Queensland-based Mt Uncle Distillery recently won the Gin of the Year and multiple other awards at the 2021 London Spirits Competition and the 2021 World Rum Awards, shooting its winning products Botanic Australis Navy Strength Gin and FNQ. Rum Co. Iridium into the international spotlight.
According to the firm’s Founder and Head Distiller Mark Watkins, apart from being an honour, he believes that Mt Uncle’s specialty focus in utilising all-Australian botanicals has given it an interesting edge.
“The aim has always been to create the quintessential Australian gin and liquor, and in truth Australia is special as it has many ingredients allowing us to let consumers taste new flavours that still resemble the old world,” Watkins told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We have botanicals like lemon myrtle that resemble and replace lemon peel, finger lime that resembles Asian limes, strawberry gum which resembles berries, and even bunya, which we are the first and maybe only distillery using, can be used as a binding agent to bind all the flavours to the alcohol.
“The gin that won most of the awards is the stronger version of Botanic Australis, with an ABV of about 57% - the higher alcohol content helps to hold more oil and flavours, enabling this to be more flavourful compared to others even when diluted with tonic or soda; whereas the rum is made from cane syrup grown on-site on fertile red volcanic and sandy loam soil.”
Watkins also believes that premium products like the award-winning gin and rum are what Australians are now on the lookout for as the format of drinking today has changed to accommodate these better.
“The premium category spirits are becoming more consolidated due to COVID-19, as people don’t spend as much as before outside and prefer to drink with a close circle of friends, [which is conducive] for more premium selections,” he said.
“Consumers want more high quality choices with more finesse than traditional stock standard products that can be found anywhere and everywhere – it is a lot more about quality, innovation and care in making the products versus quantity now.
“Craft spirits are entering a boom phase globally, piggybacking on the craft beer movement. Gin is still the main drink of choice now, but good quality premium rum is also starting to pick up, and I do think it is going to be the new gin.”
In line with this, the firm is working on multiple unique rum and other liquor selections moving forward, none of which could ever be mistaken as run-of-the-mill items.
“One item we’re coming up with is a spiced rum, where we will be smoking the spices used to make the rum to enhance the flavour, and there will also be a rum coffee liqueur where ground coffee and vanilla will be soaked with the rum – [all meeting] the premium rum trend,” he said.
“Another item will be a blue agave spirit, which has actually been some eight years in the making as we’ve let the agave plants grow, then left to barrel age – that will be out later in the year.”
Mt Uncle Distillery’s range of gins, vodka, whiskey, rums and a very unique marshmallow liqueur are retailing at major Australian alcohol shops such as Dan Murphy’s, BWS and First Choice.
Although the firm’s primary market is in Australia, Watkins told us that the aim is very much to go international, especially after the recent award wins showcase the strong potential of its products for overseas markets, from Singapore to Thailand.
“We’ve been sending product to Singapore and are also hoping to get into the United Kingdom this year, and there’s also Hong Kong, the Czech Republic and Thailand,” he said.
“Winning [the awards] is the ultimate endorsement in the global spirits industry [and] we are proud to have performed so well at the [competitions].”
Mt Uncle Distillery products are in specialty alcohol stores in Singapore such as Drinks & Co, as well as on Amazon Singapore.
“Online platforms are really strong vehicles nowadays due to COVID-19, and so we are definitely looking to go international with e-commerce and online sales moving forward in all the markets we can,” said Watkins.