Wollongong's Headlands Distilling Company is growing its range of spirits and getting native.
Dean Martelozzo said the business that hit the ground running with Seacliff Vodka in the summer of 2018/19 now has a specialty spirit called "Spirit of the Illawarra Plum".
Illawarra Plum is native to the region and Headlands is the first distillery in the world to develop a spirit exclusively from the fruit that is not farmed or readily available.
"We actually hand forage the plums ourselves," Mr Martelozzo said.
Headlands Distilling Company is also introducing two new gins called Daalgaal and Boobialla.
The three new products are available at the distillery in North Wollongong, online, weekend farmers markets and selected bars, restaurants and bottle shops in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Sydney.
"Ours is the only gin in the world made exclusively from the native Australian juniper," Mr Martelozzo said.
"Other Australian distilleries market their gins as being native to Australia, however this only applies to the other botanicals, as they typically source their juniper from Macedonia. Ours has been hand foraged and gives an incredibly unique taste that is authentically Australian".
Mr Martelozzo said since the Headlands Distilling Company was founded in 2016 by himself, Jared Smith, Lachlan Hingley and Thomas Simnadis the plan has always been to produce a range of spirits in the Illawarra that are as good as any in the world.
"In many ways, vodka was an entry point into the white spirits market," he said.
"By investing the time and effort into crafting a high quality vodka, we were well positioned to move into gin and other spirits that build on our expertise.
"One of the distinctive features of Headlands is in the way we craft our products. While most Australian vodka/gin distilleries buy pre-made ethanol produced in bulk at industrial plants, we prepare our alcohol from scratch in small batches. There are no shortcuts.
" We work collaboratively with a grower in Temora who cultivates a specific variety of barley that is perfect for the production of craft spirits. The journey of our grain from Temora to Wollongong, followed by in-house fermentation, distillation and bottling is what we call our 'grain to glass' philosophy.
"Finding the right variety of grain and securing the pathway from Temora to Wollongong took many trials and over two years to nail. But the time was well worth it"
Mr Martelozzo said being patient meant Headlands Distilling Company has been able to have complete oversight of what goes into each of its products.
"With high quality inputs we were on good footing to produce high quality products," he said.
"Starting from this strong foundation, we plan to release a range of exciting new products in the coming months.
"As demonstrated by our unique application of Illawarra Plums, native Australian juniper and native stingless bee honey, innovation is in Headlands' DNA.
"We are always looking for new and exciting ways to push the boundaries of the craft distilling scene and will continue to do so with our upcoming products.
"People are going out of their way to support us. They are excited to have a local distillery that has a story they can connect with.
"We recently invested in a larger still, which will have us better positioned to fulfil the growth in demand we are experiencing.
"This decision looked to have been premature with the tragic summer of bushfires and now the spread of the coronavirus, but much to our surprise, demand has remained strong".
And that means the search for a facility with more floor-space remains a priority.
Once such a location is found Headlands Distilling Company plans to accelerate its growth and provide a broader range of offerings that complement its distillery tours.
"The four of us critically evaluate emerging market trends," Mr Martelozzo said.
"We spend considerable time delving into insights that are curated from industry and market reports. This alerted us to the growing market for gin and other novel spirits. We confirmed these insights in discussions with members of our customer base".
Following Seacliff Vodka local customers were eager for Headlands to continue its journey by offering a gin.
Its ongoing focus will be to offer unique products not available anywhere else in the world.
"Australia has thousands of native plants, all of which have distinctive and unique taste profiles," Mr Martelozzo said.
"When Jared discovered that Australia has a native juniper berry, but nobody was using it as exclusive ingredient in gin, we saw an opportunity.
"Similarly, after learning that the Illawarra has a native bushtucker fruit, the Illawarra Plum, we saw an opportunity to fuse an element of our local landscape into new products.
"The Illawarra Plum has an incredibly unique flavour and to the best of our knowledge, we are the only distillery on the planet that uses it as the basis of a spirit.
"As Wollongong's first distillery, we are proud to offer a product that shares a unique flavour of our region".
"We're reaching out to more bars and independent bottle shops to identify interest in stocking our new products in addition to our Seacliff Vodka.
"The Boobialla and Daalgaal gin bottles are particularly unique as they have been numbered and are hand signed by Jared, our head distiller".
As for future Mr Martelozzo said Headlands Distilling Company has whiskey ageing in barrels and is working on some new gin flavours.
"One of the advantages of being small is that we can be nimble and respond quickly to trends," he said.
"Crafting small batch spirits gives us the flexibility to offer products like our Daalgaal Gin and Spirit of the Illawarra Plum while keeping focus on developing unique new products.
"We are always eager to hear customer feedback".