries and ice cream. We’re currently loving it in a Grapefruit Upside-Down Cake!

Other Products in the Range

In addition to the Grapefruit Gin, Saltbeard’s fledgeling product range currently includes a triple-lemon take on the Italian classic Limoncello. Their Vodka, smooth and pure, reflects the distillery’s commitment to quality and is perfect for those who appreciate a cleaner, more refined spirit.

Looking to the future, Saltbeard Distillery is buzzing with potential. While there are no immediate plans for a tasting room just yet, John and Otto may look to collaborate with another establishment… so stay tuned to see just where this journey takes them next.

One exciting development in the works is a Quince Gin – which is producing some exciting results. John is yet to find a way to scale up without charging exorbitant prices, but we’re eager to get our hands on some in due course. There’s also whispers of something a bit ‘kooky’ behind the scenes, that John is yet to wrangle to the point of perfect deliciousness. “I don’t want to say too much about it at this point in time, but I will say that it is much more along the savoury/umami lines.” We’re intrigued, to say the least!

In the end, Saltbeard Distillery, with its delightful trio of spirits and the charming duo of John and Otto, stands as a testament to the joy of craft distilling. From the backyard-inspired Grapefruit Gin to the innovative adventures just around the corner, each bottle is a labour of love waiting to be uncorked. Here’s to the spirited journey ahead, where each sip brings a smile as wide as Otto’s. Cheers!

TASTING NOTES
Gin type – Contemporary

Appearance – Clear, bright

Botanicals – Juniper, ruby grapefruit, angelica root, orris root, coriander, lemon, cinnamon and orange

Aroma –  Soft, subtle aromas that celebrate juniper

Palate – Bright and fresh with smooth juniper and grapefruit presence

Finish – Dry, clean, refreshing finish

Our perfect G&T
• 60ml Grapefruit Gin
• 120ml Mischief Brew Tonic No.2
• Dehydrated Grapefruit

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