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Russ Watson & Lorelle Warren - Bellarine Distillery

Written by Gin Foundry

Ahead of Junipalooza Melbourne, we’ve caught up with a few distillers and owners, to talk all things Gin, Australia and what they’ve been up to lately. Russ Watson & Lorelle Warren of Bellarine Distillery were on the other side of the stand last year enjoying the show as guests, with their gin - Teddy and the Fox - a few weeks away from being finalised. What a year it’s been since.

Hello there! What’s the Bellarine distillery set up like, and who are the team?

The Team started with Russ Watson & Lorelle Warren, who decided – albeit after having imbibed a few alcoholic beverages – that opening a distillery would be a good idea. Over 6 years later here we are. The distillery began manufacturing in 2016-2017 and our cellar door “the Whiskery” opened 25th April 2018. Russ is responsible for the distillery , manufacturing and owning the impressive moustache – which our cellar door was named after !- and Lorelle is responsible for the administration and everything else. We both spent considerable time working on the recipe for our 1st gin Teddy & the Fox – which has been received very favourably by the general public. We now have a small team which works closely with us both in the distillery and the cellar door.

Your story seems much more closely aligned to the Tassie whisky community - When did you first decide to make Gin?  

Our story began with Russ making the trip to Tasmania to meet and introduce himself to Bill Lark – who is known as the Godfather of Australian Whisky / distilling. Bill has the most wonderful attitude of paying it forward and the Australian distilling industry is by and large very collegial. When we 1st developed the idea - Gin was not even a blip on the horizon, however the renaissance that gin has experienced over the past 6 years led us to consider “gin” as addition to the family of spirits under the Bellarine Distillery label. What we love about this decision is that “gin “ people are great fun … and whilst we are busy also maturing our whiskies , the gin drinker tends to not take themselves as serious as most “whisky” people do. It is a delight selling our product to this market.

It’s a fun category indeed. Do you have any favourite moments over the past year?    

The most memorable part so far was the release of our 1st product “ Teddy & the Fox – Bellarine Gin”. The overwhelming positive response we have received has been fantastic with the catch cry from a significant number of consumers “ I didn’t think I liked gin but I love this GIN”.  And finally opening our venue earlier this year – it was a long slog to get through all the necessary paperwork and government channels but the public support has been terrific.

Licensing can be tough, but it makes the elation of getting it done all the better. What’s been the biggest learning curve for you so far?

Dealing with the Australian governments excessively onerous excise tax regime and tackling locals government hurdles and road blocks. On the positive side our local and state tourism bodies have been incredibly supportive and have driven our product into places and markets we would never have considered so early in our journey.

What was the inspiration behind the name, what made you want to link your dog, the fox and the gin together!?

Our Dog “Teddy “ did chase a fox across the busy road outside of our property and managed to cross back again on one of the busiest weekends of the year. Ted is an English Staffy and when he came racing back - he was grinning from ear to ear – literally. We remembered this story when we were looking for names for the gin and decided this would be a great start. We engaged our marketers to work this theme and the resulting label that has been produced is a stand out and has a direct appeal to the majority of consumers.

It’s a bustling beautiful category at the moment, with lots going on, what do you think makes your gin stand out in today’s crowded market?

It has a strong citrus flavour both to the nose and to taste.  It has a wonderfully smooth mouth feel which provides a very pleasant experience for anyone tasting “Teddy”. The botanicals – Australian lemon myrtle & organic oranges - significantly influence the flavour profile, which is very appealing to the majority of consumers.

And lastly, what’s the next big milestone you are working towards?

We are working on our next expressions of gins each with their own story and own dog – we have quite a few woofers in the family! We should have an additional couple in the next 6 months… And we are eagerly awaiting our whiskies to mature to bottling point - hopefully in the next 18 months .