>  Destinations   >  Australia   >  Forty Spotted Gin Blending Hobart review

What’s better than drinking gin? Making your own at a Forty Spotted Gin Blending Class in Hobart. I climbed the stairs to Forty Spotted’s contemporary gin bar tucked away in a building in downtown Argyle Street and took a seat at the bar for my one hour gin blending class. Forty Spotted Gin is made by Lark Distillery which also created Tasmania’s first single-malt whisky so they know their stuff. Guiding me through the process was The Gin Professor who was decked out in a lab coat and ready to educate me on all things gin.

The Professor mixed me a (very good) gin cocktail and began the class with a trip back in time to when the world’s fascination with gin began. One of the earliest forms of gin was ‘genever’ which was used by Dutch physicians in the 17th century as a cure for various ills. It tasted terrible until the physicians tried mixing the oil from the juniper berry (a common medicinal herb at the time) with the spirit and a variation of the gin we know today was born.

The English couldn’t pronounce ‘genever’ so they shortened it to ‘gen’ which eventually became ‘gin’. The popularity of gin grew rapidly in England due to the government authorising unlicensed gin production and imposing a heavy duty on imported spirits at the same time. Gin was cheap and easy to produce and created plenty of social problems for England’s poorest citizens. The Gin Act 1751, which ensured gin could only be sold through licensed retailers, greatly improved this situation and paved the way for gin to be seen as a more reputable spirit.

Since then, gin has gone on to become one of the world’s most popular drinks, thanks in part to the invention of the column still in the early 1800s which gave gin makers access to a more sophisticated distillation process and better quality spirits. The traditional ‘London Dry’ style of gin came into its own around this time and is still popular today. In the past 10 years or so, Australian gins like Forty Spotted have won a swag of awards and come with their own unique claim to fame.

Australian gins
Forty Spotted’s unique Australian gins

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Many are flavoured with Australian native botanicals, around 80 percent of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Unique flavours such as boobialla (native juniper), Kakadu plum, lilly pilly, and even green ants are being used by local distillers to create gins with a strong sense of place and tangible connection to where they’re made. Thankfully, we skipped the green ants during the class in favour of more traditional flavours. With the history lesson over, it was time for us to get started on the blending part of the class. 

In front of us we had several beakers, small vials of infused spirits, an eye dropper, a pencil, and a piece of paper which was about to get covered in splashes of alcohol. After a chat about the flavour wheel in front of us and a run down on how to blend the gin with juniper and other flavours to create top notes, mid notes, and base notes, we set about our task. The whole process reminded me of my high school chemistry class only a lot more fun.

Gin blending kit at Forty Spotted Gin
Gin blending tools at Forty Spotted Gin

You’re not limited to the vials in front of you either. If you have particular flavours that you love when it comes to gin – my husband is a fan of lemon myrtle – ask the Gin Professor and he’ll venture into the lab (a.k.a. the shelves behind the bar) and find them for you. He left us to our own devices for a while to mix the vials in small amounts, adding a little extra of some flavours at a time, as we took notes about the quantities along the way. This meant that if we added too much of something and ‘ruined’ our creation, we could go back and recreate the original base up until the point we put too much of something in.

Gin blending
Sniff and sip as you blend to find your perfect flavours

What you create is entirely up to you although it pays to ask the Gin Professor for his or her advice now and again. When I had a feeling that my gin ‘wasn’t quite right’, I asked for suggestions on what else I could add to improve it. The addition of just 5ml of an additional flavour changed my blend from just okay to “Wow, this is ready to bottle!”. It is amazing how different everyone’s gins are when you do this class. My gin was quite savoury and smelling it was like walking through a pine forest thanks to the addition of Oyster Bay pine; my husband’s gin was much lighter with lovely top notes from Australian botanicals.

The Gin Professor
The Gin Professor is on hand to help

When we were finished blending, The Gin Professor helped us multiply the ratios to go into our 200ml bottle of gin to take home. I was glad he was there to help as maths was never my strong point and we had been taking little sips of (very strong) infused spirits while we were blending. Once we had blended the correct ratios in a clean beaker, the Professor topped up our gin blends with spirit to create a 200ml bottle of bespoke gin to take home.

Naming our gins didn’t officially form part of the Forty Spotted Gin Blending Class but we figured real distillers get to name their gins so we should too. ‘Myrtle Magic’ and ‘Stumbling Through the Forest’ are now taking pride of place on our gin shelf back home in Brisbane. These unique souvenirs from the Tasmanian capital are a hundred times better than any “I love Hobart” t-shirt.

Forty Spotted custom gin
‘Stumbling Through the Forest’ is ready to drink

Disclosure: The writer ‘Stumbled Through the Forest’ as a guest of Forty Spotted Gin. Her gin blending skills are much better than her maths skills.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.