Four Pillars head distiller Cam Mackenzie says the label’s now-annual festive gin release came about when he decided to put a couple of Christmas puddings into the still with a batch of Four Pillars gin. He added some muscat to round out the flavour and then waited. The result, he says, was “Christmas in a bottle – a bit indulgent, a bit rich, and really delicious”.
Fast forward to 2020 and he’s still making the limited-edition release, and still paying tribute to his now departed mum, Wilma – the inspiration for the Australian Christmas Gin – in the process.
Each year on Victoria Derby Day (the first day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival) Wilma would make Christmas puddings from a 1968 Australian Women’s Weekly recipe and the house would smell of Christmas – a fond memory he recalls from his childhood. He created the gin in 2015, also on Derby Day, in homage, with puddings made by the distillery’s founders.
While Covid restrictions meant they couldn’t all be together to make the cakes this year, the gin lives on – and Mackenzie says 2020 is perhaps Four Pillars’ most pertinent Christmas release yet. “You could say having a gin that celebrates family and friends and being together, even if only in spirit, has never been more important than this year.”
Smell the gin and you’ll pick up a hint of cinnamon, along with a sweetness from the muscat and a richness from the extended barrel ageing.
Another tradition for this release is commissioning Aussie artists to create the label. This year they worked with Melbourne-born, Berlin-based Lucy Dyson, who specialises in handmade collages (among other things). For this project, she sliced up images of family and friends’ Christmas get-togethers and placed them in a surreal Australian landscape.
Mackenzie recommends serving the gin either straight, or with ginger ale (or ginger beer), lime and some bitters. And, of course, you can add a hefty glug to your pudding for that boozy hit.
Four Pillars’ Australian Christmas Gin ($100) is available from October 31 at the company’s Yarra Valley distillery and Sydney’s Four Pillars Laboratory, as well as online and in selected retail stores.