Meet Rebecca Mathews and Chris Pratt from Kilderkin Distillery – the makers of Larrikin artisan gins.
When Kilderkin Distillery opened in 2016, it revived a tradition of distilling in Ballarat that had been dormant for decades.
“We’re lucky to be based in Ballarat,” Chris reflects, “because this is where it all started – at least legally, that is.
“Distilling probably started illegally in the goldfields, but the first legal distillery in the colony of Victoria was the Warrenheip Distillery. That was built in the early 1860s in Dunnstown, just outside of Ballarat, and they distilled there until the 1930s. A lot of people think they just produced whisky there, but one of the first spirits they distilled was an early version of gin.
“Distilling has a storied history in the goldfields, and we’re honoured to be part of that in our own way. Our Larrikin gins are proudly distilled, hand bottled and labelled in Ballarat. When the customer walks through the door into Kilderkin Distillery, we’re not just offering them a drink, we’re offering them a whole experience. We’re telling them about the production of gin, the botanicals that go into it, we’re telling them about the history of distilling in Ballarat.”
Tell us about Kilderkin’s approach to artisan gin making.
Gin making fulfils a curious mind because there’s so many different botanicals to blend and bring together. We make gins through extracting the flavours from botanicals by distillation. We take the vapours from the alcohol and water mixture and force them through the botanicals, and by doing so we produce the flavours that you’ll find when you open one of our bottles.
Sourcing local ingredients for our business is very important to us. We choose to vapour infuse our artisan gins with many different botanicals, including some wonderful and unique Australian botanicals. Our signature gins are Scoundrel, a Classic Dry Gin, and Original Larrikin, an Australian Gin. We also produce Buccaneer (a 57% abv navy strength gin), Sunburnt Country, (a special Australian bush food gin), limited edition blends such as Barrel Aged and Cherry Lush, and gin-based liqueurs. We like to push boundaries – as larrikins do. That’s the personality of our business and the gins we create.
Do you have any Ballarat origin blends?
Our gin for the Begonia Festival features locally grown begonia flowers along with a selection of botanicals from the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. We also created a custom gin for Sovereign Hill, using banksia flowers grown on site. And we’ve crafted a ‘bartender’s strength’ gin for Lola restaurant, at the Provincial Hotel. So, we really do try to work with other local businesses where we can.
What can visitors expect from your masterclass experience ‘A Journey to Gin Through the Ages‘?
We’ve created a masterclass experience that covers a range of topics, so there will be something new for everyone. Some people really have just enjoyed drinking a gin and never really thought about the production of it. Others will already know quite a bit about distilling and can really delve into the detail.
As part of the experience, participants will explore different botanicals, taste the spirit at various stages of the distillation, and be immersed in four centuries of gin history. Of course, they will also have a chance to taste Larrikin gins and deepen their appreciation for the different flavours.
Tell us more about your new distillery door in the leafy suburb of Mount Pleasant.
Having opened the distillery door in mid 2022, it has already proved to be very popular. The main space was designed to be warm and welcoming, while also capturing aspects of the history of the building as a warehouse for training apprentices in a range of trades from welding to sheet metal work. We’ve also run successful events in collaboration with other Ballarat artisans and have welcomed groups for birthdays and other celebrations. There is a separate area for small private functions and we have plans to feature the work of regional artists in the coming months, as well as opening up our outdoor spaces for summer.
What’s next for Kilderkin?
A special limited release of the whisky is planned for early 2023, with other special releases to follow throughout the year and beyond. We are also engaging in further collaborations, including producing a gin specially for Executive Chef Alejandro Saravia for the new Victoria Restaurant in Federation Square.
Where can we find Larrikin artisan gins in Ballarat?
Kilderkin’s distillery door is located at 14A Hill Street, Mount Pleasant, Ballarat 3350.
Open on Thursdays (11am to 5pm), Fridays (11am to 7pm), and Saturdays and Sundays (11am to 5pm).
Masterclasses can be booked online.
Kilderkin also attends the Ballarat Farmers Market in Zoo Drive (Lake Wendouree) on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month from 9am to 1pm.
The full range is also available from Campana’s Deli and Cellars, on the corner of Mair and Armstrong Streets, with selections available at other outlets.