The Aisling Distillery: An Ode Amongst the Riverina Plains
The Aisling Distillery was born as an ode to a Scottish Heritage and a love for whisky. Growing up in the Italian community rich with culture and heritage in regional Griffith, NSW, Mark Burns has little identity in regards to his past. Mark recalls "the Italians had their nice breads, salami, wine, olives, anti-pasta and a European language. I feel that I had nothing, but I felt that I needed to be in touch with something. I didn't know where I came from, I was just an Aussie boy growing up in a town full of people with rich cultures and stories dating back generations. So being of Scottish heritage I thought that it was my birth right that I produce something from my past."
As Mark embarked on a journey he realised the first descendants arrived in Benalla, and settled in Tungamah, Victoria. The land where they lived and worked from 1875-1920 was “BURNSIDE” Hill Plain Road. This farm is still being worked today. Fifteen years ago, Mark met Michelle and embarked on this journey together and met with Bill Lark in Tasmania and the rest is history. The journey in whisky and gin has created a life changing legacy.
Michelle Burns, Co-owner of The Aisling Distillery talks about their journey into gin making.
The distillery was born out of a desire to create an identity and celebrate heritage. Mark who is of Scottish heritage grew up in Griffith brimming with Italian heritage while you are of Dutch heritage. A cultural hot pot! How does this influence you and your journey into gin?
After many years of Mark searching his ancestry, our whisky journey is about Mark giving back to his heritage and this was how our Single Malt Whisky journey derived. As we have grown and nurtured our distillery we decided to embark on my Dutch heritage and show case gin which is something Griffith hasn’t had before. This was also requested by a local chef who asked us to launch a Gin at “The Long Lunch” held in October every year. This for us has been an amazing journey. Our gin has been perceived extremely well.
What was your vision and ethos for Aisling when you launched?
Our vision for Aisling was our dream and vision into a future of distilling. This came predominantly from Mark wanting to give back to his ancestors, but also our love of Engineering.
Tell us about the team behind Aisling.
We are a husband and wife team in both distilling and engineering. We have the same drive, passion and determination to succeed. We feed off of each other.
What it is like running a distillery in Griffith and what is the community like in this region?
Running our Distillery in Griffith is exciting, we have a welcoming community behind us. A community that love to see everyone doing well in there chosen path. We are the only distillery in Griffith, New South Wales. Our closest distilleries are ACT and Mendooran.
How do you come up with a new flavour profile? Is this collaborative? Tell us about the process.
When we embark on a new flavour we do small batches on our 5 litre still. We then put it on our Cellar Door and allow the consumers to give us feed back on small batches. We believe it is not only our palate that needs to be satisfied but also that of the consumer. We thrive on the feedback from the public. That is how we have successfully released our four gins to date.
Tell us about your distilling process. Your gins are of exceptional quality with a remarkable flavour profile. How do you achieve this?
We believe it is all in the process and the approach you have. Our equipment being Australian Made and made directly by Director Mark Burns who is an Engineer & First-Class Welder. We believe our full copper pot still has given us the quality, soft balanced spirit we have released to date.
Yes not only do you make the gin, but also fabricate and build stills from scratch. So what was important for you when making the still your distillery?
The most important thing for us was that it was full copper and we use a traditional copper pot / combination still. We have a tulip neck to give us a smooth finished spirit. We don’t follow the same trend as other gin distilleries whereby we don’t use a column/plate still.
What do you use for your base spirit and why?
We ferment grape juice and pomis as our base spirit.
Any pointers on how to enjoy the Triple Juniper with Elderflower Gin (ABV 42.5%).
You can enjoy your Triple Juniper Gin with Fever-Tree tonics or Capi Tonics. Garnish with ice, frozen strawberry, cucumber, lime, lemon, blueberries, elderflower. The beauty of this gin you can experiment to bring out the flavours.
Do you have any products in limited release that use experimental ingredients or techniques?
We have our signature gins that are available. Our Dry Gin Murrumbidgee is distilled a few times over the citrus season so we have the advantage of being able to have stock all year round.
What is life like for an independent craft Australian distiller?
Craft Distilling is hard work, but we love what we do. We both as a husband and wife team also work full time in our engineering business. So, we try and have a healthy work balance, this is not always the case. As distillery life can be rewarding and at the same time extremely time consuming depending on what we are working on at the time.
How are you managing the challenges brought on by COVID? How can consumers support distillers through this time?
We have found by offering free postage and other discounts online, with also free contact less delivery locally that this has assisted us and our customers. Support local and support Australian Made.
What makes Australian Gin so special?
The sentiment of Australian Gin is simply fantastic. No Australian Gin is the same, we all seem to show case our own differences in every way.
How do you see gin evolving in Australia and where do you want to take it with The Aisling Distillery?
The Australian market is growing and evolving every day. Gin is ever so popular. We have so many people visit our Cellar Door that are not Gin drinkers. Just by experiencing our tasting room and educating the public our Aisling Gin speaks for itself.
Any teasers for what's in store or anything in development? Gin or non-gin related?
We will have a new gin emerge in 2021, although our most important news is our just released Single Malt Whisky Release. This has been aging for 4 ½ years in Apera & Tawny Casks. We are simply excited by finally marking our milestone and releasing Liquid Gold.
Finally, how do you take your gin?
I believe a good, distilled Gin can be enjoyed neat, neat on ice and that is how I enjoy my Aisling Gin.
We showcased Triple Juniper with Elderflower Gin in GinFever and share distiller tasting notes and recipes here.
Written by Suzan Temizer and Michelle Burns. Images courtesy of The Aisling Distillery.