YOU have got to admire a man who can boast: “These days I’m buying wine by the thousand litres.”
This is not some alcoholic superhero, but the owner of the only licensed distillery on a residential block in Australia, nestled into suburban Kaleen.
Tim Reardon sits very comfortably in his new skin as part mad scientist/inventor, part marketer. These days he is a corporate refugee dedicated to making and selling his own backyard product.
“I love what I do”, he says.
He’s been buying wine in bulk and distilling the product of the grape and other liquids since December last year and seems to be having a lot of fun. He trades under the name Canberra Distillery and is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his craft. His place is like a cross between the Australian suburban dream and an adult Willy Wonka factory built around the processing of grog rather than chocolate. Reardon makes and sells two types of gin, a coffee liqueur, a vodka and Canberra Fog.
When we have a chat on a windy Canberra Saturday, it’s Canberra Fog that most interests me, as it has a real connection with local wine production. It’s an ouzo/sambuca style of aperitif, featuring liquorice and aniseed flavours, that’s distilled from Murrumbateman shiraz. Reardon collected a number of recipes that had been handed down in migrant families following the completion of the Snowy Hydro project, by trawling the internet but largely by listening to people’s stories, particularly the bloke who came to install his sliding doors. What a metaphor for the forces of change.
Reardon has taken these recipes and melded them into his own variant, combining the distilled shiraz with a mix of herbs and spices that, just as with Col. Sanders, is a tightly held secret.
The result is a sweet concoction that has a liquorice and mild spice front palate and burnt toffee flavour that lingers slightly. It is a taste as far removed from the original shiraz as a Canberra residential setting is from the commercial distilleries pumping out large quantities of ethanol, the main type of alcohol that is in the beverages we consume.
Canberra Fog is clear and smooth but it gets its name not from the mist it produces in the brain after a couple of shots but from the foggy appearance it takes on when you chill it. This effect is generated from the oils in the herbs that are blended in the product, making the bottle look like it’s captured heaped clouds.
In a good year Reardon plans to buy 5000 litres of wine; this is wine that would have been unlikely to make it to the table so the producers benefit as do consumers with home grown, made-from-scratch spirits.
Wine is a favoured product to distill because it retains more sweetness through the process when compared with, say, sugar syrup. It is this sweetness that Reardon captures so well in Canberra Fog and in other liqueurs he plans to make, but which are only just on the drawing board. He’s done what so many of us would like to do: turned a hobby into a job, undertaking something he is passionate about.