Here's Looking At You, Kid: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
Of all the spirits in all the towns, in all the world you’ve picked up a bottle of Here’s Looking At You, Kid.Liz Beech, founder and master distiller at HLAYK was a chef by trade but had a dream to make her own gin. An avid whisky connoisseur Liz dabbled in her own recipe in a gin making class in Scotland and ended up studying spirit making in the States. Today she owns a family-run small batch distillery based in bayside Melbourne, creating spirits inspired by the charm and romance of Casablanca. Liz declares the most valuable employee is Eliza Jane, the copper pot still. She distils each drop to pure perfection using a unique blend of native Australian botanicals. We sit down with Liz to discover her journey into as an Australian craft gin maker.
How did your adventure with gin begin that led to Here's Looking At You, Kid.
At the time of my gin adventure begun I was working in Bass straight on the Esso oil rigs as a chef. Whilst travelling in Scotland with my daughter decided she wanted a break from me and booked me into a gin class. As I had always been a whisky drinker and were in Scotland I went to attend class with no expectations and gracious me I was blown away with the how gin is made, the history and distillation. Part of the class involved making your own recipe for gin apparently mine was the same as the first gin made in Scotland in this recent gin boom. We then went to the States to meet up with my sons and as a parting gift to the family we stayed with I gave them the bottle of Gin. It wasn’t until I had returned home that I realised that the bottle had the recipe on it! I had noted that gin had boomed in the U.K and in the states as well as the cocktail scene and knowing that Australia would follow investigated how to establish a distillery in Australia and to recreate the recipe. At the time there was nowhere to learn distilling in Australia so off I went to Moonshine Uni in Louisville Kentucky where I graduated with distilling diploma.
What was your vision for HLAYK when you launched?
Launching HLAYK my intention was to make the highest quality gin and vodka using my knowledge from what I had learnt at Moonshine. Where ever possible to source products/ materials from Australia predominantly local from Melbourne.
How do you decide how to curate a flavour profile? Do you have a style and preference?
New age, modern contemporary. I like to push the boundaries or not follow tradition. Experimenting with Australian botanicals is fantastic nowhere else in the world has them with flavours so unique that they need to be balanced perfectly to revel there true complexity. Example river mint has flavours of peppermint, spearmint, liquorice and fennel all in one leaf.
Melbourne weather was an influence for Wild Rose Gin representing four seasons in one day. How long did it take to achieve this for Wild Rose Gin?
As Wild Rose was our first gin ever the challenge of forming the recipe was very daunting. But once we had the inspiration of 'four seasons in one mouthful' I was then able to focus on which botanical represented the different seasons.
What is at the heart of what you do at HTLAYK?
For HLAYK we are determined to have the highest quality product, for our label to be unique and of a certain style and always try and lessen our impact on the environment. Achieving this by printing greeting card on the label of our Christmas gin, encourage bottle return, use by product of distilling process to remove labels and clean bottles and source materials locally.
Your still Eliza Jane comes all the way from the US. What is the difference between the stills made in the US vs locally?
Eliza Jane is a second hand Vendome Still made by 5th generation Coppersmith Company. Distilling has been well established in Kentucky for many years and so their technology has been established for a long time.
Where do you source your botanicals?
We source botanicals from local NATIF supplier here in Melbourne. I have ventured to different locations throughout Australia connecting with different indigenous groups to discover new botanicals.
What makes your gin unique?Passion and learning in Kentucky where they have been distilling extensively for generations. America has there own unique way of doing things.
You currently produce gin and vodka. Any plans for rum or whisky?
My Barrel Aged Vodka is aged in ex-bourbon whisky barrels this is as close as I will get.
Do you have any products in limited release that use experimental ingredients or techniques?
Yam Daisy gin produced for the Abbotsford convent using botanicals from the indigenous plants on the land before it was a convent and then foraged in the convent gardens today.
What is life like for a craft Australian distiller? Is the independent distiller supported? What are the highs and challenges?Fantastic time to be a craft distiller in Australia the growth and interest is amazing. There are a lot of amazing women in Australian distilling industry however out of the 240 odd distilleries in Australia only 4 are owned run by a woman. This is a challenge to be included, taken seriously and acknowledged.
What makes Australian Gin so special?
Australian Gin is unique because of our amazing botanicals and also our produce and water is of a very pure quality.
How do you see gin evolving in Australia and where do you want to take it with HLAYK?
Gin will just keep growing different experimentation.
What's next for HLAYK ? Any details or teasers for what's coming?
Now that I have a great range and been awarded so much I just have to get it out there and into bottle shops and bars. My popup masterclasses have a huge hit so would like to investigate taking interstate.
Finally, how do you take your gin?
On ice with a splash of soda.
Distiller Recipes for Wild Rose Gin
Ruby Rose Martini
Wild Rose Gin, Cranberry juice, Rose syrup and fresh Lime.
They Call Me The Wild Rose
Wild Rose Gin, Elderflower Liquor, Apple juice, Lime juice and sugar syrup.
Wild Rose Gin, Lillet Rose, Sparkling Rosé .
Garnishes of rosemary and fresh orange all-round.
The Gin Birds recipe for Wild Rose Gin
Wild Rose Gin, Strangelove Dirty Tonic, ice.
Garnishes of rosemary and fresh orange slice, or dried lime.
Distiller's Tasting Notes
In Melbourne, you can experience four seasons in one day, and Here's Looking At You Kid's Wild Rose Gin reflects the variable weather of its hometown.
On first sip you appreciate the deep floral and citrus flavours. The next sip could reveal the earthy tones that weren’t apparent before. And it’s followed a moment later by a sweet, smooth finish. But don’t mistake this complexity.
Wild Rose Gin is versatile enough for a starring role in a cocktail or classic GnT, and is smooth enough to be enjoyed straight. Once you’ve tried it you’ll say, “Pour it again, Sam”, which you could call your bartender even if his name isn’t Sam, he just might not answer.
Wild rose and rose hip give the gin its spring season, citrus for summer, wattle seed for autumn and various spices for winter.
Written by Suzan Temizer with contributions from Liz Beech.
Images courtesy of Liz Beech.
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