The popularity of boutique and artisanal Australian gins has brought with it an explosion of native-ingredient-inspired booze, with additions such as lemon myrtle and Davidson’s plum frequently included alongside the usual gin botanicals. But despite the proliferation of indigenous flavours, very few of these products are actually made by people from First Nations backgrounds.
That’s where the new Melbourne-produced Taka Gin is different, says co-creator Niyoka Bundle.
“There are many Australia gin brands that feature native ingredients, but we are the first in Victoria to be majority female- and Indigenous-owned,” says Bundle, the daughter of a Gunditjmara mother and Yuin father.
Together with her husband, Vincent Manning, Bundle has spent years working with indigenous ingredients through their Melbourne-based catering company Pawa. But when Covid hit and business dried up, the couple were forced to pursue new culinary enterprises.
“While we were in lockdown, we thought gin would be a great way to showcase indigenous ingredients. We decided to create a brand with a story, one we could showcase to the world,” she says.
Bundle consulted with Indigenous food experts, food-industry contacts and family in pursuit of the perfect blend of ingredients, and took inspiration for the gin’s name from the Gunditjmara dictionary created by her grandfather as a way of preserving their language. Taka means “taste” in the Gunditjmara language.
With a base of seven botanicals – juniper, coriander, angelica root, cassia, finger lime, orris root and desert lime – extensive research and experimentation uncovered two additional, under-utilised native plants that Bundle believed worthy of inclusion. “Lemon-scented gum leaf has an amazing flavour that complements gin well, and native lemongrass is aromatic with a strong citrus scent.”
The ingredients were foraged around Melbourne and sourced from Indigenous wild harvesters, and the bottles feature artwork by Bundle’s mother, Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong artist Vicki Couzens.
As for how to enjoy this gin – which Bundle says is a “representation of the grasses and gum leaves of Australia” – simple is best. “The gin has soft citrus aromas and natural lemon flavours from the native lemongrass and lemon-scented gum leaves, so we recommend enjoying it with a tonic that has no flavours added.”
Bundle says Taka Gin doesn’t just offer a refreshing drink – it’s also about inspiring more young Indigenous people to create their own business opportunities. “We are representing a minority of female-owned, Indigenous-owned businesses,” Bundle says. “We are helping to show our younger generations that Indigenous businesses are just as good as the rest.”
Taka Gin is available via the website and soon via Amazon Australia and Dan Murphy’s.