Q&A with Holly Klintworth; Head Distiller at Bass & Flinders Distillery

Bremont announces new partnership with Bass & Flinders Distillery.

HOW DID YOU FIRST GET STARTED DISTILLING? WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE YOU WANT TO START A FAMILY BUSINESS MAKING GIN?

It was actually my father who was one of the founders of the distillery in 2009. In 2016 I stepped in to work with my father full-time for the first time and it was then that the business became 100% family owned and operated.

My background was in wine marketing, having previously worked for global wine brands so there was some nice synergies between that and stepping into a family distillery business that is founded on the distillation of wine into spirit.

I first travelled over to France soon after starting in the business to immerse myself in the production of fine brandies and met with some truly inspiring cognac producers. It was then that  truly fell in love with what they call the “winemaker’s spirit” – the time and patience it takes to produce fine brandies, as well as the traditional Charentais distillation techniques we use modelled of the finest of cognac producers lies at the heart of everything we do.

My father was a strong mentor to me, and I learnt a wealth of things from him from distillation through to business management. He sadly passed away at the start of this year. I am very passionate about continuing his legacy and now oversee the business as the managing director and am one of few second generation distillers in the country. My mother and my sister are also involved as Directors too as well as my puppy Gilbert who is our official distillery dog and brand ambassador!

WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME BASS & FLINDERS DISTILLERY?

The name Bass & Flinders Distillery speaks to our location here on the Mornington Peninsula more than anything – provenance and sense of place is very important to us and we work with local suppliers and producers as much as possible, for instance we use Red Hill truffles in our Truffle Gin and locally sourced raspberries and cherries in our Cerise Gin, as well as forage for local kelp, samphire and coastal salt bush for our Maritime Gin.

The name is also a nod to our ethos around exploring new and unique flavours, and pushing the boundaries of what Australian spirits can truly come tor represent. Our outback is full of wonderful food sources, unique flavours and native botanicals that aren’t found anywhere else in the world and we are on a constant journey to discover new flavours and produce new and exciting spirits with a local Australian twist.

THE BUSINESS IS BASED ON THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA, WHAT IS IT ABOUT THAT AREA WHICH MAKES IT IDEAL FOR DISTILLING GIN?

I like to think that the local area plays an important role both in the maturation of brandy and also the production of our gins. In Scotland for instance when it comes to whisky maturation they swear by their environment as playing an important role in the aging of their spirits due to their unique climate, just as here in Australia where we have a unique climate too that impacts the aging and qualities that develop and mature in our brandy over time. The Mornington Peninsula is considered more of a cool climate wine region and this definitely also lends itself to barrel aged spirits and the ‘angels share’ (or spirit loss) is linked to the climate and environment barrels are stored in.

For our gin, the Mornington Peninsula is a constant inspiration for our gin recipes and botanicals and fruits we source as the region is abundant not only in wine, but also apple orchids, seasonal fruit and produce as well as coastal flavours and botanicals. We are always thinking about new local flavours we can work with to produce small batch seasonal products such as our Truffle Gin, or Winter Gin that uses a combination of gin and apple brandy made using local apples.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS BEHIND MAKING GIN?

The process always varies from product to product but as far as creating a new product goes, key considerations for me are 1) what style or inspiration would I like to develop a new gin on the basis of 2) what flavours and botanicals would fit with this style and 3) how do these botanicals and flavours meld together to create the perfect blend, the perfect balance as far as mouthfeel, front mid and back palate go, but most importantly how good it tastes!

WHAT MAKES YOUR GIN UNIQUE? ARE THERE SPECIAL TECHNIQUES OR FLAVORS YOU USE?

We proudly produce vine to bottle gins that make us quite unique in the spirit industry. More common in gin production is the purchase of a more neutral base spirit to work with and infuse with gin botanicals. We choose to go the extra mile to produce our own grape based spirit from scratch, and it was a natural progression for us – as a distillery founded on the deam of producing fine brandies – to use the same production techniques we use to produce eau de vie grape based spirit for our brandy, in the production of a shiraz grape bases spirit for our gins. This makes us extremely unique, and one of very few in the entire country that choose to work this way, as it it more expensive, but we feel makes for a premium gin with a more complex flavour product, smoother texture and mouthfeel.

‘Single vineyard’ is an acknowledgement of the fact that the grapes we have used to craft our base spirit, eau de vie, come from the one vineyard, displaying their own unique character and expression. We celebrate such character in our entire product range.

‘Single vineyard’ means that we have specified the grape and wine characteristics we use to produce our eau de vie. This means we have significant control over the flavours of our spirit due to ripening times and picking dates as well as winemaking techniques. 

‘Single vineyard’ is our recognition of quality. Quality is assured as we work closely with our producer to keep the flavours consistent in our quest for the finest quality, smooth textured eau de vie.

‘Single vineyard’ is also synonymous with attention to detail. Our attention to detail means quality eau de vie and better value for you, our customers. The result is also a much smoother tasting spirit that celebrates the flavour and viscosity provided by the grapes. A dedicated distilling technique, rarely seen in the industry.

YOU ALSO MAKE A BRANDY; CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW PRODUCING BRANDY IS DIFFERENT TO THE PROCESS IN GIN?

For us, producing brandy and producing gin starts out as the same process – with the production of eau de vie or grape based spirit in our alembic pot still. However we distil Victorian chardonnay wine for our brandy, and shiraz for our gins.

We use the Charentais distillation technique, whereby we double distil in small batches on a 300Lt copper alembic pot still, heated slowly with a gas flame.

For our brandy, once we have completed the double distillation process, the resulting chardonnay eau de vie is then placed into French oak barrels, and left to develop, mature and become brandy after a minimum of 2 years in oak. The question of when a brandy is ready for bottling comes down to a multitude of factors, from the vintage of wine distilled, the cuts at various points in the distillation process, through to the barrel the spirit is placed in which varies considerably from barrel to barrel as each have their own unique character, and finally to when we feel the spirit has developed the flavours and aromas we are looking for that make Bass & Flinders 100% chardonnay-based brandy so unique. Time and patience truly is key to creating a fine brandy.

HOW DO YOU RECOMMEND SERVING BASS & FLINDERS DISTILLERY GIN?

Depending on which gin, we recommend various tonics and garnishes with various gins. But because our gins are grape based, with an extremely smooth and velvety palate and flavour profile, we also consider them sipping gins, beautiful neat, over ice or in a martini too.

As far as garnishes go I always recommend choosing a botanical in the gin you’d like to highlight such as orange, lemon myrtle or pepperberries and selecting the garnish to make and complement the gin.

ARE THERE ANY NEW PRODUCTS YOU ARE WORKING ON?

We are constantly looking at new flavours and new spirits, liqueurs, gins and brandies we can explore. We have some locally sourced apples that we turned into apple cider then distilled into apple eau de vie sitting in barrel and ready to be released as an apple brandy in the next 1-2 years. I’m also looking at brandy based liqueurs too as an interesting avenue to explore.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO ORDER YOUR PRODUCTS?

People can visit us at 40 Collins Road Dromana and stop by for a tasting, a gin paddle or event try their hand at blending their very own gin at one of our extremely popular gin masterclasses. We’re just a short 1hr drive south of Melbourne (restrictions permitting of course). Our products are all also available to order online from our website www.bassandflindersdistillery.com