Ballarat has a long and storied history when it comes to distilling spirits, tracing back to 1864 with Warrenheip Distillery, the only whisky distillery in Victoria for many decades.
Now over 150 years later, the tradition lives on in Ballarat distillery, Kilderkin.
Beer lover Chris Pratt set himself a challenge. He would taste a different craft brew every day for a year. He kept running into Scott Wilson-Browne, owner of The Red Duck Brewery in Ballarat, known for its excellent range of beers. In fact, the two crossed paths so often, they discovered a shared love of distilling and a business idea was born.
With Chris’s Scottish heritage, whisky was an obvious choice for their foray into spirits. But before too long they were also looking at making gin. Just as he’d done with his craft beers, Scott was determined to produce quality over quantity and Chris agreed that small batch spirits were the way to go. It also gave them a name.
As Chris explained: “We decided to call the distillery Kilderkin, the term given to a small sized barrel”. They then commissioned Peter Bailly from Knapp Lewer in Hobart to manufacture two pot stills to stringent specifications. After all, being perfectionists, they wanted the ultimate in clean, distilled spirits for those who take theirs neat, as well as others who add a mixer.
Using these small barrels would also mean that Kilderkin could produce quality whisky a little sooner. In the meantime, there’d be no need for your glass to remain empty.
Scott has long been known for brewing craft beer with sometimes unconventional ingredients, from cactus to the spicy sumac. From day one, their gin was going to be extraordinary and it has lived up to expectations.
“We decided to call the distillery Kilderkin, the term given to a small sized barrel” – Chris Pratt, Kilderkin Distillery
Kilderkin’s signature gins include A Scoundrel, a London dry gin which makes it around 40-45 per cent alcohol. Infused with juniper, coriander, aniseed, green and brown cardamom, it has a slightly earthy, truffle-esque character with a hint of smokiness. “There is also The Larrikin, “ Scott added, “a gin boasting Australian botanicals”. These include pepperberry leaf, roasted wattleseed, bush river mint and lilly pilly, among many others.
“The Buccaneer is a navy strength gin,” Chris mentioned. So it’s some 57 per cent alcohol when bottled. Plus, from time to time they produce special limited editions gins. “Each one unique because its flavor is influenced by the barrel in which it’s been aged.”
Having opened in 2016, their venture into spirits has restored a Ballarat tradition. Not since the 1930s has there been a distiller in town and the locals could not be happier.