Sea-Change Couple Goes Global With Gin
Driven by the rise in “craft” drinking and “clean” living, the humble G&T has enjoyed a huge comeback in recent years. There’s been a spate of new gin distilleries popping up all over the country, dispatching the Juniper spirit into the glasses of barflies of all ages and demographics.
Now a small start-up gin distillery on the south coast of New South Wales is making a splash in the global gin market, snaring medals at the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition in London.
Despite operating for less than a year, North of Eden from Bega won medals for both its gins; a silver for its Classic gin and a bronze for its Connoisseur gin.
North of Eden is the brainchild of Gavin Hughes and Karen Touchie, a couple who previously had busy and important careers — Gavin as chief executive of Dalby Biorefinery in Queensland; Karen as Director of the Climate Change Policy Branch in the Victorian Government.
Entrenched in their jobs, the couple barely saw daylight let alone each other. But a trip to the Yarra Valley wineries with friends visiting from Bega in 2017 led to Karen searching online for acreage in the Bega Valley. A few months later they bought Stony Creek Farm, resigned from their jobs and moved to Bega.
“I think most people thought we were mad when we upped sticks and left our careers to start a gin distillery in regional Australia,” Touchie reflects.
The couple spent a year transforming an old farm shed into a distillery on a shoestring. To make ends meet, Hughes has commuted to Queensland for the past 12 months, spending only one week in four at home making gin.
As a consequence, Touchie was forced to learn to drive.
“I’d never lived far from the city and suddenly I’m miles from the nearest town so I quickly had to learn to drive if Gav was away,” Touchie says.
With “everything done by taste and nothing automated” Hughes is particularly proud of staying true to artisan distilling traditions while always using local produce at first opportunity.
“There are certainly quicker and easier ways to make gin, but I reckon you can taste the love and attention that’s gone into every one of our bottles,” he says.
The gin is currently only available from 20 bars and outlets along Australia’s east coast or online, but that is sure to change as demand spikes.
To order a bottle (or three) online, visit www.northofeden.com.au.
Image credit: David Rogers