WITH its spectacular coastal landscape Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is world famous for attracting thousands of visitors every year.
An added attraction has now popped up at Aireys Inlet in the form of Great Ocean Road Gin, a new tasting room and gin garden venture thanks to Ann Houlihan.
The region has always held a special place in Ann’s heart since her parents built a family home at Moggs Creek, not far from the famous Great Ocean Road sign some 47 years ago.
“I spent all my childhood weekends and school holidays here: exploring the coast, searching for fish and crabs in the rock pools, walking the dog along the beach and discovering native heath and wild flowers in the bush,” Ms Houlihan said.
With a background in project management, marketing, and market development for companies such as the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, Ms Houlihan said she has always enjoyed a gin and tonic.
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“But it was the emergence of craft spirits and particular craft gin in Australia that captured my attention,” she said.
“In my role at the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria I established the Australian Distilled Spirit Awards and worked closely with the industry to establish the competition.
“I was exposed to different small batch craft gins through this and loved that gins were being developed to represent their provenance.
“In making the move from Melbourne with my family I wanted to be a producer, to be part of the thriving food and booze community here on the coast and to make a gin that had a real sense of this place, The Great Ocean Road.”
Ms Houlihan launched the gin via Pozible raising $24,000 through that campaign to assist in funding the production of her first batch of gin.
The campaign ran for four weeks with targets met and exceeded. The campaign also exposed the gin to 144 followers who bought the first batch.
Ms Houlihan also acknowledges the fantastic support and encouragement from the industry in developing her own craft gin company.
“Working closely with a team of people has helped me to realise my vision. This included distiller and owner of the award winning Anther Gin, Sebastian Raeburn at The Craft & Co, a makers’ incubator in Melbourne who has a wealth of experience and worked with me to perfect my gin recipe,” she said.
“I wanted to showcase this region and, where possible, work and collaborate with other regional businesses, farms, and producers.
“Nick Day at Otways Indigenous Nursery who propagates native plants from Torquay to Cape Otway has been my go-to person for local botanicals and I source all of my indigenous ingredients from him.”
Ms Houlihan’s first gin in the series, bottled under the Great Ocean Road Gin banner, was called Guvvos so named after a popular local surf beach.
This gin reflects a true sense of place unique to its location as nine of its 24 botanical ingredients are local.
Coast daisy, ruby salt bush, coast salt bush, hop wattle, pigface, kelp, two indigenous Eucalypts and local Surfcoast honey produced in Torquay contribute to a classic dry citrus forward gin with a savoury hint of salt.
The next addition to the range was Split Point, a navy strength gin named after the famous 1891 local landmark Split Point lighthouse that dominates the landscape on the coast at Aireys Inlet.
This gin reveals intense overtones of citrus, juniper and local coastal botanicals including salt bush, hop wattle, local honey and kelp.
The R&D and gin production takes place in a 180 litre copper pot Carl Still.
Production is one shot pot distillation.
Batches range in size depending on the yield and if the gin is diluted for the modern, navy or both but roughly 150 per batch of navy which sits at 57 per cent ABV and 240 for the modern dry gin 41pc ABV.
The new tasting room and gin garden, opening in time for the summer season could well see Aireys Inlet being re-christened Aireys ‘Ginlet’.
Tastings, G&Ts, gin cocktails along with small amounts of local beer and wine will be on offer while the Guvvos and Split Point gin sales are also available from various stockists or nationally through the online website shop.
“We are hoping to open the tasting room seven days from 10am-10pm during peak periods, however this will scale up and down depending on the season and demand,” Ms Houlihan said.
“Ultimately my long term plan, once a site is found and some capital has been raised is to establish my own distillery.
“The Aireys site won’t accommodate it as it’s too small so for now that’s the home of my gin.”