Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin Review
The bottle for this Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin review was purchased by From the Gin Shelf. Images: Four Pillars/Anson Smart
For over five years, Four Pillars has been at the forefront of the Australian gin movement. Founded in 2013, it all started with a conversation between two wine industry veterans, Cameron Mackenzie and Stuart Gregor. The original plan was to make a tonic, but after 72 hours that quickly turned to gin! Together with Matt Jones they created Four Pillars.
As avid gin fans with a great collective knowledge of the wine industry, I guess it seems fitting to create a gin in one of the country’s great wine regions. Their name is simple, but effective; it stands for the four ‘pillars’ that form the brand’s ethos: a great still, great botanicals, great local water and a great amount of love, attention to detail and craft. That number follows them throughout their story and you’ll see this throughout the review.
Pillar 1: the stills
Pillar 2: the water
Rain water across the region naturally filters through various flora and rocky streams before entering Melbourne’s protected catchment dams. This is then triple filtered by the distillery before being used to bottle Four Pillars’ gins.
Pillar 3: the botanicals
Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin features 10 botanicals. These are Tasmanian pepperberry, lemon myrtle (both in dry leave form), cassia, star anise, cardamom, coriander seeds, juniper berries, lavender, angelica root and Australian organic whole oranges (more on the latter later).
Pillar 4: A little bit of love
450 litres are then added to the pot of Wilma, along with the nine dry botanicals for maceration. The tenth and final botanical is orange, and quite unusually, these are distilled in their while form, through vapour infusion. The vapours from the pot rise to the botanical basket above where the oranges are placed, steaming them to release their delightful flavour.
Over seven hours, the liquid condenses and reconsenses through the pot, basket and seven plates on the column still. These remain closed throughout to further purify the spirit, acting as a “mini-distillation” through each plate. This helps to make the gin super-smooth and comes out at an impressive 93.5% ABV. It’s then diluted down (or cut back) to 41.8% ABV and rested for a couple of weeks before bottling.
Sourcing organic oranges from various Australian producers throughout the year, they vary the volume in each batch throughout the season, due to the differences in the oils from different varieties. The types with more pith result in cutting the distillation shorter than with other batches, as the tails has a stronger pith-character than normal.
This means less gin, but it’s one example of the dedication to the craft Four Pillars exhibit. Each batch of gin needs to be made to the same high standard as the last, regardless of seasonality.
With a sip, sweet orange leaps forward, followed by a hint of subtle florals. The finish is extremely smooth. Pepper providing spice rather than heat, with a hint of liquorice from the anise. Juniper is there throughout, but never takes the main stage, preferring to be the support act for the dominant citrus and spices.
There’s a delicate sweetness of liquorice too from the anise and this far more prominent with tonic. I found the liquorice flavour became even stronger, the higher the ratio of tonic to gin.
For my palate this is definitely one where less tonic is more, somewhere in the region of one and a half/two parts tonic to one part gin being my ideal sweet spot. Too much and the liquorice became too dominant. Indeed, the distillery themselves suggest 2:1 tonic to gin.
Four Pillars Rare Dry GIN RECOMMENDED SERVE
- Add plenty of ice to a short glass
- Pour 45ml of Rare Dry Gin
- Top up with 90ml of premium tonic water (e.g. Fever Tree Mediteranian)
- Garnish with slice of fresh orange
- Stir gently and serve
The word ‘innovation’ is often overused, but it certainly applies to Four Pillars in spades. If you’ve ever had a taste (or even a look) at their lineup of gins, it’s clear they’re guys who are pushing boundaries. Not in a shiny, coloured, sparkly kind of way, but in a direction which is in keeping with the category.
Rare Dry is one of four gins which make up their core products, along with Spiced Negroni, Navy Strength and Bloody Shiraz. Given Stuart and Cameron’s wine background, and indeed where the distillery’s located, an experimentation with grapes was, perhaps, inevitable. Despite this, their Bloody Shiraz was probably not what anyone would’ve expected, steeping Shiraz grapes in their Rare Dry Gin to create a truly unique and exceptional product.
Further-highlighting their innovation they partnered with the amazing Hernö Gin from Sweden to celebrate the best of the north and south hemispheres with Dry Island Gin. The packaging for Four Pillars fits perfectly with their brand. It doesn’t shout in any way; it’s clean, modern and simple. And it’s by doing so that it stands out.
Where to buy
Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin is available to buy in the UK in various stores and online retailers such as Gin Kiosk, Master of Malt and Amazon. Expect to pay around £35.