Six of the best gin distilleries in north-east Victoria

BARKING OWL DISTILLING CO

Molly and Louis are the names of the two copper stills that take centre stage in the rustic 1950s shearing shed at Wooragee, near Beechworth. Passionate distiller Dave Hodges makes handcrafted vodka, gin, seasonal spirits and bitters. Wife Jennifer also creates beautiful ceramics. Opened in March, Dave makes everything from scratch including Bathtub Gin which is a nod to prohibition days when gin was often made in the bath. Finish with an espresso martini made from Dave's coffee liqueur. Canine cuties, Polly and Basil, give a warm welcome and barking owls that once called the shed home, now watch from the treetops. See barkingowldistilling.com

BACKWOODS DISTILLERY CO

Leigh and Bree Attwood opened their distillery in Yackandandah earlier this year. A former teacher, Leigh, who has been making whisky since 2017, turned his love of distilling into a business. His copper pot stills, Stillvester and Stillvia star in the rustic tasting room. Malted grains are sourced from Voyager Craft Malt in the nearby Riverina. The popular tasting paddle includes a single malt and rye whisky and a High Country Gin which was a lockdown creation. "Our whiskies aim to transport you to the Yackandandah backwoods while our gins reflect a high country bushwalk," Leigh says. See backwoodsdistilling.com.au

BILLSON'S BREWERY

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xxGin Six Gin Distilleries in North East Victoria ; text by Sue Wallace 
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Billson’s Brewery Beechworth

A Beechworth institution since 1865, Nathan Cowan and wife Felicity, took over in 2017. They introduced gin and new brews and resurrected old cordial recipes, some of which will rekindle childhood memories. Nathan says the local spring water that the brewery taps into is the point of difference. There's a tasting room, family-friendly taproom serving burgers and pet-friendly beer garden. Venture to the underground Speakeasy, cut into Beechworth granite, where you can lounge on chesterfields and sip a Beechworth Bee's Knees cocktail with dry gin, Beechworth Honey and fresh citrus. Alfred's Peculiar Gin, named after early gin lover, Alfred Billson, has a following too. See billsons.com.au

GLENBOSCH WINE ESTATE

Stunning views of rolling hills and farmland literally stop you in your tracks at Everton's Glenbosch Wine Estate, where Dirk and Nika Bester pay homage to their South African roots. Dirk, who comes from a farming background, makes wine and gin with a passion. His Golden Granite Gin with bobbing gold flakes, is a nod to Beechworth's historic gold diggings, while his Rooibos Gin combines botanicals and real Rooibos tea from South Africa. Before you dine on restaurant specialities such as braised lamb potjie, South African Samoosa and North East treats, do a tasting at the cellar door. Later sit under the wisteria-covered pergola, gaze at the hills and sip a gin cocktail – heaven. See glenbosch.com.au

YACK CREEK DISTILLERY

The meandering Yackandandah Creek, once the haunt of gold diggers, hems the property where Jamie Heritage produces award-winning brews. Blue Murray Spiny Crayfish call the waterway home and inspired the distinctive logo. Founded in 2016, Jamie makes award-winning whisky, rum, vodka and gin using Australian sourced grain and molasses and produce from the young orchard he planted for botanical additives and garnishes. Sit at the timber bar or the deck overlooking the creek and bushland. Raspberry coloured hibiscus gin, lemon myrtle gin and seasonal wild mint gin will impress gin lovers – his Silk Road and Navy Strength gins just won silver at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards. See yackcreekdistillery.com.au

SWIFTCREST DISTILLERY

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Highland Texas Longhorns named Tulip, Nutmeg and Kendra may greet you at this small farm-based distillery, tucked away in the foothills of Mount Buller, near Mansfield. Carrie and Hank Thierry started their business in 2019 and make organic gins, vodka and Dutch Apple Pie Moonshine – a nod to Hank's Dutch ancestry. "It's the crystal-clear water, our organic botanicals and Mansfield's unique climate that make the spirits special," says Hank, who has lived off-grid for the past 18 years. Pre-booked tastings are held around an antique dining table under a glittering chandelier, sipping from specially designed glasses – check out the views too. See swiftcrest.com

Sue Wallace was a guest of Tourism North East, see victoriashighcountry.com.au

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