Wine Making

Lockdown leads to collaboration between winemaker and distiller for muscat gin


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What do a winemaker and a distiller have in common? A love for old barrels it seems.

In northeast Victoria, two craft beverage producers have come together to create a muscat-infused gin.

Rowly Milhinch, of the Scion winery, said it was a chance meeting that led to the collaboration.

“So we ended up trying to outbid these barrels at a clearance sale, and when we tied them to our tails, we had a chat.

“And here we are, a year and a half later, collaborating on three different distillation projects, one being gin muscat.”

Gin Muscat is one of three projects Leigh and Rowly are working on together. (

Provided: Wiltshire Creative and Andrew Hardy

)

Leigh Attwood of the Backwoods Distillery in Yackandandah said muscat gin is a combination he has never encountered before.

“We get this beautiful sweetness from the very late picking on the Muscat from the Rowly vineyard and combined [it] with native Australian plants in our gin. So it’s the perfect balance, ”Mr. Attwood said.

“It’s about showing our strengths which are Rutherglen Muscat and gin”

Turning 10-year-old Muscat waste into spirits

Gin muscat is the first of three projects the couple is working on. The barrels that brought the pair together are currently being used for an idea Mr. Milhinch had over a decade ago.

Cave Scion 2
Rowly saved the waste from 13 years ago, hoping to find a still up to the challenge.(

Provided: Scion Winery

)

“I didn’t want to waste it knowing that there is value if I met a still who was crazy enough to work with me with that vision. “

“Not only did Leigh do an amazing job with this material, but it’s a cool story because the barrels are how we met. However, it is not over yet.

“We’re currently aging it in 1976 port casks, which is very exciting. “

The third project also consists of re-stilling various components of the vinification to make a grappa-style digestive alcohol.

Mr Milhinch says the combination of distillery and winemaking made sense during this quieter time.

“As a winegrower, it’s a new frontier.”

“One of the beautiful characters of Muscat is the way it expresses colors – we mixed it with tonic and it brings out that beautiful blush pink shade. It is a contemporary flavored gin.

“We were both talking about doing it again next year and there’s nothing to change so we’re really proud of that.

“Year of the roller coaster” for small businesses

With the two companies having suffered several lockdowns statewide this year, Attwood said one of the positives was the opportunity to try out new ideas.

“It’s been a roller coaster this year – it’s so hot and cold.

“When things open up we get a flood of people and many locals have gone out of their way to buy something more and that’s fantastic.

Scion 1 vineyard
Rutherglen is known the world over for its own variety of brown muscat grape which is hand picked at the Scion winery. (

Provided: Scion Winery

)

Mr Milhinch said there was a bit more normalcy for him in the vineyard, although he was eager to greet visitors at the cellar door.

“I feel lucky enough in our job – being growers in two wineries we own – how nature doesn’t see a pandemic. It’s a wonderful staple part of my line of work.

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