When it comes to gin distilleries, there are few that has the reputation that Four Pillars Distillery has. From its signature Rare Dry Gin to its delicious Navy Strength, you can see why this distillery has won countless awards. Being crowned best international gin distillers at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2019, we pick the brains of Stuart Gregor, Co-founder and Trade Director of Four Pillars Gin.
Stuart Gregor: Co-founder and Trade Director of Four Pillars Gin
Stuart Gregor is one of the Co-Founders of Four Pillars Gin, together with Cam MacKenzie and Matt Jones. The distillery is located at Healesville in Victoria, Australia and produces a number of unique variety of gins. Four Pillars also produces artisanal related products, with one of the most unique being the Bloody Shiraz Gin and the Four Pillars Breakfast Negroni Spread.
Can you tell us how Four Pillars started?
Four Pillars started in 2013 when Cam Mackenzie and I were a little bit “over” the wine industry and wanted to make something a little bit interesting that we could always drink if it wasn’t too successful. The idea of making gin was our best idea and we then found Matt Jones who was exactly the person we needed to help pull the brand elements together. Cam spent the best part of the year perfecting the recipe for the Rare Dry Gin, our first gin, and the rest as they say, is history.
Four Pillars won gin producer of the year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2019. What do you think helped your distillery take the trophy for this award?
I think it was a combination of things. First of all, our gins had to go well at the IWSC not just this year but over a number of years and that has been the case, we’ve won gold medals and trophies at IWSC in London and Hong Kong over the past four years. Then I think we had to have a real international ambition and absolute commitment to quality and innovation. I think we ticked that box, too. And if you look at the two previous winners – Herno from Sweden and Kyoto Distillery from Japan, there is a distinct connection between us three, apart from us all being great mates, we are making world class gin in places not traditionally known for it.
What is your philosophy the gin you produce?
The philosophy is simple. It must always be the best we can do. No excuses, no short-cuts and no resting on our laurels. And we always want to make something that has a unique character – that might be Australian native botanicals, steeping gin in Shiraz for Bloody Shiraz Gin, using old wine barrels, making savoury gins when everyone else is making sweet gins. We need to stand out, be brave, be confident, be excellent, be unrelenting in our pursuits and ALWAYS have fun – do it with a smile – after all making gin is seriously the best job ever.
Which are your best sellers and latest releases?
Our most important gin is our Rare Dry Gin, the original gin and we hope one of the world’s best Gin and Tonic gins. It is also the base for our Bloody Shiraz Gin, which is the fastest growing and most interesting new release. And later in 2020 we will have a new superb savoury style gin made with olives, the perfect Martini Gin. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.
What challenges do you face as a gin producer that consumers might not be aware of?
We face many of the same challenges all small businesses face. Right now we face an uncertain time in many of our markets, and of course in our Global Travel Retail channel, from Covid-19 and the fact people are heading out to bars less and travelling more infrequently. We are trying to be as environmentally aware and responsible as we can be and thus we are always trying to reduce our carbon footprint. And most people particularly in international markets are not aware of how high the domestic tax is in Australia. This makes it really difficult for us to re-invest in the business – you will be shocked at how expensive spirits are in our home country.
What has been the most common misconception of gin that you have come across?
That it’s an old-fashioned drink, that it can only be drunk with tonic and that it makes you cry. All of these are what we call “old wives’ tales”. Essentially incorrect stories perpetuated for many years. Gin is a really great, modern drink especially the new styles like ours that are true to gin’s juniper dominant heritage but also are willing to push the boundaries. Gin is used to make hundreds of the best cocktails in the world that don’t contain tonic and a gin and soda is simply delicious. And gin no more makes you cry than any form of alcohol.
Your Bloody Shiraz Gin is one of the more unique ones. What makes it so special?
The idea was to make a gin that was a bit of an Aussie riff on the classic Sloe Gin but made with something more relevant to who and where we are. So why not steep Rare Dry Gin in locally grown shiraz grapes. So it is less sweet than Sloe Gin and also about 50% stronger (at 37.8%ABV) so it is really great in cocktails. And it is just damn delicious. The idea is simple – to make a rich delicious gin.
Can you share a cocktail recipe that you like making?
My favourite cocktail right now is a simple riff on a Jasmine – it’s called a Bloody Jasmine and is equal parts Bloody Shiraz Gin, Campari, Cointreau and Lemon juice. Shake it up and then add a good slug of soda water in a tall glass, so it’s not too strong. Delicious in warm weather
Do you have any speculation on what types of expressions of gin which will be popular in 2020?
I think as ever people will look towards gin that have integrity, that aren’t gimmicky. Gins that somehow showcase where they are from and have a real reason to exist – not just more same-same gins. And gins that lend themselves to great mixed drinks.
Check out the latest collaboration between Kyoto Distillery x Four Pillars called the Changing Seasons Gin.
| PHOTOGRAPHY: FOURSQUARE RUM DISTILLERY | WEBSITE: FOUR PILLARS DISTILLERY |