Step off the train at Ballarat Station, walk out of its grand neo-classical hall and across the tracks, and you’ll find The Goods Shed. The 160-year-old heritage-listed bluestone building once serviced the gold rush, which made Ballarat one of the wealthiest cities in the world in the mid-19th century. Now, it’s home to a new multi-spirit distillery that’s striving to create its own liquid gold.

Itinerant Spirits has taken up residence in a corner of the historic shed, which now boasts an events hall, conference space, theatre and two new restaurants.

Brad Wilson and Craig Ryan are the duo behind Itinerant Spirits. Both share impressive backgrounds in hospitality: Wilson as a creative director and founder of Melbourne’s Little Lon Distilling Co, Ryan as a director of global hospitality and hotel management companies.

The idea for the distilling venture was sparked in a meeting at The Espy in St Kilda, when the pair were sharing their stories of itinerant travel and living abroad. From there, a search began for a location with the right ingredients and Ballarat quickly ticked all the boxes.

“The scene in Ballarat is pretty exciting at the moment,” Wilson tells Broadsheet. “There’s a lot of passionate, talented people here and a lot of makers, so it’s a good time to be opening and helping Ballarat to flourish.”

Take a seat at Itinerant’s full-service 140-seat cocktail bar and you can see right through a glass wall to the gleaming distillery. Towering over the back bar is a 3000-litre German Kothe still and a 650-litre gin still used to create vodkas, gins and whiskies.

James Fairlie is the head distiller in charge of the shiny new kit. Fairlie hails from Scottish whisky-distilling royalty – his family resurrected the famed Glenturret Distillery, Scotland’s oldest working distillery. Following a gap year in Australia more than a decade ago, Fairlie settled in Melbourne, became the bar manager at Melbourne’s Whisky & Alement, then worked as a distiller at Four Pillars.

The first two spirits Fairlie has created are Gallivanter Gin and Vansetter Vodka. “Gallivanter is quite a citrus-forward gin but with a big juniper backbone,” Fairlie says. Ruby grapefruit and native lemon drop wax flower inject fresh citrus flavours into the gin, while green Sichuan pepper and roasted wattleseed add spice and depth.

Vansetter Vodka is all about local grains – a core tenant of the Itinerant Spirits project moving forward. It’s a rich, cereal-forward spirit made from malted wheat and a pinch of rye with grains sourced from Victoria’s Mallee and Wimmera regions.

Eventually, whisky will be a big play here. Itinerant’s Wayfarer Whiskey, a grains-on American-style approach utilising barley, wheat and rye, is currently ageing in barrels and will be launched in a few years when mature.

The grains are supplied by Bintani Australia, via the Joe White Maltings Specialty Plant down the road. The Meddings family, which founded Bintani, one of Australia’s leading ingredients suppliers to the brewing and distilling industries, are also part-owners of Itinerant Spirits.

“It’s a true three-way partnership, and we’ve got an incredible wealth of knowledge to leverage on the ingredients side with the Meddings,” says Wilson.

The design of the cellar door and bar is equally meticulous. Singapore-based interior designer Emma Maxwell, who grew up in regional Victoria, is responsible for the fit-out – a blend of modern fittings and exposed heritage elements. A mezzanine sporting its own bar overlooks the entire distillery, while the Fireside Whiskey Lounge will be the place to curl up during Ballarat’s chilly winters.

Venue manager Zachary Hill (ex-Volta and Hop Temple, both in Ballarat) oversees a wine and beer list replete with regional heroes like Mitchell Harris, Attwoods Wines and Red Duck Brewery.

But spirits are the main game here, and signature cocktails are a wise choice as the weather warms up, including the Hopeless Wanderer with Bacchus Marsh strawberries and pink peppercorn creating a zingy and refreshing Gallivanter Gin fizz. For something more velvety, the Valiant cocktail throws Vansetter Vodka into a sour with mandarin, pomelo and Aperol.

The food menu has just come online with the opening of adjoining restaurants Nolans and Boom Time Dumplings.

Shared plates and pizzas are the focus. Expect Hong Kong-style street food from Boom Time, including dumplings, pulled beef cheek bao and kung pao chicken. From Nolans, a vodka-infused ’nduja-sauce pizza with basil, pecorino and honey gets the tick for something more substantial.

Masterclasses in the mezzanine will soon be offered on weekends. The 1.5-hour sessions will include a history of gin- and whisky- making in Ballarat, a tasting of the Itinerant Spirits range, plus a tour of the distillery.

Itinerant Spirits
The Goods Shed, 200 Lydiard St North, Ballarat
0497 552 280

Mon to Wed 4pm–10pm
Thu midday–10pm
Fri & Sat midday–midnight
Sun midday–10pm