For a couple whose gin journey began as a competition with a friend to see who could make the best booze, Felix Clarke and Corinna Covner have come a long way. On a whim, they switched from bootlegging vodka to gin and it’s a good thing they did! Only months after officially launching in April, Sydney-based Ester Spirits are already winning some pretty hefty industry awards.
We anticipate a big future for the husband and wife team and so this month we’re delighted to introduce you to their original offering, Ester Dry.
Ester Spirits’ Winning Formula
Referring to themselves as the ‘Velvet Sledgehammer’, Felix and Corinna say their product is the result of their ability to achieve balance (while still packing a punch!) through the harmonisation of their differing natures. “Corinna brings about a soft touch to my heavy-handed approach, which I’ve always had throughout my background in hospitality,” says Felix. “We’re constantly bouncing ideas and flavours back and forth to find that place in the middle – that ‘sweet spot’”.
It’s something they’ve learned through working together, as the owners of Bondi’s Bellagio Tuckshop and Bellagio Café in Waverley. “I naturally go for big, bold flavours in my food, like Southern American or Texan style, and Corinna really tempers that and brings about more balance. And really, we’ve just continued that on into our gin,” says Felix. Just like the Yin Yang symbol on their label, Ester Spirits is all about exploring duality and working with complementary opposites to achieve the sublime.
Although their interest in gin began 6 years ago – back in those bootlegging days – the couple put their serious distilling plans on hold because they wanted to get it right. “It was really important to show through our gin, a side of Sydney that’s sophisticated yet cool and a little off beat,” says Corinna. “We used an incredible design team at Form-A Studio, run by two cool Italians. I was hell bent on creating something really new and avant-garde.” Just like the packaging it comes in, Ester’s craft spirit is far from typical. Combining traditional and modern, bold and delicate, and creative and conservative, the result is a gin that’s sophisticated and honest while remaining intentionally uncomplicated.
The winning formula has seen Ester Spirits recently take out Best in Class and Joint Best in Show alongside well-known craft producers, Never Never Distilling Co. at the Australian Gin Awards 2020 for their Australian Navy Gin, Strong Gin.
“Speaking as an ex bartender, for us to even be included in the same sentence as Never Never at these awards was an absolute honour,” says Felix, of their win.
Ester’s Strong Gin was described by judges as “A super gin, full flavoured and great body. We enjoyed the botanical mix. Elevated juniper, a very clean palate and nose at this ABV. Great effort.” After tasting it ourselves, we couldn’t agree more!
But back to the Dry Gin which has also earned bragging rights with a 93-point Silver at the International Wine and Spirits competition in London earlier this year. Achieving the second highest scoring for an Australian gin in the Dry Category, Ester Spirits’ Dry Gin even managed to surpass craft producing heavyweights, Four Pillars’ offering.
Made following the original London Dry recipe, Ester’s Dry Gin is a quintessential Sydney gin, complete with spicy character and soft citrus notes. “As a bartender, Felix cut his teeth using traditional gins. He wanted to stay true to this heritage while still being bold and creative enough to utilise the diverse range of botanicals available to us today,” says Corinna. (For more on its makeup and some of Felix’s serving suggestions, check out our How to Drink section).
“We couldn’t be happier with the result and feel the wins have really helped us arrive on the scene,” says Corinna. “Literally no one had even heard of us or knew who the hell we were and so for us, taking home some big medals, was really cool and surprising.”
So, what’s in store now for the dynamite duo? Felix and Corinna say currently they’re just happy for their spirits to be poured in some of their favourite restaurants, but the dream is to one day be sponsoring some of their favourite major Australian events.
A Sydney distillery is also on the cards. Currently Ester uses Melbourne contract distillers, Gypsy Hub, but the couple plan to start their own operation soon. We can’t wait to see what they’ll be producing from it. If the last 6 months are anything to go by, one thing’s for sure – we know it’ll be anything but ordinary!