Holly Kilntworth is one of Australia’s finest distillers, yet her original plans concerning the drinks trade were motivated by her good nose for business, rather than to create products. Armed with a Master of Business Administration from RMIT, she landed a job as Global Brand Assistant at Treasury Wines Estate, but much later discovered the joys of product development visiting Cognac distillers in France.
In 2016, she was invited to take over from her father Wayne, as Managing Director and second generation Head Distiller at the family’s well-recognised artisanal distillery on the Mornington Peninsula: Bass & Flinders. At the time, she knew she had big shoes to fill. In a predominately male industry, she needed to make her mark early to prove her worth and keep the Bass & Flinders brand alive and thriving in an ever-growing competitive Australian and world market.
Applying her somewhat newly acquired but natural talents in aromatic selection and blending, Holly has worked hard to develop a new collection of gin releases that are clear leaders in individual style and balance of palate. Holly explains, that while Bass & Flinders’ premium grade gins are made from a base spirit derived from local Shiraz grapes, which adds an extra dimension of texture weight, notably, two of their key new release products – Maritime Gin Australian Dry Gin and Orient Australian New World Gin – are produced using a blend of shiraz base and a neutral spirit, in order to maintain a balance of quality while allowing a more competitive retail price point.
The Maritime Gin Australian Dry Gin was inspired by the coastline, sea breeze and rocky shores of the Mornington Peninsula, and is made in a classic dry gin style. Like other gins in the range, it is created using the compound method, where each flavour is distilled separately and later blended. Holly explains how she’s experimented with 88 different blend iterations before she was happy with the final Maritime flavour profile. We think it’s simply magnificent work. It’s made with locally foraged kelp and samphire as well as locally harvested vine leaves which compliment the dry juniper notes. Coastal saltbush, lemon myrtle and currant bush provide depth of flavour reminiscent of the Australian bush and additions of native thyme, wattle seed, strawberry gum add further complexity.
Holly draws on her grandmother’s Chinese heritage in respect to producing the Orient Australian New World Gin. It’s a contemporary take on the rich spices and flavours of the East with accents of Australian native botanicals. Featured distilled ingredients include sesame and wattle seeds which add a nuttiness and rounder palate texture. Sweet mandarin peel, native strawberry gum and kaffir lime leaf balance dry juniper notes.
Both of the gins are designed to pair with food. The following are some notes on our personal tasting experience.
Bass & Flinders Maritime Gin Australian Dry Gin
Gentle floral, sweet aroma touched with layers of herbaceous grassy tones and a touch of saltiness. While the palate is clean and gentle in approach, the coastal herbs and Australian botanicals together form a blend that is wholly unique in Australian gins. Defined elements including herb, lemon myrtle (only just so), grassy flavours, earth tones and salt are present. You know that smell of the cool, fresh sea salt air? Sample this and you’ll instantly be transported to a southern Australian coastline – quite a feat.
These clearly accentuated selection of flavours and aromas are wonderfully employed to present a truly destination-inspired creation. It’s a mighty impressive effort on Holly’s part, resulting also in a gin that marries elegantly with a quality tonic like Fever-Tree. One of the best gins Australia has produced to date and thankfully made more affordable by the combined blend of shiraz based spirit and a neutral spirit. Pair this with freshly shucked oysters, lightly cooked mussels or fresh garfish lightly fried with capers, butter and pepper.
Bass & Flinders Orient Australian New World Gin
Immediate warmer, rounder aromas of caramel and citrus peel are attractive and surprising. Somewhat of a sensory trick, the caramel aromas are in fact the combination of kaffir lime and Victorian jujubes – a berry from the buckthorn family that presents with a sweet date-like fragrance combined with earthy and nutty nuances. These aromas are both extremely rich and complex, yet well in balance of each other.
Given its richness, pairing this gin back with tonic, or accompanying it with food, as designated below, is well advised. With the addition of tonic, the Orient gin is softened from a broader masculine and spiced/woody feel, to a softly spiced, sweet presentation that accentuates the mandarine peel. A class act, and one that would no doubt pair extremely well with a noodle soup, spiced dumplings or master stock chicken.
At Home Gin Masterclass Kit
For Melbournians looking this week for some second wave iso fun, this may well be the reward you deserve: taste and discover the wonderfully diverse and extremely aromatic array of native botanicals found across the Australian Outback with Holly’s At Home Gin Masterclass Kit.
The kit includes a range of ten 15ml jars of individually flavoured Australian native spirits, also known as distillates, all at 40% alcohol volume. There’s also a 15ml jar of coriander distillate
And two 35ml bottles each of juniper distillate.
With the assistance of the aroma and flavour wheel and a collection of dried botanicals to help guide you, gin blending using the included syringe and tasting straw may begin. If you’re unsure of how and where to start, a video tutorial by head distiller Holly will also guide you through the Gin Masterclass process.
The kit also includes a 200ml bottle of tonic water, a booklet about the distillery as well as the shipping of a 500ml bottle of your very own bespoke gin which you will receive within approximately 2 weeks of finalising your recipe.
The At Home Gin Masterclass Kit retails for $165 AUD, gift vouchers are available.
Bass & Flinders Distillery
40 Collins Road, Dromana, Victoria
Tel 03 5989 3154