Taste Test: Wild Hibiscus Distilling Co’s Finger Lime Gin
Finger lime is a popular ingredient in many Australian gins but the gin in this Taste Test uses these delicious native citrus fruit in a way that’s entirely unique. And it’s a system that has taken over a decade to perfect.
About Wild Hibiscus Distilling Co
From the alpine slopes of the Blue Mountains an hour or so outside Sydney, family-run Wild Hibiscus Distilling Co’s farm grows many of the botanicals that go into their gins.
The farm in Kurrajong Heights (which we visited with the Nip of Courage team) has 1,600 mature finger lime trees as well as pepperberries, Davidson’s Rainforest plums, Tahitian lime trees and makrut lime trees, all of which are hand-harvested and taken to the distillery.
Owner of the distillery, Lee Etherington, began working with botanicals years before his venture into gin. In 1999, he invented and developed the hibiscus flowers in syrup which, when added to sparkling wine, open and turn the drink a delicate pink colour.
He is also the brain behind Gingle Bells - six fun fruit and flower infused gins, each in its own Christmas bauble.
About the bottle
Everything about this gin is fascinating and unique, from the scalloped sides to the elaborate metal label.
But it’s how the gin looks that’s most eye-catching and what took the most engineering to achieve.
Suspended as if by magic are hundreds of finger lime caviar. This is done using a particular plant gum that creates an invisible web within the gin that holds each finger lime ‘berry’ in suspension. It means every sip contains a few berries of finger lime.
Sometimes repeated impacts knock the caviar down to the bottom. Simply inverting the bottle will reposition the fruit back into their web.
There are other gins out there with finger lime caviar inside, but without this technology, they just sink to the bottom.
As you’d expect, finger limes feature a great deal in this gin. Each finger lime, which is a long thin fruit that looks like a finger (obviously) contains hundreds of small balls filled with citrus juice similar to lime.
Astonishingly, each of the balls of finger lime caviar has been infused and essentially contains a completely different gin that’s made specially for this part of the process.
Also listed are Tahitian lime leaf, Australian navelina orange and Australian makrut lime. The juniper is from the highest peaks of the Bulgarian mountains. The Wild Hibiscus Distilling Co is the only distillery in Australia to use this juniper.
There's plenty of juniper on the nose with a good citrus edge. The taste is smooth with herbaceous coriander tones coming with a tasty lime hit. And as you bite into the caviar, more lime and the second gin is released with a satisfying pop.
On its own with ice, this gin is interesting and the finger lime gives a pleasing texture with each sip. But as the label says, this gin is ‘Made for Mixing’. And so it is.
Over ice with a splash of soda water, Wild Hibiscus Co’s Finger Lime Gin really brightens up. You get a zap of lime and herbs that create a crisp refreshing cocktail.
But with a dash of good tonic, this gin changes. Sweetness from tonic and the extra bitter edge meld with the sour citrus and herb flavours that balance the drink perfectly.
Add a touch of lime juice and a sprig of lemon thyme and you’ve got a cocktail that everyone you serve it to will be talking about.