Liz had spent 20 years as a chef and running catering businesses until a holiday to Scotland changed everything.
“A friend bought me a gin masterclass as a gift, and I discovered the commonalities between distilling and being a chef; the combining of flavours to achieve different outcomes and I got very excited. On the way home on the plane, I decided that I would start distilling and selling gin, even though my only experience had come from this one class.”
Returning to Melbourne, Liz discovered that her prospects to learn the craft were grim.
“At that time, there was no training available for anyone who wanted to learn to distil. If you wanted to brew beer or learn winemaking then you were fine, but if you didn’t come from the industry, there was nothing for distilling.
Liz made her way to Kentucky in the United States, where she attended Moonshine University, the number one distilling school in the country and whose alumni represents a whos-who of boutique distillers in America. The training involves a wide range of techniques and a cross-section of spirits, as you’d expect in the bourbon capital of the world.
“We got to visit all the major distilleries in the area, including Jim Beam, and Maker’s Mark.”
This experience was to shape the way Here’s Looking at You Kid, made their gin.
“I came home and got my licence to manufacture alcohol and then I needed a still. The easiest thing to do would be to source something locally, but I really wanted an American still.”
Vendome Copper & Brass Works is an American institution when it comes to distilling. Liz sourced a copper pot still and named it Eliza Jane.
“There’s a bit of a story here. One of our gins is called ‘Wild Rose,’ after the Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue song and in the lyrics, it says, ‘They call me The Wild Rose, but my name was Eliza Day.’ So it all fits together.”
Eliza is very industrial in style and overdesigned – very American. Liz had a gin basket made for Eliza and the journey began.
“We’ve found a nice balance between the pot and the basket. We use the pot for the more robust flavours, soaking for 24 hours, and then the more delicate botanicals go in the basket. Like everyone else, we’ve also made some interesting discoveries such as lemon myrtle. I didn’t want to use it because I think everyone else does and we were trying to do something different. But when we tried it out, the lemon myrtle accentuated all the other flavours. It’s that kind of stuff that I love.”
The Wild Rose is made with Melbourne in mind.
“It’s said that Melbourne has four seasons in one day, so we wanted to create a taste that represented that. Four seasons in one mouthful.”
But Here’s Looking at You Kid has more tricks up its sleeve. Liz wanted to create a Christmas gin, like those created in the Northern Hemisphere, but with an Australian twist.
“Our Christmas Gin is pretty special, it tastes like pavlova. I love it on the rocks, it’s like Christmas in a glass.”