The Four Pillars juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down. Straight off the bat from opening its three-part gin venue in Sydney's Surry Hills, the Victorian distillery has released the 2020 edition of its ever-popular Bloody Shiraz gin.
The perennial gin release sees more than 100 tonnes of whole, de-stemmed shiraz grapes steeped in Four Pillars' Rare Dry Gin for eight weeks, before the fruit is pressed, and blended with more gin. The grapes "bleed" into the clear juniper-spirit, infusing it with a distinctive deep-purple hue and a fruity, though un-cloying, sweetness. It's unfiltered, too – those sediments at the bottom of the bottle are a natural consequence of the grape-steeping process.
The shiraz-gin is typically released in June, but the current health crisis has pushed back its 2020 release to 4 July. "As with most things in 2020 the Bloody Shiraz Gin launch has been complicated by all manner of things including, of course, losing a huge percentage of our customer base as hospitality was shut down across the world," says co-founder Stu Gregor. "We're a month late to release, but we reckon that's just given the excellent 2020 vintage a bit of extra time to settle."
The Bloody Shiraz gin has a renegade history. The first release in 2015 used some 250 kilograms of shiraz grapes from the vineyard of Rob Dolan, the celebrated winemaker and then-landlord of the Four Pillars distillery. "We stumbled upon – well, we stole – grapes from his winery to make the first batch," said head distiller Cameron Mackenzie last year.
As with last year's release, the shiraz grapes have been sourced from the Yarra Valley, the Macedon Ranges and Yea Valley. While this year's devastating bushfire season flattened vineyards in South Australia's Adelaide Hills and Tumbarumba in southern New South Wales, and smoke taint permeated grape crops in the Hunter Valley, the Yarra and its surrounding regions have been fortunate to emerge relatively unscathed from that tumultuous summer.
"2020 will go down as one of the strangest vintages on record. While half the country was on fire and experienced extreme heat, the Yarra was quite the opposite," said Mackenzie in a statement. "Overall, we had very mild conditions and high rainfall so the region stayed green for most of summer."
As for the final product, it's first and foremost a gin. "It has a pine-forest, juniper character, and a Yarra Valley, white-pepper spice from the shiraz," Mackenzie said last year. "Yarra and cool-climate shiraz is quite unique – it's not big and jammy like McLaren Vale or Barossa varieties. It's medium-bodied, so you tend to get more spice and dark-berry notes."
Citrus is a friend to the shiraz-gin. Four Pillars recommends serving it simply with lemon tonic, over ice; it can be made into a Spritz with fresh grapefruit juice and sparkling wine too.
The release of the shiraz-gin may be a month delayed, but for followers of the purple gin it's a case of better late than never. Though the same cannot be said for thirsty buyers – the gin sells out every year.
The 2020 Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin ($85 for 700ml bottle) will be available from 4 July on the Four Pillars website, Four Pillars distillery (Healesville, Vic), Four Pillars gin shop (Surry Hills, NSW) and select retailers . Subscribe to the Four Pillars email list to receive notification about pre-release sales.