Animus Distillery

Flavour-packed Gins From a Kilmore-based Distillery and Garden

Animus was founded in 2015 by a group of Whisky lovers (Luke Jacques, Joel Wilson, Rob Turner and Aaron Robinson), who decided to produce Gin while waiting for their Whisky to mature in barrel. This Kyneton-based distillery initially began working out of a Fitzroy North garage. Thanks to the quality of their early Gin releases, the operation quickly outgrew this space and has now relocated to a bespoke distillery and cellar door in Kyneton.

The key indicators of quality here include the unique freshness of the botanicals used, the pure, carbon-filtered grain spirit, the 100% vapour-pressed distillation and the overproof bottling at 50% ABV. This is where these distillers find their Gins really hit the sweet spot, showing lifted perfume, pristine flavours, creamy texture and integrated spirit. And this is absolutely what you get in the glass.

It’s hard to appreciate the scale of this artisan Kyneton distiller until you visit the premises. Until very recently, this was a distillery like no other: there seemed hardly room to swing a cat, let alone craft the complex Gins that are the specialty of this house. So, the move to a new purpose-designed site has not come a moment too soon. In what is a refinement of progress rather than simple expansion this sees the previous Piper Street distillery/bar site take on the sole responsibility of cocktail bar, while the new shed just around the corner has room for (amongst other things) a shiny new still.

Not only does the space allow the now-full-time distilling duo of Luke Jacques and Sarah Wallace to progress their vapour-pressed Gin distilling work (remember, Animus’ botanical baskets are refreshed every two hours), but they are now also free to get their Whisky programme up and running. Then there is a new space for barrel storage (for their barrel-aged Gin, and later for Whisky), and the troops have set about re-establishing their botanical gardens in greenhouses across Sarah, Luke and Rob’s own homes. Despite these changes, Animus proudly remains a boutique operation. All the production is strictly small-batch and crafted with an obsessive, hands-on approach that is more than rare in the industry. The scale allows Animus to subtly moderate their methods with the flux of seasons and the botanicals they provide, meaning the Gins can still be appreciated for both their parallels in quality and differences in nuance—expression and evolution that shows in every drop.

While much has changed (the expansion of digs and semi-retirement of the original tiny 50-litre still in favour of a larger, state-of-the-art model), some things have not changed at all. The last time we visited Kyneton, Luke Jacques greeted us with hands ochre-stained from peeling a small mountain of fresh turmeric for his three core Gins, while Wallace danced in carrying a sack of lemon myrtle freshly picked from the distillery garden. When we talk of the core elements that make these Gins so singular, it’s still the unique quality and freshness of the botanicals that take precedence: growing and sourcing the finest ingredients remains an obsession at Animus. Then there’s the precise and potentially crazy 100% vapour-pressed distillation, where uniquely, the botanical basket is recharged multiple times during the run to capture as much intensity and fresh-picked flavour as possible.

The Range

Animus Distillery Davidsonia Gin 2022 (500ml)
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Animus Distillery Davidsonia Gin 2022 (500ml)

Davidsonia is Animus Distillery's delicious riff on a traditional English Sloe Gin. Instead of sloes (Prunus spinosa), the distillers work with native Australian Davidsonia pruriens, a tropical sour plum sourced from the temperate regions of Queensland. Snap-frozen (so the ice can help the distilled spirit to pierce the cell walls faster and provide an immediate release of explosive, fresh juicy flavour), the plums were steeped in an over-proofed version of the Animus Macedon Dry recipe for 18 months. They were then gently squeezed over an eight-hour period in the distillery's own wine press, extracting that distinctly Animus measure of intensity and character.As a seasonal, produce-driven Gin, each vintage of Davidsonia has its own personality, and the 2022 is both the most stylish and delicate so far. This year's release is rife with bright and aromatic top notes of ripe plum, lemon and rosehip, while the palate is full of lip-smacking zing, morello cherry and hints of guava. You'll still find those gentle, puckering tannins and lime-like acidity to balance the plummy sweetness. Davidsonia is exquisite when served neat and over ice, as a spritz served with a large wedge of your favourite citrus, but it’s born to be used in cocktails, and provides a uniquely Australian canvas to anybody who wants to explore their creativity. Because of its trademark delicate nature, Davisonia is best enjoyed over days and weeks rather than months (or kept in the fridge), so you can appreciate the seasonal differences while they are fresh. This vintage is so good we doubt you'll be able to hang onto an open bottle for long!

As a seasonal, produce-driven Gin, each vintage of Davidsonia has its own personality, and the 2022 is both the most stylish and delicate so far. This year's release is rife with bright and aromatic top notes of ripe plum, lemon and rosehip, while the palate is full of lip-smacking zing, morello cherry and hints of guava. You'll still find those gentle, puckering tannins and lime-like acidity to balance the plummy sweetness. Davidsonia is exquisite when served neat and over ice, as a spritz served with a large wedge of your favourite citrus, but it’s born to be used in cocktails, and provides a uniquely Australian canvas to anybody who wants to explore their creativity. Because of its trademark delicate nature, Davisonia is best enjoyed over days and weeks rather than months (or kept in the fridge), so you can appreciate the seasonal differences while they are fresh. This vintage is so good we doubt you'll be able to hang onto an open bottle for long!

Animus Distillery Davidsonia Gin 2022 (500ml)
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Animus Distillery Barrel Aged Gin 2022 (500ml)
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Animus Distillery Barrel Aged Gin 2022 (500ml)

We’ve been enthusiastically following Animus’s barrel-aged spirit program since its early days, and this year they have taken proceedings to another level. The 2022 Barrel Aged Gin started out as a variation on the citrus-based Animus Macedon Dry, added to three freshly disgorged Moscato Giallo barriques from the nearby Musk Lane Winery. The choice of oak this year has turned out to be a masterstroke, with these white wine seasoned barrels providing subtle integration, balance and support, rather than dominating the Gin.This year, despite the colour you see in the bottle, the maturation lasted only 12 months, after which the Gin was deemed ready for blending, dilution (to 55.1% ABV) and bottling by hand. No sugar or colour additions were made. It’s a classy, complex and bold sprit, and, fortunately, there is a little more to go around this year.Straight up, you’ve got layers of apricot, marmalade, cocoa butter and coconut giving way to mouth-filling pear and pineapple notes, burned sugar and then heat and spice wrapped around a robust structure. When diluted with water or ice, chocolate-orange, herbs and vanilla come to the fore, serving to broaden and soften the complexity of the flavour. There’s so much going on here, yet the Gin’s balance and harmony is certain to stimulate a bartender’s creative juices—an example of the versatility on offer here is Animus’s Flor de Roble Gin made with Fino Sherry, Falernum, lime juice, bitters and coffee beans.

Straight up, you’ve got layers of apricot, marmalade, cocoa butter and coconut giving way to mouth-filling pear and pineapple notes, burned sugar and then heat and spice wrapped around a robust structure. When diluted with water or ice, chocolate-orange, herbs and vanilla come to the fore, serving to broaden and soften the complexity of the flavour. There’s so much going on here, yet the Gin’s balance and harmony is certain to stimulate a bartender’s creative juices—an example of the versatility on offer here is Animus’s Flor de Roble Gin made with Fino Sherry, Falernum, lime juice, bitters and coffee beans.

Animus Distillery Barrel Aged Gin 2022 (500ml)
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Animus Distillery Octet Gin
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Animus Distillery Octet Gin

The newest Gin from this progressive Kyneton distillery is Animus’s riff on a London Dry Gin. Compared to their overproof core range of Gins, Octet lands at a more traditional 40% abv and is heavily pitched with juniper as opposed to the more citrusy profile of the Macedon Dry and friends. Here, the distillers have worked with eight botanicals, hence the name Octet. Alongside lemon, coriander seed and angelica, the inclusion of local, hand-harvested fig leaf and locally sourced first-press extra virgin olive oil speaks of Animus’s deep connection to their place. The result tastes as good as it looks. As always, the high standard of Animus’s ingredients and labour-intensive attention to detail are on full display. Expect big juniper flavours juxtaposed with sweet and spicy fig leaf, while the extra virgin olive oil provides a herbaceous, grassy edge and unctuous, silky weight. As always, the Animus team have threaded the needle well; it’s a beautifully balanced and flavourful Gin crafted with the trade in mind and sits comfortably in ‘first-pour’ position. It’s Animus, folks, but not as we know it. 

Animus Distillery Octet Gin
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Animus Distillery Elements Grapefruit Triple Sec
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Animus Distillery Elements Grapefruit Triple Sec

When friends at Curly Flat Wines in Macedon came to them with a surplus of freshly picked grapefruit, Animus seized the crop with both hands, resulting in the inaugural batch of Elements Grapefruit Triple Sec. Grapefruits are painstakingly peeled by hand—taking care to avoid any pith inclusion—and the peelings are steeped overnight in high-proof, wheat-based ethanol that has been triple-filtered with charcoal to ensure a clean and neutral base for the fruit to take centre stage. In the morning, the peels are removed from the spirit and added to a basket with the grapefruit flesh, then the basket is added back to the spirit for vapour infusion. Importantly, half of the flesh retains its pith to ensure vapour doesn’t infiltrate all the flesh too quickly. It’s then diluted back to 30% with water and house-made sugar syrup. It's a full, rich and intensely flavoured Triple Sec, with pithy and fleshy grapefruit flavours and textures throughout. There’s lovely candied peel complexity and a nicely balanced grapefruity close.

It's a full, rich and intensely flavoured Triple Sec, with pithy and fleshy grapefruit flavours and textures throughout. There’s lovely candied peel complexity and a nicely balanced grapefruity close.

Animus Distillery Elements Grapefruit Triple Sec
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Animus Distillery Elements Coffee Noir
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Animus Distillery Elements Coffee Noir

Animus’ classic Macedon Dry Gin forms the base for the Elements Coffee Noir, adding complexity and a native Australian twist. Rumble Coffee supplies the other key ingredient; a Columbian and Guatemalan blend with notes of orange and caramel. The coffee gets a coarse grind and is steeped in the Macedon Dry for between 24 and 36 hours, depending on the batch size. It’s then diluted back with local spring water and house-made sugar syrup.In such a simple recipe, there are few places to hide, and here, the sheer quality of the ingredients used shines brightly. Complex layers of berry fruits, dark chocolate and Christmas cake spice work with the clean citrussy notes of the Macedon Dry base, all coming together to form a balanced, morish and stylish local coffee liqueur. Amp up your Espresso Martini or Irish Coffee or pour liberally over ice cream for a delicious twist on an Affogato.

In such a simple recipe, there are few places to hide, and here, the sheer quality of the ingredients used shines brightly. Complex layers of berry fruits, dark chocolate and Christmas cake spice work with the clean citrussy notes of the Macedon Dry base, all coming together to form a balanced, morish and stylish local coffee liqueur. Amp up your Espresso Martini or Irish Coffee or pour liberally over ice cream for a delicious twist on an Affogato.

Animus Distillery Elements Coffee Noir
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Animus Distillery Arboretum Gin (500ml)
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Animus Distillery Arboretum Gin (500ml)

Arboretum takes savoury to a new level. This complex and herbaceous Gin does exactly what it says on the bottle, hitting the drinker with a wonderful array of sappy, resinous and spicy notes that derive from a range of distillery garden grown Australian ingredients, as well as some classic Gin botanicals. Fresh strawberry gum leaf is used for its delicate floral and menthol hints. There’s native bush tomato with its distinctive tamarillo notes. Rosemary and bay leaf build on the herbaceous depth, while orange (both zest and flesh) is included to round out the palate. Underneath it all, notes of bold juniper, coriander seed and citrus remind you you’re drinking a Gin after all, and an incredibly bold and precise one at that. There’s enough silky texture and flavour going on here for you to sip this on its own; alternatively it's going to serve as a brilliant canvas for knowing bartenders.Botanicals: juniper, capsicum, cardamom, angelica root, bay leaf, bush tomato, clove, coriander seed, sarsaparilla, lemon thyme, mountain pepperberry, star anise, lemon, orange, strawberry gum leaf, rosemary, turmeric, lemon myrtle. 

Arboretum takes savoury to a new level. This complex and herbaceous Gin does exactly what it says on the bottle, hitting the drinker with a wonderful array of sappy, resinous and spicy notes that derive from a range of distillery garden grown Australian ingredients, as well as some classic Gin botanicals. Fresh strawberry gum leaf is used for its delicate floral and menthol hints. There’s native bush tomato with its distinctive tamarillo notes. Rosemary and bay leaf build on the herbaceous depth, while orange (both zest and flesh) is included to round out the palate. Underneath it all, notes of bold juniper, coriander seed and citrus remind you you’re drinking a Gin after all, and an incredibly bold and precise one at that. There’s enough silky texture and flavour going on here for you to sip this on its own; alternatively it's going to serve as a brilliant canvas for knowing bartenders.

Animus Distillery Arboretum Gin (500ml)
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Country

Australia

Primary Region

Macedon Ranges, Victoria

Availability

National

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Test Information Three

Ambrosian Julep recipe

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