Taking a peep behind the still, our series Meet the Distiller is all about getting to know the people making the amazing gin, whisky, rum and vodka around Australia.
Far from the anonymous mass-produced spirits in our supermarkets, these craft tipples are the result of the loving care, hard work and pure creativity Aussie distillers put into every bottle.
Ally and Nick Ayres from Karu Distillery, NSW
With their distillery at the feet of the beautiful Blue Mountains, the Ayres have been crafting superb gin since 2017.
Their navy strength gin - appropriately named ‘Lightning’ - won double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and they’re turning their attention to rum as well.
Along with their award-winning spirits, this distilling duo have an amazing sense of humour and adventure that’s welcome in the Australian craft distilling community.
1. How did you both get started as distillers? And how have you found working together?
ALLY: I usually answer this question first because it’s not as interesting as Nick’s. I was working an office job, which I liked but wasn’t all about it and wasn’t getting self-fulfilment.
So naturally when the opportunity to choose between moving into going further in my corporate career or placing all chips on us in a new business… I chose us.
Nick and I share a love of good spirits and were originally going to open a bar, but decided we loved the spirit side more and began our journey. I have always loved science and adore the science of flavour, so it just really made sense to me.
We established Karu Distillery in 2017, I left my job 2018 when we released our first gin and we’re still doing what we love now.
NICK: I worked 10 years in the film industry working on major motion pictures.
Ally’s interest in distillation drew me to the world of distilling, and now we’re in our third commercial year to our prior three years of research and development.
Plus barrel ageing, who doesn’t like barrels?
2. What do you love about being distillers?
ALLY: At the moment I am all about rum and producing that.
I love molasses. I love the smell, the texture, the taste, when people arrive when I am doing a ferment day and go “that smells amazing, what is it?” and sparking that intrigue as once upon I time I was the same.
I love creating the environment for the yeast to make something delicious. I love low wine days, I love spirit runs and most of all I love when all that hard work gets put into a barrel.
My favourite part of the job with gin is the smell of the botanicals and also a scientific freedom you don’t get elsewhere.
As for the worse parts of the job, it’s always cleaning; I am the only person small enough to fit into the fermenters, so guess who gets to do that pretty job (also I cause the mess so…. fair).
The worst job for me is labelling. I am glad I have been banned if I am completely honest with you. I am garbage at it!
NICK: I really like filling barrels; it’s nice to see it all come together.
Having mates in the same industry and how supportive everyone is towards one another. It’s always good when you do shows and see other people who do what you do as we are in a shed in the middle of nowhere.
HA! Who gets to do the worst jobs? Whoever has to clean the gutters. Worst job for me is I am allergic to using the bottling filler…. If you want it done, don’t ask me.
3. What makes Karu special?
ALLY: Without sounding mega bias it’s everything. We are in a beautiful part of the world and share it with such intriguing insects and anim