How long has Echuca Distillery been operating?
Opened our doors to the public in May 2019. Prior to opening we purchased the site in December 2016 and immediately started the planning and design process, but building did not commence until mid-2018. Didn’t reach our first birthday before the pandemic changed our lives.
During the pandemic, we concentrated our efforts with our “online” business and this kept us going until we reopened. Online sales now represent an important facet of our business as it both promotes our products and keeps us in touch with Craft Spirit lovers throughout Australia.
How did Echuca Distillery get started? What was the inspiration?
We came to Echuca to “retire” in 2012 but soon became restless. We soon realized we needed to try something new, and the hunt was on. We were in Adelaide at a food and wine equipment expo and one of the stands was displaying a Still like the one we display at the distillery. As both lovers of Gin and our desire to bring something new to Echuca, we immediately purchased a Still inspired by the growing Gin culture not only in Australia but further afield.
At this point, we realized we had the Still, but we needed a building to house it. The ‘port’ was an obvious choice for us as we believe this to be Echuca’s greatest asset and somewhere we could contribute to make that offering stronger.
What did David and Fiona (the founders) do prior to starting Echuca Distillery?
Prior to coming to Echuca, we owned and managed a Flavour and Fragrance manufacturing company so our grounding in the food and beverage scene was strong. We specialised in developing products for food manufacturers both small and large and did so for 25 years before selling this business in 2012.
Our family consists of Mum, Dad, and four children. All the kids worked with Mum and Dad in different capacities whilst growing up and now all four live in Echuca Moama. Our twin boys Peter and David (don’t call me Junior) both now work at the distillery with aspirations of growing the brand. Peter came in September 2021 and is now Head Distiller. David joined us only a month ago after spending the last 10 years working with the company that purchased our previous business. He is heading up operations and will oversee our regulatory requirements. Please make them welcome when next coming to visit us.
Why spirits, specifically Gin and Vodka?
Creativity through technology is our mantra. The creativity in developing a range of consumer products coupled with the technology of making it happen is hugely satisfying. We now have 11 varieties of Gin, 4 Vodka’s, 6 types of Agave Spirit, and 1 Whisky. For whatever reason since the distillery’s inception, we have been known as the “Gin Distillery”.
As much as this pleases us it is a fact since day 1, we had always planned on producing a raft of craft spirits. Apart from the fact we love ‘Gin’ it is also a product that requires little aging therefore can be sold immediately. This compared with “brown” spirits (Whisky, Rum) that need to be aged for x number of years before going to market.
Is there a specific drink or way you would recommend serving that drink and what is your number one tip for the ultimate taste experience when mixing that drink?
The “Gin and Tonic”. Must be our favorite drink, centuries old, often done badly but when done right is absolutely refreshing and delicious.
Where would you take a visitor for an essential country food experience?
As much as we love fine dining (Junction is our fave) an essential “Echuca Moama” country food experience has to be all around the river. This is our most important asset which we love being a part of. It could be a campfire, a BBQ, dining at the few eateries overlooking the river, or being on one of our iconic Paddle Steamers but the river needs to be involved. It is a true picture of country Australiana.
If you could visit any city for a days eating and drinking experience, where would it be and why?
We have been very fortunate to travel to many great cities throughout the globe with some great and interesting experiences concerning food and drink. From a Hot Dog at Yankee Stadium New York, Seafood extravaganza at Rick Steins Cornwall, Raw herrings on the canals in Amsterdam our favourite cities for eating and drinking are both in Australia.
Fiona – Port Douglas. The fresh seafood, the variety of venues, the weather and just the general vibe makes this the place for me.
David – For me it must be Melbourne. The restaurant and bar scene is exciting and everchanging. The chefs are world class, daring and innovative. Raw materials are plentiful and fresh. Growing number of bars specialising in craft spirits, particularly Australian.
What other local artisans or producers do you admire? Why?
As producers ourselves we understand the enormous amount of work and effort that is required to achieve success. This is the Why!
As for the local producers themselves, the ones that come to mind and are doing great things for our community include: Pacdon Park (niche products which are delicious), Windella Farm (innovative soaps from Cohuna), St Annes (wines and choccies and their contribution to the Port), Murray Gums (quality Olive Oil and wine), Quincy Jones (yummy preserves,) The Meat Room (the best charcuterie from Kyneton) and many more.
From a Gin point of view hats off to Four Pillars. Great Gin, lovely people, and the forerunners of distilling Gin in Australia. Currently commissioning their latest still which will bring their capability of Gin production to 1 million bottles per annum. Not bad for nine years of work. For all our followers out there, we are happy to announce that our distillery will be installing a second Still later this month which should be up and running early November. This will increase our own capacity and invite you to come for a look-see next time you are passing.
If you had to choose your last meal and last drink, what would they be?
Fiona – Seafood dinner and a G&T
David – Seafood extravaganza and a Whisky. (Cask strength as it will be my last)
Peter – Char Kway Teow and a craft beer.
David – Steak and a craft beer.