King of gin

Four Pillars founders Stuart Gregor, Cameron Mackenzie and Matt Jones.

Healesville’s Four Pillars Gin has once again claimed the title of International Gin Producer of the Year going back-to-back at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London.

Last year Four Pillars became the first Aussie distillery to earn the award, now co-founder Cameron Mackenzie said Four Pillars is just the second distillery to win the prestigious accolade in the event’s 51 year history.

“It’s huge for us. It was crazy to win it for the first time last year and we came into 2020 with great momentum and such a spring in our step and then all of a sudden the handbrake got pulled on and we came to a shuddering halt in the pandemic,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“Now, as things are starting to get back to normal and the distillery is back open again and there’s just a few things going on, now we can go into next year with the same spring in our step and sort of reset a bit, which is exciting for us.

“This competition is the most fiercely contested spirits competition in the world, so to win, it puts Four Pillars on a global scale as one of the best gins in the world if not the best gin in the world at this particular time, according to those judges.”

The IWSC is the world’s longest-running, largest and most prestigious spirits competition with more than 4000 entries from distilleries across the globe.

The International Gin Producer of the Year award is given by the IWSC to the distillery that has not only performed best in the competition with its individual products but has also led the category in innovation and excellence across the year.

The news came through in the early hours of the morning in Healesville and the Four Pillars team were ready for celebrations. Last year’s celebrations included repeat renditions of Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’ at the Healesville distillery, but Mr Mackenzie was celebrating in London.

This time around Mr Mackenzie was on hand to celebrate the win in Healesville.

“Last year I was in London wearing my kilt at Guildhall at a very, very, very, fancy dinner. This year, I was still in my kilt at 4.45 in the morning only we had a glass of champagne with a bacon and egg muffin from the BP servo just down the road. It was just so Healesville and so awesome.

“We still played ‘We Are The Champions’ on loop quite a few times. We were socially distancing and belting out the hits.”

When quizzed as to whether Four Pillars staff were becoming accustomed to celebrating during the prime hours of the UK timezone, Mr Mackenzie said, “It’s very unlikely that we would do a three-peat, that would be unheard of. But who the hell knows. I’m astonished at this response and this result. It’s mind blowing.”

The only other distillery to win Gin Producer of the Year twice is Sweden’s Herno Gin, who Mr Mackenzie described as “great mates” of Four Pillars.

“They were also shortlisted for the trophy this year, so we’ve probably just edged them out… You couldn’t be in better company.”

The gin giant has come a long way since starting up in 2013.

“Honestly, when we set up at the back of Rob Dolan’s winery with one still. I thought I would make gin two days a week and work at the winery three days a week then go fishing on the Goulburn. And in seven years, I’ve been to the Goulburn once.

“It’s just gotten completely out of control, it’s enormous fun and it’s an incredible team of great locals who are just brilliant to work with. I think anyone who has been to the distillery would know that they’re just such a good team. I didn’t envisage we’d do anything like this and I love it.

Another highlight for the year included the opening of Four Pillars’ new distillery in Sydney, a move that Mr Mackenie joked as “idiotic” considering the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“Fortune favours the brave, we’re still ambitious even through a pandemic. We opened our bar in Sydney in the middle of the pandemic and it’s doing really well.

“We want to double the size of the distillery in Healesville, hire more people, get more people visiting, make more gin and just keep doing what we do.”

The IWSC Award for International Gin Producer of the Year is recognition of Four Pillars’ leading role in the world of gin in 2020. Both the Bloody Shiraz Gin and Rare Dry Gin won Gold Medals at the competition.

“Producer trophies are the pinnacle of achievement,” said IWSC Head of Tastings, Pip Mortimer. “They reward the overall portfolio, ethos and achievement of companies that enter the IWSC.”

Four Pillars was founded by Mr Mackenzie alongside drinks industry veteran Stuart Gregor and creative brand strategist Matt Jones in 2013 and the business took on a partnership with LION (a subsidiary of Kirin) as a 50 per cent shareholder last year..

The three founders remain at the helm of the business and Four Pillars is today distributed in more than 30 markets across the world.

Around 600,000 bottles of Four Pillar Gin are produced each year, making it Australia’s leading gin distillery. Australia continues its gin boom which has seen the local product grow 19.3 per cent year-on-year and over five years by a huge 34.3 per cent, according to the IWSR 2020.