The firm’s first two products are a Hemp Gin and a Hemp Vodka, and Natural Distilling Co Founder Rhys Staley highlighted that both were distilled with terpenes, essential oils that give hemp its distinctive aroma and flavour.
“The gin was distilled with the limonene terpene, which gives it a fresh, citrus note; whereas the vodka was distilled with myrcene, which gives lavender and lemongrass notes,” Staley told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Limonene is said to have anti-inflammatory properties and can relieve stress, whereas in clinical trials myrcene has shown properties that can aid sleep and reduce pain.”
He emphasised however, that the intention here was not to make health-related claims for the products.
“We are being careful not to make health claims about alcohol by saying it is healthy when it is not – what we do want to do is differentiate ourselves by using Australian-grown, high-quality ingredients,” he said.
As for why hemp was as the main ingredient for the firm’s first spirits, Staley said that this was due to both its health and sustainability benefits.
“In terms of sustainability hemp is environmentally friendly and actively returns CO2 to the earth. It does not need herbicides or pesticides to grow, and requires less water than wheat, rice or soy,” he said.
“Hemp is also very high in protein, has almost no carbohydrates, is highly digestible and gluten-free, and is is the only known plant food source of Vitamin D3.”
The firm has a license to grow its own hemp, and is expecting the first harvest in January 2020 - the first batch of spirits was distilled using hemp from the surrounding Gippsland area in Victoria and not its self-grown crop, but future batches are expected to do so.
Both the hemp gin and hemp vodka are currently retailing online at the firm’s ecommerce site, at A$96 (US$65.73) and A$77 (US$52.72) respectively for a 700ml bottle.
Although Natural Distilling Co’s first products are both focused on hemp, Staley stressed that the company’s focus is on using various locally sourced sustainable superfoods as ingredients, and not identifying as solely a hemp-focused firm.
“Our value proposition is on using unique Australian superfoods to make our craft spirits, and in future we also want to make first-to-market drinks you can’t find anywhere else,” he said.
Moving forward, the firm’s innovations will continue along this line.
“We’re gathering uniquely Australian ingredients, such as honey which I’m doing a lot of work with. The aim is to distill and infuse using these different natural ingredients to find first-to-market combinations,” said Staley.
“Other ingredients are spirulina, which we’re trying to figure out how to balance the taste of, and organic cow’s milk.”
A hemp rum is also in development, and potentially a whiskey as well.
“I’m looking at bringing the products beyond Australia too, so looking at the United States, China, Korea and Malaysia,” said Staley.
“[Moving forward], we’re also looking at building a commercial distillery in Gippsland.”