Hepburn Springs Distillery is the new kid on our block, with a passion for distilling using sustainable practices. They’re using locally sourced ingredients and creating a taste like no other.

As our batch of distillers grows, so too does the incentive to visit for a gin fling. See our Gin Bug Tour for trip inspiration and the gin distillers in the region, all with unique flavours. Vodka distilling, with potatoes like ours, however, is new for us, and it’s a wonder it hasn’t been tried before.

Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and how you have come to be in the region?

Jane: Basil and I moved to Hepburn Shire over 20 years ago, when our eldest daughter Sarah was one. We moved from Seddon in Melbourne in search of community, land and a slower-paced life. Happily, we found all three here. We raised our children, built our dream eco-house and permaculture garden and now that our children are grown, we’re enjoying another change of pace by opening our distillery.

What has been your motivation behind creating Hepburn Springs Distillery?

Jane: Basil is an artist, poet and teacher who has always had a love of great wines, good food and excellent spirits. He has dabbled in fermenting for many years, making homemade cider from local apples, ‘explosive’ elderflower champagne and delicious blackberry wine.

After returning from a sabbatical in France, he decided it was time to explore his hobby in more depth. He spent the next 12 months learning everything he could about the technical aspects of fermenting and distilling and found he loved the alchemical nature of the process.

Basil: I love the idea of taking something as simple as the humble spud, and transforming it with heat and enzymes, yeast and time into something aromatic, warming and magical. Everything plays a part in the art of distilling. The taste of the raw materials, the soil they were grown in, the rainwater we use. This is what the French mean when they talk about ‘terroir’.

We live in Lyonville, a glorious place, surrounded by forest, which is the birthplace of five rivers. The soil is chocolate brown and rich in minerals, and we have a wonderful organic farmer who lives just five minutes up the road. All these elements coalesced into Hepburn Springs Distillery.

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Image supplied

You are distilling both Gin and Vodka, can you tell us about each?

Jane: We are a handmade distillery, making everything from scratch. It’s incredibly labour intensive but also fulfilling. All large, and many small distilleries, buy standard grape alcohol (or wheat or rye) and run this once through a still, either on its own, to make vodka or with botanicals to make gin. By contrast, we ferment our unique bases for our gin and vodka. Each goes through our stills three times or ‘triple-distilled’. This is what gives our products their unique flavour and smoothness.

Basil: Our tasters are blown away by the vodka. We’ve had Russian vodka lovers comment on the flavour as one of the best vodkas they have ever experienced. It isn’t rough, which is usually associated with single distilled ferments, it’s smooth, oily, fragrant and flavourful.

Jane: Besides, we’re keen to ensure our products are sustainable and local, so we source whatever raw materials we can organically and locally to reduce food miles and showcase the award-winning suppliers in our region. Our stills run on solar power, and we offset all our emissions. We source sustainable packaging materials and feed the organic waste from our production to local pigs.

Do you use mineral water from a local spring?

Jane: We’re currently using rainwater, but we’re keen to use the well water from our Lyonville property. This well used to provide water for one of the first pubs in the region, back in the 1800s, so we think it’s a good legacy to uphold to include it in our spirits.

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Basil, owner of Hepburn Springs Distillery (image supplied).

Can you tell us about the ingredients and flavours you use?

Basil: Our vodka is made from locally grown potatoes, traditionally. Our newest batch will be made from certified organic potatoes from Wombat Forest Organics. The potatoes create a vodka like none most people have ever tasted. It is sweet, smooth, warming and has a mineral-rich aroma. We have converted gin drinkers to vodka! A big achievement. We also create small-batch releases of aged vodka, which have a wonderful caramel, vanilla depth. We sold out of our first batch very quickly and are in the process of making more.

Where we can, we source local ingredients. We will be growing angelica and coriander this year and have found some juniper growing at The Garden of St Erth which we can harvest. We source lemons from friends’ trees and will go foraging for local mulberries this year. In addition to our base gin ‘Lyonville Classic Dry’, we are doing small-batch, seasonal runs. We will soon be launching our ‘Trentham Harvest’ which contains locally picked blackberries and ‘Bullarto Strawberry Gin’ made with organic strawberries from Wombat Forest Organics.

Where can we go to buy or try your gins?

Jane: When all our lovely visitors are allowed to return, they will find us at a range of local restaurants, bars, hotels and bottle shops across the region. Our local, Radio Springs Hotel, has been a great supporter of what we’re creating. You can find a full list of other stockists on our website. In the meantime, our products are available online. We have new gift packs coming out and sample packs available. Next year Basil is keen to share all this knowledge and will be running workshops and taste-testing events in the local area. This is the fun part, and Basil loves teaching. It’s an unusual time, not knowing if we’ll be travelling consistently. We encourage people to subscribe via the website to get access to our small-batch releases and find out about upcoming events. We’re working on some exciting things, indigenous ingredients, well water whiskey…the best way to find out more is to sign up and follow our socials.

About the author

Narenna Bloomfield
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Narenna is a country girl at heart, growing up on a dairy farm north of Bendigo. Now living in Kyneton, (her husband’s hometown) she is a busy mum of three littlies. She loves gardening, baking, photography and getting out and about in the area. A favourite day in the region would be a weekly shop at a farmers’ market, meandering through an open garden and finishing with a dinner in one of the acclaimed restaurants along Piper Street, Kyneton.