Australia - from the vast Queensland Opal Fields to the underground town of Coober Pedy to the outback mines of Lightning Ridge - has long been the world leader for opal.
And from the last in this list of opal sites comes a world first: opal gin.
Owner-distiller of Silica Distillery, Gerard Ratner has crafted a gin that not only fits the reputation of his hometown of Lightning Ridge, but one that tastes of it too.
Within the list of declared botanicals, Ratner includes real opals that make up the profile of his spirit.
In a world exclusive, Ratner spoke to Nip of Courage about his new creation: Opal Gin.
Silica Distillery’s Opal Gin
After building his 600-litre copper pot still by hand Gerard Ratner has finally figured the gin recipe that he thinks speaks of Lightning Ridge’s gemstone legacy. But this project isn’t just a flash in the gold pan.
“I’ve been wanting to start a distillery for years,” Ratner tells us. “It’s in me blood. Me old man used to cook up moonshine to take with him down the mines hunting opal when I was a kid. Reckon this stuff’s a bit smoother than that though.”
Gerard shared some of his recipe for his gin with us: juniper, angelica, pepper berry and crystal green finger limes combine to create a fresh, bright gin. But it’s the kilo of opals he uses in each batch that makes the difference.
“They give it a funny flinty kind of flavour. Bit of stone flavour you could say,” Ratner explains. “That kind of flavour you get just after the big wind’s gone through town kicking up all the dust. In a good way.”
And Ratner has gone even further with his Opal Gin. Not only has he distilled real opals, he’s included shards in each bottle.
“Yeah, there’s about 5g in each 700ml bottle,” he nods. “Got the idea from that Goldschläger stuff with the bits of gold at the bottom.”
Lightning Ridge, a small outback town near the Queensland border, is famous for its rare black opals that can fetch huge sums of money on the open market.
We asked Ratner if this is what he uses.
“No chance!” says the humble distiller. “They’re way too pricy for people to drink!”
As for the shards of opal in the bottle, Ratner assures us they’re “perfectly safe to ingest, just try not to get the bits in your teeth.”