Turner Stillhouse is consciously treading a path of their own in the Tasmanian distilling scene. At the helm is Justin Turner a Californian native, now transplanted to the Apple Isle where we’re fortunate to have him!
Justin grew up in Northern California near the famous wine country of Napa Valley. Growing up his playground was a winery, so no surprise perhaps that he’s ended up in the broader industry.
While a distillery has been a long-term goal for Justin, neither gin, nor Tasmania featured in that planning until fairly recently. While he expected a stay in corporate finance to be relatively short, it stretched out to more than 10 years. On the upside it gave him the opportunity to meet his wife in New York, who’s from Tasmania (Deloraine) herself.
Having been away from her family here for over 10 years the couple chose to make the move a few years back to be closer to them. Justin’s nothing if not a planner and used holidays and breaks to spend time in distilleries across the US, as well as Scotland. The time was well spent soaking up information on spirits production, still types and generally learning the business as much as possible.
This grounding gave Justin a clear idea of some of the production methods he wanted to put into practice in his own distillery.
Having placed his stills on order Justin set about looking for a home for his distillery. Hobart and surrounds were ruled out thanks to there being a fair concentration of distilleries already. Having grown up in picturesque wine country, Justin was also seeking this for himself and Turner Stillhouse. In scouting potential options, he was fortunate to land an introduction to the owners of a former winery in the West Tamar Valley.
It certainly must have felt like things were coming full circle for Justin as he took over the space and began work on their new distillery. There’s some interesting features of Turner Stillhouse that are fairly rare in the Australian industry. First and foremost is a high tech looking still from Europe. There’s no shiny copper here (although another still for whisky production is), but Justin explains this high tech stainless still allows him to extract big, full flavours from his botanicals without the agitation other stills require.
There’s also the fact the still is largely automated allowing for greater productivity and dual production runs on gin and whisky at the distillery.
Justin is joined in production at Turner Stillhouse by Co-Distiller Brett Coulson. Brett came to the industry from a brewing background. He spent several years with a recognisable brand in Boags. You may notice our gin of the month is called the Distiller’s Release and this is thanks to some of the influence Brett brought to the development of this recipe, alongside Justin.
It’s fair to say some whisky distilleries have gone down the path of creating gins to sustain their business through the whisky production and ageing process. Fortunately for us this has led to some of the best gins on the market.
In Turner Stillhouse case, while whisky is very much in their future, you can see their intent for gin to be a fundamental part of their range from the start. The dual production stills and the choice to employ very different still types are key.
If you like what you taste in the Distiller’s Release, we highly recommend checking out the rest of the current range. The Founder’s Release is a less juniper forward and perhaps more approachable release for some. It won’t be any surprise as to why we selected the more juniper forward of the two! There’s also a couple of barrel age releases and we’re excited to hear of a cherry gin in the works featuring locally grown Tasmanian cherries.
While our travel plans to distilleries have certainly been curtailed in the past couple of years, we’ve placed Turner Stillhouse high up the list to visit on our next trip down. Fingers crossed that won’t be too much further in the future!