Team Anther knows exactly what it’s like to fall in love with gin. It’s one thing to mix it into your favourite drinks and cocktails – but a whole different ball-game to make it from scratch. Jumping from behind the bar to behind the still was a long yet rewarding journey for Anther distiller and mixologist Joey Tai, who got in at the ground floor (quite literally) at Melbourne’s Golden Monkey as a waitress and host way back in 2007.
“That was also the time when cult classic cocktails scene and speakeasy bars were growing in Melbourne,” Joey says. “After ten years of bartending and managing, I became a brand ambassador and sales manager for a malt whisky label. I had the opportunity to work for Anther Distillery as their distiller assistant and help build the cellar door and bar within the business after the first big Victorian lockdown. My road to distilling began there.”
As for distilling gin, it was a no brainer.
“I fell love with gin when I was studying a few classic cocktail books,” she says. “Eighty percent of classic prohibition cocktails were created with gin, so I started using and tasting a lot of different variety of gin mixing these up. I have to say the history of gin, how it was made, the story we all share when drinking these cocktails is the key to my love and passion.”
Making gin is an art; much like a painter chooses her colours or a musician chooses his notes. The inspiration for distilling comes from the heart, as Joey says.
“I think what we are making here at Anther is what we like to drink and appreciate sharing it with friends and family. It must be delicious, have a flavour balance and represent our industry. Therefore, the people, the botanicals, the science, and the history are the keys to our product.”
As botanicals change and more avenues for experimentation appear, Joey is down with the scientific aspect of gin distilling too.
“I am still tasting distillate every 10-15min to learn and understand how our distillation works in a particular product, by recording all the data of each distillation we can change or adjust the process. We need both taste and all distillation data to help us refine the gin. It’s a combination of both mastering the skill and putting in the time, but also having an intuition of what tastes good as you go.”
As for others who might want to get into distilling, Joey has one thing to say, “Go for it! Just find a distillery that will take you in for work placement or find a distillery that is hiring staff at the cellar door – learning to host a tasting is a great way to get your foot in the door Learning the ropes of how distilleries operate is important.
“Be prepared that there is always a lot of cleaning you will have to do. There is no small job in a distillery!”