^ The Four Pillars Founders, (left to right): Cameron MacKenzie, Matt Jones & Stuart Gregor
‘The world didn’t need another London Dry gin made by three bald Australians.’
Cameron MacKenzie, founder and distiller of Four Pillars Gin, neatly sums up why he chose to plough his own furrow when he decided to launch a gin distillery in Victoria back in 2013. Together with two friends from the drinks industry, he started with a small 450-litre still ‘at the back of a mate’s winery’ in the Yarra Valley in Victoria.
They soon outgrew this space and decided to set up in Healesville, an hour from Melbourne, with two bigger stills and a new bar and tasting area so that visitors could see what the fuss was about. And in a relatively short time, Four Pillars has become one of world’s leading gin distillers, producing a host of intriguing bottlings, including an Olive Branch Gin, Spiced Negroni Gin and even a festive bottling made with Christmas puddings and aged in Muscat barrels.
Four Pillars stood tall at this year’s IWSC, too, scooping a host of medals, but MacKenzie is most proud of its Rare Dry Gin and Bloody Shiraz Gin, both of which scored 95 points and won Gold medals: ‘These are essentially the same gin, but one of them has had Shiraz grapes soaking in it. Around 85% of our job is these two gins, so for them to be awarded Gold medals means the world to us.’
The IWSC judges agreed, complimenting the Bloody Shiraz Gin for its ‘beautiful nose reminiscent of a good Shiraz, combining black cherry with the herbal and floral notes of the botanicals and a hint of cinnamon’.
So, what are Four Pillars doing that others aren’t? MacKenzie says that the trick is to get plenty of flavour in the spirit but also to ensure that the gin is clean and pure – a tough balancing act! He adds that their location helps them, too, giving them access to native botanicals such as lemon myrtle, Tasmanian mountain pepper and finger limes – not something you’ll find in your average bottle of Gordon’s.
It’s going to be interesting to see how gin evolves in 2021 and beyond. Its resurgence has been staggering, so much so that pretty much anything with ‘gin’ in its name – from chocolates to mince pies and even popcorn – is guaranteed to sell. MacKenzie believes that it still has some way to go: ‘It’s hard to see it slowing down. There is still so much room to move with new flavour profiles and combinations. What will slow down, however, is the number of new distilleries…it’s getting quite crowded out there.’
2021 will see a new collaboration, but MacKenzie is keeping his cards close to his chest. ‘I’m really excited about it. Our previous collaborations with Santamania, Hernö and Kyoto Distilleries have been brilliant, so watch this space!’ And like many of us, he’s itching to start travelling again and see his gin buddies around the world: ‘2020 has been tough and we all had our wings clipped. It will be exciting to travel again.’
Four Pillars' range of gins is available to buy from Master of Malt.