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Unearthing Swiftcrest Distillery, High Country organic distillers

Words by Tehya Nicholas & Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

Swiftcrest Distillery champions everything good about small-batch distilling: sustainability, creativity and unhurried perfection. For Hank and Carrie Thierry, the secret to great tasting gin and vodka is working side-by-side with nature through every step of the process. The couple, who opened Swiftcrest Distillery in 2019, have followed this principle to the letter. The result? A series of entirely organic, small-batch gin and vodkas to make even the toughest critic swoon.

Nestled at the foothills of the Victorian Alps in Mansfield, Swiftcrest Distillery is perfect for the duo’s sustainable ethos. With its cool nights and warm days, a pristine natural spring, and the fact it had never seen a chemical (or even a bolt of electricity), the property has allowed their dreams to become reality.

‘My wife and I had a property up here in Mansfield for the last 18 years and we’ve always been looking for something that we could do with the land. We’ve got a natural spring on the property – crystal clear. We’ve tested it and found out it’s absolutely pure,’ Hank explains.

After completing a distilling course in 2014, things took off from there. Between various gig-economy jobs, the couple worked to build their business, staying between their Mansfield and Brunswick Airbnbs, depending on the availability of each. ‘Only once did I book out both properties at the same time and we had to sleep on a friend’s couch,’ Hank says in his typically laid-back style.

The couple’s clear commitment to the environment and single-mindedness is fundamental to their approach from go to whoa.

98% of distilleries buy in bulk spirit. We make all of our base spirit from scratch. We use all biodynamic grain direct from the farmer.

It is then taken to an artisan maltster in Ballarat before returning to their distillery to make the base spirit. Water is supplied by a 130 year-old steam pump which brings filtered water straight from the property’s natural spring. The water is then heated in a wood-fired steam boiler which dates back to 1906.

‘It took us about six months to find the guy that could build the boiler and it was about another 18 months before he could build it.’

Naturally, fuel for the boiler also comes from the property.
‘We’re very lucky – we only use windfall timber and we’ve got enough that we’re sustainable for the distillery. We’ve enough trees that process more CO2 (carbon doixide) than we produce,’ says Hank. To close the production circle neatly,  spent grain is then fed to animals, both on and off the property.

Both Hank and his wife have a background in fine art, so their love of aesthetics runs deep.
‘Every part of the process, you have the opportunity to choose what kind of color palette that you’re going to paint with. If you change the temperatures that you mash and ferment at, you can change the flavours. We’ve also trialled over a dozen different yeasts and you get all different flavour profiles (pineapple, banana, apple and pepper). I think a lot of distillers are missing out on that part of it.’

And if you’re wondering what’s the story behind the name?
‘When we bought the property 18 years ago, we saw these birds flying past. (Swifts) migrate between Japan and Siberia and this part of Australia every year. We only get them at the top of the hill – so we named the property Swiftcrest.’

In a marketplace full of slapdash spirits with costly byproducts, Swiftcrest gin and vodka makes for a genuinely refreshing alternative. Well worth a visit if you’re heading through the High Country, and until then, we recommend their Organic Alpine Spring Gin for your next homemade G&T.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Swiftcrest Distillery
WHERE: 126 Goodwills Road, Mansfield
WHEN: Open for tours by appointment only
MORE INFO: Swiftcrest Distillery

We wish to acknowledge the Taungurung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.
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