Meet Ally and Nick, this month’s distillers and owners of Karu Distillery. We’re excited to bring you Karu’s first gin and one of the most recent to arrive on the scene, ‘Affinity’.
We love the meaning behind that awesome bear paw in Karu’s logo, it’s all in the name. Karu is Estonian for bear, a nod to Ally’s Estonian heritage… and because bears are awesome!
While Karu distillery isn’t open to the public right now, there are some serious plans afoot to have a tasting and cellar door premises. With an incredible location on the edge of the Blue Mountains and overlooking the Devil’s Wilderness, we highly recommend you visit once they open.
Ally and Nick are a genuine husband and wife distilling team, being equally involved in the development and production aspects of the distillery. Chatting with them about what they do is pretty special. They’re in sync and it shows when you watch and listen to them pass back and forth on the story and the inspiration behind Karu.
Ally spent the last 10 years or so in various office-based accounting and finance roles. A huge step forward for the distillery, and their future plans, is Ally recently jumping in full time to working in and on the distillery. As a lover of all things science, Ally tells us it’s long been an ambition of hers to be involved in a job combining science and creative pursuits… something distilling covers without a doubt.
Nick meanwhile is still involved in the film industry building and operating some technical sounding equipment for rigging up film cameras. While he’s loved the opportunity to travel the world and work on some incredible films (we caught him mentioning Aliens, Gatsby and Wolverine among others), 90 hour weeks and a lot of time away from home take their toll. As business owners who work different roles ourselves, we sympathise with the challenge Nick (and Ally previously) faces in trying to get a new business off the ground, while dealing with the realities of a 2nd job.
We’ve talked a little before about the challenges of setting up a distillery and the story for Karu sounds familiar. Following a 2 year process of council approval, liquor licence and ATO approval, Karu went into development on Affinity gin last year. Like many distilleries before them, they found a huge wealth of knowledge within the industry. Reg from Ironbark, Peter Bignell in Tasmania and many others gave them the time and knowledge to move through the process where government and council proved challenging. The way the Australian craft spirits community support each other is truly heartening.
The initial taste for some of the practical ins and outs of distilling came via Old Kempton Distillery’s, Distillery School. High on our list of courses to take part in, it gives would-be distillers the chance to get behind the scenes and have a taste of all aspects of distillery life from hands on distilling to distillery business basics.
The amount of alcohol excise (about $23 of every bottle of Affinity) is always a shock for new distillers, however Ally and Nick weren’t going to let it deter them, so it was full steam ahead. Karu houses 3 stills the first of which is ‘Calcifer’ (named after a fire demon in Howl’s Moving Castle), a copper pot still who’s the ‘heart and soul of the distillery.’
Their 50 litre still on which the affinity gin was originally developed looks a bit like a space ship and was given the name ‘Major Tom’.
Rounding out the trio is ‘Ding’, appropriately named after he arrived with a ding in the side from transport to the distillery.
While well meaning family and friends encouraged Nick and Ally to get selling on Affinity early on, the pair were determined they wouldn’t bring a substandard product to market. Ally and Nick went through 26 iterations before they landed on the recipe they were happy with.
Judging by this first major release for Karu, the future is bright for this distillery. We’ll be staying in touch for some of the incredible seasonal releases that are sure to come, especially with the wealth of interesting botanicals to be found right on their doorstep. All being well, within the next 12 months, you’ll be able to make Karu Distillery a stop on any future visit to the Blue Mountains region.