of Manly Spirits
The Manly Spirits Company takes its name from Manly Beach, one of the Northern Beaches of Sydney, an Australian landmark famed for its good surfing. Less than two years ago Manly was launched by duo David Whittaker and Vanessa Wilton. As is so often with distillers, while twiddling their thumbs waiting for their whisky to mature for three years they set about producing gin. Two years and three expressions later I caught up with their Head Distiller Tim Stones.
Prior to embarking on his career as a distiller, Tim worked as bartender and bar manager in bars such as Lab and Trailor Happiness before a 7 ½ year stint as Global Brand Ambassador for Beefeater Gin. Intrigued I asked him, what made you take the leap from brand ambassador to distiller?
It seemed like a logical progression. I spent many years serving alcohol and then many years promoting it. It seemed to be a good way to remove myself from the late nights and constant travel but stay connected to something I love. Working at Beefeater gave me a great insight into the day to day operations at a distillery and Desmond gave me a grounding in product development. It wasn’t long before I realised that this is what I wanted to be doing.
Desmon Payne, the granddaddy of gin, and Master Distiller at Beefeater, was awarded an MBE last year for his services of more than 50 years in distilling, first with Plymouth Gin then Beefeater. I was curious to find out what it was like working alongside the gin legend Desmond Payne?
Legendary. His gin knowledge is unsurpassed and he was always willing to share his experience and knowledge. If it wasn’t for him and Plymouth Master Distiller Sean Harrison, I don’t think I’d be doing this now. They really inspired me to pursue this as a career. They’re also both great to go drinking martinis with.
An Englishman born and bred, it’s a long way from London to Sydney. How did you end up on the other side of the world?
As is so often the case, I met an Aussie girl. She persuaded me to trade in South London for Sydney. I can’t say I took much persuading.
Manly Spirits have 3 gin expressions: Australian Dry Gin, Coastal Citrus Gin and Barrel Aged Gin which is the Australian Dry aged in oak barrels. Styled as ‘Nature in a Bottle’ they come in beautiful turquoise blue embossed bottles with a tactile fish scale design. The design won the company gold for Packaging Design in the 2018 International Wine and & Spirits Competition UK.
Distilled, bottled and labelled by hand, using foraged marine botanicals combined together with native botanicals and more traditional flavours, the Australian Dry Gin counts the unusual sea lettuce, pepper leaf, anise myrtle and finger lime among its botanicals. The Coastal Citrus Gin has lemon aspen, sea parsley, lemon myrtle and Meyer lemon. I asked why choose those particular botanicals for ADG and CCG?
First of all, it’s to give our products a sense of place, something that can be done quite effectively with gin botanicals. Most of what we do is informed by our location on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, where the ocean plays a big part in everybody’s lives. So the salinity you get from the sea lettuce and sea parsley really ties us to our home.
In the case of the others, Australia has so many amazing botanicals that you don’t see anywhere else, so it’s a question of trying to showcase these and use them in place of more traditional botanicals. So far I’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s available and it’s really interesting to experiment with them.
Who or what inspires you?
I find the weird and wonderful flora here in Australia inspiring. There’s nothing else like it on earth and it’s great fun to work with something so interesting.
Manly has four stills, named after the founder’s sons and daughter, the two largest for making whisky. It is Bella, a 600L still, that is mainly used for gin production. The smallest Jordan, a 50L still, is used for experimenting with flavours and for bespoke trade gin commisions. Manly claim to use an ‘innovative’ reflux condenser. Intrigued I asked what is ‘innovative’ about the reflux condenser Manly uses?
This was designed by one of the founders, David. It adds an extra level of reflux on the whisky still which enables us to make a lighter style of whisky. So far we use it when making our unaged malt spirit, White Dog, but in the future, we may use it on certain batches of whisky to produce something similar to the Japanese or Irish styles.
Manly are launching their gins onto the UK market this month (January 2019), having previously only been available online or in Australia. That must be quite exciting?
Yeah. It’s great to be taking our products to where it all started for me. Coming from a background of traditional London Dry, I’m looking forward to showing off something a little different. Australian gin is a really exciting category, so it will be good to see how it compares to the home-grown gins.
Gin distillers never stay still for long and are always experimenting with new flavours. I asked if Tim had any plans for another expression? Cryptically he replied,
There are always new and interesting ingredients landing on my desk, so we’ll keep you posted.
Manly run regular Gin Yoga classes on the second Sunday of every month, bring your own yoga mat. Do you join in with Gin Yoga?
I’m afraid not. I don’t like anything to distract me from the serious business of enjoying a gin & tonic.
And finally what is your favourite cocktail using Manly gin?
I’ve always been a martini aficionado. It’s simple, elegant drink, and leaves nowhere for the gin to hide.