Four Pillars is releasing the sixth iteration of its cult Bloody Shiraz Gin a month late this year, which – bushfires and pandemics considered – isn’t too bad in terms of delay.

The gin, which started as an experiment in 2015 and became a runaway hit, combines the distillery’s Rare Dry Gin with shiraz grape juice.

Head distiller Cameron Mackenzie tweaks the recipe for each release – last year’s was spicier than ever – and this year it’s big on “pine forest notes, white pepper and spices,” Mackenzie said in a statement.

Co-founder Stu Gregor says the late release ultimately comes down to the coronavirus shutdown for the distillery, which is based in Victoria’s Yarra Valley and recently opened a Sydney outpost.

“[The] launch has been complicated by all manner of things, including, of course, losing a huge percentage of our customer base as hospitality was shut down across the world,” he says. “So we’re a month late to release, but we reckon that’s just given the excellent 2020 vintage a bit of extra time to settle – it’s full of dark berries and spice.”

The shiraz grapes used to make the gin are sourced from Punt Road, Boat O’Craigo, Yering Station and Faraday Estate wineries in the Yarra Valley, as well as growers in the Macedon Ranges and Yea Valley.

Mackenzie said those vineyards were lucky to be unaffected by smoke taint from the bushfires earlier this year.

“2020 will go down as one of the strangest vintages on record,” he says. “While half the country was on fire and experienced extreme heat, the Yarra was quite the opposite ... the region stayed green for most of summer. Low fruit set and small bunch weights intensified the fruit flavours, but the cool conditions (yes, a very cool summer) has allowed great spice, red berry and natural acidity.”

Back in 2015, the first Bloody Shiraz run sold out in weeks, but over the years the distillery has steadily increased production, so it’s less likely to sell out this year (or at least, not as quickly). You can still find the 2019 edition in some bottle shops.

The 2020 Bloody Shiraz Gin is available for pre-order online from July 4.