Six of the best Australian distilleries


This eccentric cellar door looks like the love child of a Tudor house and Swiss chalet, and owner Michael Ward has a Santa beard and wears Hawaiian shirts loud enough to hurt your eyeballs. His friendliness makes this a great stop in the Gold Coast hinterland. Ward uses a copper still to create vodka, schnapps and radioactive-coloured liqueurs from kiwi, apple, apricot, ginger. Wattle toffee liqueur, surely a girlfriend pleaser, is the biggest seller. Ward's tipple of choice? Wild citrus vodka over ice, with a splash of soda and lime cordial. Russian dancing may ensue. See


"I was going into fish farming, but my wife Sarah convinced me alcohol is more interesting," says Jon Lark at the cellar door fronting his distillery, which looks like a school science project of bubbling vats. Chatty staff take you through tastings of quirkily flavoured vodkas, such as strawberry or vanilla, and a gin called Wild, perhaps referring to the berries, or maybe the effect of drinking it. Try a gulp of Zenzorino liqueur, which tastes of ginger and orange. Don't be frightened of the bear on leaving. You haven't swallowed too much vodka: it's actually a shaggy dog. See


Jon's brother Bill Lark is at the helm here. He kicked off the now burgeoning Tassie whisky scene in 1992 when he noticed Tasmania's similarities to Scotland: climate, peat bogs, spring water, barley. Now his single malt wins swags of international awards. Head to the cellar door on Hobart's Constitution Dock on weekends, when bluegrass and country bands play. You can taste whisky at each stage of its development, and see how the flavour emerges. The distillery also produces gin and rum. Tours occasionally take visitors out to the distillery itself in the Coal River Valley. See


Eccentric American Raymond "Spike" Dessert (yep, he wears jeans and a Stetson) opened WA's first licensed distillery in 1995. The cellar door – lost in sandalwood plantations and sugarcane fields outside Kununurra in the Kimberley – is a saloon straight from a western, with wagon-wheel chandeliers and a honky-tonk piano. At 70 per cent proof, the signature drop makes your hair stand on end. After a rum tasting, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the distillery. If it's early, best stick to rum-flavoured cake and coffee: this is the tropics, and morning rum is likely to lead to afternoon snoozes. See


Two Perth brothers-in-law were inspired by a World War II recipe to come up with a bourbon-style corn whiskey at this distillery in East Perth close to the city centre, and gave it the inspired name Crazy Uncle. You can do daily tastings (the whiskey is slightly sweet and nutty) and book ahead for a whiskey tour with one of the distillers, or an occasional workshop. In a sign of just how hipster distilleries have become, you can do whiskey and coffee pairings; last year the distillery also produced Australia's first quinoa spirit. See


Philip Moore's award-winning vintage dry gin, made at a distillery at Erina on the Central Coast, avoids the bitter aftertaste favoured in overseas gins but generally disliked by Australians. "You can't detect bitter on the nose, so you have to taste gin as it's made," says Moore. Indulge in a comparative tasting at the cellar door between his gin and commercial brands such as Hendricks, Tanqueray and No. Ten, and the rest of your afternoon will be a hazy blur. You'll also be impressed by Koko Noir, a moreish chocolate liqueur. See

Brian Johnston was a guest of various state tourism offices.