Cedar Fox Distilling Co, the craft gin distillery founded by musician-turned-brewer-distiller Craig Westwood and journalist-turned-defence-lawyer-turned-distillery-director Ran Zaydan, has a new home in Coburg North. The company’s recently opened bar and cellar door is the culmination of years of hustling for the local multihyphenates.
“First, it was the delays coming out of Covid-19, then it was 15 months to get the power upgraded, then Craig had open-heart surgery,” says Zaydan. “We’ve had a bit to contend with, but it’s so exciting to finally see it come to life.”
Westwood started Cedar Fox in 2017 out of a nondescript 50-square-metre space not far from the new site. His somewhat unconventional route to distilling started with a career in ’90s rock and metal bands Christbait and Dern Rutlidge.
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Westwood became a passionate home brewer after a tour through northern Europe with his band. He was “blown away by the beer culture” he was exposed to, especially in Sweden, but back home he struggled to find the European styles he'd come to enjoy. So, in 2010, he applied for a brewing gig at Geelong’s White Rabbit. He ended up landing the job thanks to then-head brewer Jeremy Halse, who happened to be a big fan of Westwood’s music. “All of this started, in a way, thanks to the bands my mum said would never get me anywhere,” Westwood says.
The chance to connect with that following via a cellar door has long been on the cards. “We’ve threatened to open for a while,” Westwood says.
The distillery is in a former warehouse near Batman Station. As you walk in, your eyes are immediately drawn to a green onyx bar top and a large mural – the work of Melbourne-born, New York-based artist Seldon Hunt, who also designed the Cedar Fox labels – that depicts lush undergrowth, skulls and a wily fox.
Bar manager Nele Stubben (ex-Bar Margaux, Farmer’s Daughters) has designed a cocktail menu that combines Cedar Fox gins with local favourites like Marionette liqueurs and Maidenii vermouth, and deftly riffs on classic drinks using ingredients inspired by Zaydan’s Lebanese heritage.
Pomegranate and sumac add intrigue to the Fox and the City cocktail, which is a play on a Cosmopolitan, while Lebanese cucumber and parsley put a new spin on the classic gin, mint and lime Southside cocktail (dubbed Northside here).
Elsewhere, the Cedar Fox Martini flight is a clever and original offering: you get to sample three small Martinis – dry, dirty and Martinez-style, with red vermouth. Gin not your thing? Beers from nearby Co-Conspirators, Hawkers and Watts River Brewing are joined by a tidy wine list of local and European drops. And a concise list of bites includes cheese, charcuterie, olives and sardines.
With the new set-up, Westwood will produce more alternative and seasonal spirits like the popular Bloody Kenny, a smoked chipotle-infused spirit perfect for Bloody Marys. Eventually gin masterclasses and events will be held in the space, too.
Cedar Fox Distilling Co Cellar Door
11 Mantell St, Coburg North
Fri & Sat 2pm–11pm