Leaving the bustle of the Gold Coast beaches and high-rise buildings behind, instead ascending to the hinterland heights of Tamborine Mountain, delivers a sense of unexpected calm, some 525 metres above sea level. Not only is there a chance to escape the madding crowds, the relatively short drive, around 45 minutes, takes you through lush valleys, cruising past a smattering of immaculately presented rural properties as the road climbs higher and deeper into the rainforest that the Tamborine plateau is famous for.
Cauldron Distillery is one of the region’s newest establishments, and while it may not be the only distillery on-mountain, we feel it’s among one of the most progressive new business in the area. Founded in 2020 by brothers Darren and Glen Stewart and lifelong family friend Greg Dower, the trio has created one of Queensland’s finest gourmet tourism offerings. Offering gin-tasting experiences to wow the diehards, plus gin-making classes every Saturday, where you take home your own self-made gin; the location, outlook and other family-friendly food and drink offerings are drawing a steady fan base.
Head distiller Darren Stewart speaks fondly of Tamborine Mountain, explaining that he fell in love with the area years ago and that, at times, on-mountain, he feels like he’s on the edge of the world experiencing the extremes: ‘whether it’s windy, rainy or if there’s sunshine,’ he says.
The distillery sits on an expansive undulating green allotment of 18 acres, with a large vineyard at the property’s entry and the main distillery complex on a hill crest. Here, the indoor tasting bar and undercover alfresco dining areas are extended by umbrella-shaded outdoor picnic tables that allow guests to soak in the views. Guests can sample a gin-tasting paddle, a range of mixologist-designed cocktails, and some of the best premium mocktails we’ve tried – designated drivers take note. Once happily ensconced, with Cauldron Kitchen food orders placed, it’s easy to unwind as the low-level cloud formations drift over the property. This often brings a magical ‘away with the fairies’ fogged-in dreamscape visual, usually lasting only minutes, later followed by the welcome change of sunshine breaking through the cumulus.
Darren’s passion and dedication to making some of Australia’s most expressive gins are admirable. Exploring his distillery’s vast library of ingredients and aromatics is not unlike stepping into a chemist’s laboratory, but it’s the lengthy batch trials he performs before product release that delivers true artistic perfection. He’s gifted in being both creative and methodical in his active role, humbly putting his skill down to a love for gourmet cooking and exploring new ingredients and scents. ‘Perhaps an extension of the European food culture I’ve been introduced to by my wife and family,’ he explains.
Cauldron Distillery’s latest seasonal release Mediterranean Gin is an authentic expression of Darren’s previous sensory journeys throughout the Mediterranean region, including the coastal town of Limassol in Cyprus, where herbs grow wild among the rocks.
‘There are a couple of beaches near my wife’s family’s hometown of Limassol, and they don’t look anything like the beaches here in Australia. But when you’re in the water, looking up at these ancient ruins, escarpments and sheer cliff faces, you wonder how anything actually grows there at all.’
‘But then you walk into a meadow, a pasture of ancient olive groves, where the plants are hundreds of years old – twisted and gnarly. And then you turn the corner to discover a garden filled with oranges, pumpkins and gourds – all sorts of cool things – it’s a pretty cool part of the world.’
Faithfully representing the tastes and aromas of the Mediterranean, Darren has focused on layering herbaceous elements with citrus, spice and sun-baked, flavour-enriched dried fruit. The distillation botanicals include dried sage, whole coriander seeds, dried rosemary and olive leaf – ‘a fairly distinguishable flavour,’ explains Darren.
‘We think it adds quite a savoury, almost oily element on the palate.’
To freshen things up, orange and lemon citrus peel has been added as-well-as dried figs, which dominate the front palate but do an excellent job of also rounding out the body of the gin, bringing texture and warmth.
‘While piney spice elements that originate from juniper are a standard inclusion in gin, we also very judiciously added star anise into the mix for the Mediterranean Gin. This has added a colourful touch of spice to the back palate’, explains Darren.
Darren explains that only a tiny fraction of star anise ended up in the final blend as it was so dominating and that the late addition of dried figs brought about a more complex rounded mouthfeel.
The final result is an extremely well-balanced gin that compares well to some of Australia’s finest coastal-styled gins, such as Victoria’s Bass & Flinders Maritime Gin.
Cauldron’s Mediterranean Gin presents with a pronounced fruit-driven character that’s gently weighted with a layering of intriguing herbaceous tones. Incredibly this aligns with a strong sense of place – similar to walking through a Mediterranean seaside garden.
The new Mediterranean Gin is a limited-release 550-bottle run product and is now available online and at cellar door. Gin lovers are advised to get in quickly to snag a bottle or two, as previous seasonal gin releases have sold out fast. In addition, those who sign up for our Customer Club gain exclusive access to new releases and enjoy the club’s points-based system, allowing discounts on future purchases.
Cauldron Kitchen is open Friday (12pm-7pm), Saturday (11am-7pm) and Sunday (11am-5pm).
89-123 Hartley Road,
Tel 07 5545 0156
Order Cauldron Distillery’s Mediterranean Gin now at: