Sasha La Forgia started Adelaide Hills Distillery in 2014, but he confessed to me recently that he may have done a bit of backyard stilling when he was a teenager. I’m confident to guess that his spirits have come a long way since then!
Sasha trained in winemaking and spent many years travelling the world working on vintages and learning about distilling before returning to Adelaide to start the Adelaide Hills Distillery. 78° Gin was their first product, but has been joined by The Italian, a bitter orange liquor that goes great in a Negroni, The Gunnery spiced white rum, a range of vermouths, and Australian Green Ant Gin is collaboration with Indigenous bushfood company Something Wild. Sasha also does a great range of limited releases under the Left of Centre label.
A true hands on distiller, Sasha even made his own still! A copper column and basket still that gently vapour infuses the botanicals using a neutral grape spirit, it is the Adelaide Hills after all. The spirit is heated to 78°, hence the name. The heart cut is blended with local water to an ABV of 42%.
The most noticeable fragrance at first sniff is coriander, but, and this is a huge thing for me, the coriander hater, to say, but not in a bad way. It blends with the trio of citrus in a pleasing way with juniper and black pepper offering spicy support.
The citrus is really the star on the palate. I think the use of the three citruses along with the piney citrus of the coriander combine to create a complexity that give a long finish and is almost sweet and floral. The star anise lends support in the sweet finish. Back in the middle there is strong London dry characteristics, with the range of spices blending happily with juniper. This is a very fine presentation of a London dry and it’s easy to see why it took out a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
A traditionally inspired gin like this has to sampled in a gin and tonic, and it has a great time in Fever-tree Indian tonic water with a twist of lemon peel. Although my standard pour is usually 3:1 I found the right balance of 78° is 2:1, so go slow friends!
I wanted to have a go at a couple of traditional cocktails and decided to start with a Hanky Panky. I used Cinzano vermouth and instead of Fernet Branca I used two drops of extremely bitter wormwood tincture, which gave great depth of flavour, but overall the 78° is a bit too subtle to stand up to this cocktail.
Finally I made up an distinctly Australian Clover Club using Distillery Botanica raspberry liqueur. It took a bit of tasting to get the ratios right. As a Clover Club is usually made is raspberry syrup, rather than liqueur, I had to up the ratio to get enough raspberry flavour over the additional alcohol, then I added a dash of sugar syrup balance the extra alcohol, but it ended up quite tasty. With a bit less punch than the Hanky Panky, gin really shines in this cocktail.
60mL 78° Gin
30mL Distillery Botanica raspberry liqueur
20mL lemon juice
5mL sugar syrup
One egg white
Pour all the ingredients into a shaker and dry shake to emulsify the egg white. Taste and adjust to your palate. Add ice and shake to cool. Strain into a coupe or Nick & Nora glass.