An award winning and out-of-this-world gin tasting experience - here's the story of The Farmer's Wife Distillery.
If you have been following the journey of gin in recent years, you will be well across the extraordinary growth of the white spirit. Managing to shake off its perception as a drink for only the mature set, the continuation of the Ginaissance doesn’t look to be slowing anytime soon.
One brand who has ridden the wave of gin and has brought a whole lot of attention to the local region is The Farmer’s Wife Distillery, with Founder and Distiller Kylie Sepos bursting onto the scene in 2017.
Just three months after the launch of The Farmer’s Wife Distillery’s Autumn Dry Gin, Kylie took home a Silver Award at the London Spirits Competition, projecting her brand and gin into the stratosphere.
Four years on, and an ever-growing list of awards later, Kylie has now opened her dream space on her family’s property in Allworth, and just like Kylie’s gin, it is out of this world!
With the gin distilling idea all starting following a holiday to Tasmania in 2015, the last six years have been fast moving but the original dream has never wavered as Kylie explains when we caught up for our International Women's Day Series chat.
Kylie, when the idea to start distilling gin first came about in Tassie, was this what you had initially envisioned?
Yes, this is what I originally dreamt about, and as the idea continued to grow and develop I began to finesse that idea, but originally this is what I thought would be great.
We actually started designing the building 6 years ago, it took 2 years to go through council, so I had the design for the distillery first then I started working on getting my recipe right, and it was 4 ½ years ago that I launched the Autumn Dry Gin.
It took 2 ½ - 3 years for you to get the initial recipe together, were you prepared for how long that process would take?
No, it was a much longer and more difficult process than I imagined, and I am glad I didn’t know, because I may not have continued, although once I decide on something it’s hard to change my mind.
Is it quite normal for a recipe to take this long to develop?
It took me longer to launch than it would most people in the industry and this was because I did it on my own. I didn’t consult with anyone, I did it the painstaking way, which was my choice and it was both enjoyable and frustrating, but this was my way of ensuring it was both completely unique and my signature gin.
I wanted to make all the mistakes along the way and I felt that you have to make mistakes in order for it to be something different. If you’re given a recipe or trained by someone it’s going to be a version of that person’s recipe. I am also a bit of a perfectionist which may have had something to do with it.
During that time was there any doubt around what you were doing?
There was a lot of doubts, especially when I’d make a gin and something wasn’t balanced or didn’t taste right, lots of doubts, but I knew what I wanted it to be so I kept persevering.
How did you work through those moments of doubt?
Lots of really good friends who would say ‘you’ve got this’ and ‘you know what you’re doing just keep going’. I had lots of friends on the tasting panel, they were always very happy to help me out, bless them [laughs], even the gins that weren’t so good.
Did you do any formal training at any stage?
I did some training in Tasmania but at the time there wasn’t a lot of education for distilling in Australia. It’s awesome now, there’s a lot more because the industry has grown so much, but most of my knowledge came from reading distilling books, and I was ok with this, I wanted to do the research myself.
A long time ago I had done two years of a science degree, before changing to a business degree, which didn’t just help, I wouldn’t have been able to do this had I not done that. There is a lot of science involved in the fermentation and distilling, and the lifecycle of yeast. It’s all biology and chemistry and it would be hard to learn about distilling if you didn’t have a basic understanding of science.
Did you have any distillers that you felt you could go to with questions or advice at this point?
I had made some connections when I did my training in Tasmania, so when I was really stuck there were people I could call on, which was important, because when you’re really stuck sometimes you just need somebody else’s advice.
Were other distillers always open to giving advice?
The industry was great, and more than happy to help and answer questions. It’s a very collaborative industry where people work together, and it’s nice to have friends in the industry as they’re the ones coming up against the same challenges that you are.
Traditionally distilling has been a male role, do you see that changing?
When I was starting out there were very few females in the industry, there are more now, which is great to see.
Originally a lot of the distilling industry in Australia was centered around whisky production which had a perception as being a male drink, and gin followed this. It’s also a production and science type of industry which are not typically female industries, historically. However, more and more females are coming into the industry.
I am now the secretary of the Women in Distilling Association, and it’s an amazing organisation. It’s there for networking and helping other women in the industry, just to be able to help or ask questions, and the more we do in that area, the better everyone will be in the industry.
Your first award was a Silver Medal at the London Spirits Competition, how did this change business for you?
It was so great, we’d only launched the Autumn Dry Gin three months prior to me submitting an entry so it was a complete shock. It was mostly about my psyche and what it meant for me and reassurance that I have a really good product. It also gave me the confidence to go to bars and restaurants and say ‘I am not just a little backyard hillbilly’, I have this product that won a medal in London, the home of gin.
At the end of that year we were also rated as one of the top 10 spirits in Australia by the Broadsheet Drink Easy awards, who focus on what’s new and emerging so to be listed in that category was awesome. Again it was that reassurance that we have something great and let’s just keep forging ahead with this crazy idea.
What does the team look like now, compared to when you first started?
It has changed so much, it was initially just me. I had come from a role where I was managing 150 staff so to not have any support and be doing everything myself was a big adjustment.
Kate, who I worked with previously, came on board to help along with Sharon, so there was a team of three for a while, and now, as I am organising the Christmas party, we’ve gone from three to twenty of us. The business has grown really quickly especially in the last 12 months.
It is very much a family affair, my cousins Nic and Ange work in the distillery door, mum and dad still do the bottling, my daughter Bella works here when she’s not at school and my aunty does all the packing of the boxes.
Now the distillery door is open, are you content with that or do you have bigger plans?
No, there is more to do. The permaculture garden is next on the list which I have designed, and the idea of this will be to help us keep up with production, it can be quite stressful trying to source the right botanicals from different farmers. When you’re dealing with nature, they don’t always want to keep up with your production schedule.
I also plan on installing a kitchen garden, orchard, and botanical garden which we’ll have open to visitors to be able to explore.
We have accommodation planned to open in the next 12 months, two cabins, and in stage 3 we will be building 10 eco cabins further up on our property. We also plan to build a stage and create an outdoor amphitheater which we’ll use to host events and launch our seasonal gins.
It’s so nice to be able to not only showcase our gin, but our region and what makes this end of town special.
Producing 180 batches since launch, and 100 of those produced in the last 12 months, the story and thirst for The Farmer’s Wife Distillery is quite remarkable and appears only to just be taking flight. We encourage you to take a drive to the distillery door and experience The Farmer’s Wife Distillery story first-hand.