Voices of GinCaroline Childerley, The Gin Queen.
Published: 4th April 2019
In Voices of Gin we interview influential individuals in the global gin community. We meet the people whose activities and businesses play a role in telling the wider story of gin and help support gin makers. We wanted to highlight some of the people we see as being key figures who drive forward the discussions surrounding the gin category and whom we see as adding value to gin.
In this Voices of Gin feature we meet Australian Caroline Childerley, The Gin Queen. Caroline established her business and website in 2013 as a way of sharing her enthusiasm for the growing Australian Gin category. As The Gin Queen website has grown, so has Caroline’s reputation as a respected gin communicator and supporter of the category, evident in the fact she was the first Australian member to become a member of The Gin Guild, the industry body that represents the global gin industry.
What motivated you to establish The Gin Queen?
A love of gin, and a desire to write about it.
What were the objectives of The Gin Queen and have they changed?
I had no clear objective other than to show people how to drink gin in ways other than a G&T. Soon it moved into live events (tastings, distillery tours and gin dinners). I adore meeting like-minded gin drinkers. Drinking is designed to be fun and social, not pretentious and snobby!
The biggest change has been the ridiculous way the alcohol tax in this country penalises distillers and is stifling growth. In my role, I communicate this at every moment that I can, particularly when consumers ask me why Australian gin is so expensive.
I love championing Australian gin, although I continue to write about other gins too!
Who’s supported you and The Gin Queen?
Too many to mention individually I suspect! Broadly speaking, all my readers, particularly those that come to my events or email to share positive gin experiences, or to ask questions. Bartenders, for allowing me to chew their ears off and watch closely as they make drinks, and various Brand Ambassadors for sharing their knowledge.
The Four Pillars gin team are stand out though. In particular Head Distiller, Cam was probably the first distiller I met and interviewed. They were the first distillery I took a tour to and they have supported every event I’ve run in some way or other. We even distilled a gin together to celebrate my 5th anniversary, to be sold to raise money for my best friend to support her through cancer treatment.
What’s been the highlight of your gin journey so far?
So many to choose from! Meeting and getting to know distilling legends: Sean Harrison, Joanne Moore, Desmond Payne and Lesley Gracie have all been amazing experiences. I have learnt so much personally and professionally from each of them.
Becoming the first Australian to be welcomed into the Gin Guild in 2017.
Hernö flying me to Sweden to judge their International Cocktail competition is very high up. I met some incredible people and fell completely in love with the country!
Top of the list, thought is working with Emile and Olivier Ward from Gin Foundry to bring Junipalooza to Melbourne. I laugh when I remember how we organised the first event in 2016 over email and Skype! 2019 will be our 4th year and it’s moving to a larger venue to cope with demand from distillers and consumers!
What obstacles have you had to overcome to get to where you are now?
Fortunately, not that many. There was initial suspicion at the beginning as I do not come from a hospitality background, so I did get the odd cold shoulder from bartenders. I think some distillers thought I wanted payment, or that I was going to criticise their products online. I don’t accept payment in exchange for favourable reviews and I don’t bag out brands online, but I am happy to give feedback privately to a distiller if I’m asked. After 5 years doing what I do, I think it’s fair to say I’ve won most people over!
What’s the best and worst thing about working in the world of Gin?
Best thing is definitely the people. Whether it’s distillers, bartenders, Brand Ambassadors or consumers. I feel energized at every interaction.
Worst is definitely watching the category being denigrated as gimmicky products come to market that shouldn’t even have gin on the label.
How important is provenance to you as a gin drinker?
Very. It’s much easier to write about for a start. I enjoy hearing about the distiller’s journey, from the jobs they had before, to the trials and tribulations of setting up a distillery. Stories about wrangling with local councils are a common theme here!
What’s your favourite cocktail and why?
Nothing beats a martini at the end of a work day, or a negroni after a fabulous meal, but I do have a penchant for a French 75.
What do you think makes Scottish Gin “Scottish”?
I think where it’s made definitely. It’s odd when Scottish gin botanicals are whisked off to be distilled elsewhere and it’s still called Scottish gin.
Which Scottish Gins are on your wishlist?
Colonsay, I met the team at Junipalooza in 2017 and thought the team were great. I can’t wait to taste their gin again at Junipalooza London this year. Lind & Lime and Rock Rose are two others I’ll be seeking out when I’m over in June. I almost burst with excitement when I discovered that Isle of Harris gin is launching here soon!
Would you like to see clearly defined geographical categories in gin?
Yes. We’ve had an instance where gin has gone to market claiming to be Australian, but is made in London with Australian ingredients and then bottled in Asia. Closer to home, a gin claimed to be made in Tasmania, but is actually made in another state. It’s disingenuous and disappointing.
Do you feel more regulation and protection of gin as a spirits category would stifle innovation?
I’m writing about this at the moment! I would like more protection of the category, however I’m in a country where rules are flexed and I’m delighted about that. Innovations like Bloody Shiraz gin from Four Pillars would certainly not have happened.
What are your thoughts on contract distilled gins?
I have no problem with contract distilling as a whole. Some of my favourite gins are contract distilled, and it’s great when they use this as a platform to push on and eventually make enough money from sales to launch their own distillery.
I do have a problem with dishonesty. The gin claiming to be Tasmanian that I referred to earlier, let everyone assume it was made in Tasmania when it wasn’t and the contractor didn’t disclose that either.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to someone who wants to make gin?
There are a great many places to have a go at making gin as a consumer. Portobello road is one of the best in my experience, but there other distilleries also offering blending/distilling classes.
For someone wanting to make gin professionally and open a distillery, get out and taste as much gin as you can. Visit distillers and their distilleries and ask lots of questions. We have a very supportive industry in Australia with a genuine desire to help each other out.
Also, the recipe is the last thing to worry about – councils regs, waste management and energy all need to be sorted before you get creative. I get this feedback from distillers here all the time!
Which bloggers or other gin related websites do you think people should be following?
Gin Foundry (I can’t leave my business partners out!), they have inspired me in so many ways, not just to be a better writer, but to maintain my integrity at all costs.
The Gin is In and Enverdengin are another two communicators I respect greatly.
How do you think bloggers and other gin communicators can add value to the story of gin?
They add value to consumers who are looking to choose amongst the vast array of gins, by giving guidance and sharing knowledge. Many of them have great relationships with distillers so are often able to give the inside scoop.
Where would you like to see the gin category in 10 years?
Continuing to thrive and for the charlatans to have taken their leave.
What’s next for The Gin Queen?
I have so many ideas bubbling away! Immediately, it’s to watch Junipalooza Melbourne grow further and to be the No. 1 choice for Distillers and consumers alike. The 2019 show is going to be amazing!