Eat & Drink
Hunter Valley

Kawal Rock Distillery

Visit for the gin, stay for the views at Kawal Rock Distillery

Driving north along Milbrodale Road in the Fordwich region of the Hunter Valley, just 20 minutes from Pokolbin, you can’t help notice the landscape takes a dramatic twist. The Brokenback Range that was once in the distance now towers over us, like a guide to our destination, that being Kawal Rock Distillery.

The boutique distillery has without doubt some of the most spectacular views in the Hunter, which are only to be outdone by the magnificent Sentry Rock that stands proudly over the property.

kawal rock vineyard hunter valley

Louise and Maria are the spirit-loving ladies behind Kawal Rock Distillery, and on the morning we met they explained how their journey into the spirit world wasn’t always part of the plan.

“We made the decision to quit our jobs – Louise sold her house and I sold my business, with the thought being to buy a caravan and travel around Australia. But when we realised how much that was going to cost, Louise suggested we buy a property in the country instead," Maria said.
kawal rock vineyard hunter valley
Kawal Rock Distillery owners Maria and Louise

Whilst there were a few options within their budget, it was love at first sight when they were introduced to the property where Kawal Rock Distillery now stands.

“The property had no facilities, but when we took a tour, we just fell in love with it. Especially when we realised that Sentry Rock was a part of the property, it was an instant yes.” 

kawal rock vineyard hunter valley

“It's called Sentry Rock because back in the day, guards would be stationed up there to watch over the convicts as they worked on the roads, to make sure they didn't run away. However, when it came to naming the property we took inspiration from the group of wedgetail eagles we'd seen flying around the rock.

“With this being Wonnarua Country, 'Ka-wal' is traditional Wonnaruan for 'wedgetail eagle', and as they are a symbolic protector in Wonnaruan culture, out of respect and thankfulness, we named the property Kawal Rock Distillery."

So what does a former police prosecutor and tobacconist do with a spectacular property that has muscat grapes growing on it? They make brandy.

kawal rock vineyard hunter valley

“The muscat grapes that existed on the property were in good shape, so it seemed like a good idea to start making brandy, which meant investing in a copper still which took two years to complete.”

“The distiller in Tasmania is a busy guy, so whilst we were waiting for the still to be made Louise went to Adelaide Uni to do a distilling course, as well as several courses in Tasmania, and here we are, after spending a lot of money.”

kawal rock vineyard hunter valley

Standing in the warehouse and cellar door, the purposefully rusted iron roof sheets and red wine barrel timber walls provide the newly built structure an authentically aged feel, and it's in here Louise and Maria have spent their time creating their range of spirits.

Adorned with the moniker ‘Girls on the Hill’ (which the ladies have affectionately become known as), the range includes the Signature Gin, Itchy Wombat Gin, Pink Diamond Gin, Milbrodale Moonshine, Campfire Gin, Hunter Brandy, and Twin Eagles Moscato.

kawal rock vineyard hunter valley

“The moscato is made by local winemaker Dan Binet and with this we make a really nice cocktail called the Gincato, which is a combination of our Signature Gin, Moscato, strawberries and lots of ice– it’s delicious.”

kawal rock vineyard hunter valley

Want to know the difference between each of the girls' gins?

“Our Signature Gin is a gentle gin, it’s not overly in your face, and it doesn't have too much juniper, which can turn people off. The Itchy Wombat Gin is our native botanical gin, and even though it starts with juniper the remainder is native botanicals and it really pushes the Tasmanian pepperberry, which is like a good curry – after three tastes it gives you a nice kick,” Louise said.

The Pink Diamond Gin is macerated with muscat grapes from the vines on the property, giving it not only a subtle sweetness but a gorgeous pink colour. The Campfire Gin, on the other hand, is slightly spiced, thanks to the inclusion of cinnamon-soaked orange peel.

“We do everything from scratch, there are no additives, it’s all natural colours and because we source our spirit from wine, it means our gin is gluten free.” 

kawal rock vineyard hunter valley

Whilst the property is spectacular and the spirits smooth, it’s Louise and Maria’s welcoming hospitality and humility that will have you sticking around a little longer than you expected.

“Before we started this, I wasn’t a gin drinker, and when I sold my house and Maria sold her business we thought, if this all goes to shit, we’re going to have a lovely ornament in the lounge room.”

kawal rock vineyard hunter valley

“It’s been one step at a time, and we’ve had lots of local help, everyone has been really supportive which we are truly grateful for.”