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Broadsheet - Broome’s First Distillery, Moontide, Is Also One of Australia’s Most Isolated

Resting in red earth by the Indian Ocean, the newly opened distillery captures the tastes of the Kimberley with Kakadu plum, white berry bush and lemon myrtle – and monsoon rains.

There’s a new distillery in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley region: Moontide Distillery, owned and operated by husband and wife team Andrew and Trish Davidson, is the first distillery in the town of Broome. It's also one of the most isolated in the entire country (not forgetting Hoochery Distillery in Kununurra on the remote northeastern edge of the Kimberley).

The distillery, which opened in July, sits on pindan (a Djugun word meaning “red earth”) near the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, just north of the famous Cable Beach.

“The tropics is the perfect place for gin,” says Trish. “Here we get monsoonal rain over summer, which we store for use in our distilling. It’s got a purity and freshness that reflects smoothly on the palate.”

The Davidsons work closely with Mayi Harvests’ founder and director Patricia Mamanyjun Torres (who belongs to the Djugun language group, as well as six others from the Broome region) to incorporate local, traditionally sourced botanicals such as gabiny (Kakadu plum, also known as gubinge), white berry bush and varieties of myrtle into their spirits. Other ingredients such as mango and tamarind, introduced to Broome’s shores by pearlers and seafaring Indonesian traders, are a nod to the town’s history and multicultural influences.

Moontide’s range, for now, is a tight edit of three handcrafted spirits: a gin distilled with juniper, coriander seeds, mango, tamarind, sandalwood, and lemon myrtle; an aniseed-myrtle and star-anise-based spirit enhanced with fennel, cassia, caraway, nutmeg, pepperberry, mango and quandong; and a bitters crafted from more than 20 botanicals and spices.

The small-batch spirits are distilled using a computerised iStill imported from the Netherlands. “It allows me to program recipes, receive alerts to my phone, and it also shares information with support engineers back in the Netherlands, which is useful being in an isolated area,” says Andrew.

Named Bill in honour of Andrew’s late father (a naval surgeon and part-owner of a Kimberley station), the iStill also works well in Broome’s climate.

“He’s beautifully insulated,” says Andrew. “Reducing heat within our distillery means improved working conditions in the tropical humidity. Bill is very efficient and great at making gin.”

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on 01 September 2020

Words by Bonita Grima