The Story Behind Bass and Flinders Distillery

The Story Behind Bass and Flinders Distillery
December 21, 2018 Gin Lane
Bass and Flinders Distillery Barrel

When we look forward to our retirement, it’s possible we’ll take a leaf out of Wayne and Bob’s book, the founders of Bass and Flinders Distillery (B&F). With neighbouring holiday home’s down on the Mornington Peninsula, it didn’t take long for this industrious pair to strike up conversations about making, of all things, locally produced brandy.

While B&F is possibly better known for their superb gin range, brandy was the driving force behind its inception. With the peninsula already hosting a solid wine presence (as well as a host of other fruits), Wayne and Bob saw the potential for grape based spirit production, thereby adding real value to the region as a whole.

B&F’s first production was for their ‘Ochre’ brandy. With a legal requirement in Australia of 2 years ageing for brandy, B&F went a step further and targeted a 5-year maturation period. Why? Making the very best spirit guides B&F’s philosophy and 5 years was the sweet spot as far as they were concerned. 5 years of course is a long time to wait for a product and this gave them time to experiment with other grape based spirits.

Luckily for us gin lovers, gin was first on the list. Before we delve into the gin though, we’ll take a step back and explain why B&F is rare in their production methods. This requires a little background on how gin is produced.

Some gin production basics

A majority of distilleries will buy in what is called ‘neutral spirit’, an extremely high ABV spirit (95% or above) that forms the basis for their gin production. The idea behind this is to have as ‘clean’ and ‘neutral’ a spirit to work from with their chosen botanicals.

A smaller number of distilleries, such as B&F, choose to make their own base spirit. This is a time consuming and labour-intensive process, adding at least two more distillation (and around 3 times the cost) runs to the overall production cycle. In addition, the wine must be sourced and selected and here again B&F has a unique approach. Called a single vineyard gin, B&F source their wine from a vineyard dedicated exclusively to producing the grapes and wine that suit them best.

The output of this first cycle of distillations is B&F’s eau de vie, which translates to ‘water of life’ in French. The basis of all of their products, eau de vie captures the essence of the grape fruit in a distilled form. Watered down to 40% ABV and bottled, it’s a super drink in its own right.

While their brandy and other spirits are produced with a chardonnay wine base, their gins are created from a shiraz wine base. The bolder characteristics from the shiraz creates the ideal base for B&F to build their gins on.

To be clear from Gin Lane’s perspective, there’s no judgement on our part as to which of these methods is ‘correct’ or ‘the preferred’ process. What is important is understanding and appreciating what goes into making your favourite craft gin unique. In B&F’s case having total control over their production from fruit to bottled spirit is ideal. While this of course comes with an added cost, it’s fantastic to see this spread across multiple layers of producers and growers, before reaching us in its bottled form.

In addition to the superb Gin 10 – Wild & Spicy that we’ve chosen for our gin of the month, B&F produce several other core gins. The soft and smooth featuring eight botanicals including juniper berries, angelica root, liquorice root and lime.

The Monsoon Gin – Eastern Twist is refreshingly exotic, infused with spices of the East. The combination of juniper berries, lemongrass, ginger and ginseng creates a smooth, dry gin with an ‘eastern twist.’

Rounding out the range are their truffle gin, using locally grown truffles, angry ant gin (featuring native botanicals from Wooleen Station in central WA, including native ant pheromones!) and cerise gin.

Considering the amount of additional work in B&F’s production methods, it’s phenomenal to see the incredibly wide range of products coming out of the distillery, not just gin, but everything from Limoncello, to vodka, to brandy.

It makes us wonder where Holly, daughter of founder Wayne and now an integral part of the B&F story, finds the time to take a breather. Holly joined the business following the unexpected death of co-founder Bob in 2016. Having been separately involved in the wine industry, Holly was a natural and experienced addition to the business to work with her dad Wayne.

We took some special time to chat with Holly about her involvement in Women of Australian Distilling, and you can read more on her story here.

Needless to say, if you’re down on the Mornington Peninsula anytime, Bass and Flinders should be on your list of things to experience. Now housed in their new distillery, Holly tells me they are looking forward to having more space to manage production, than the 30sqm they had available previously. Visitors will also be welcomed more comfortably, including in a dedicated masterclass space, where you can make your own gin.

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