A Ray of Sunshine
When it comes to producing quality spirits, Tony Cox discovers it needs passionate and knowledgeable people, top-quality ingredients and a few rocks thrown in for good measure.
When four friends got together to establish Sunshine & Sons at Woombye they combined many years of experience in the food and beverage industries.
As you would expect from those with a passion for quality, each step is carefully considered, one of the most critical being the spirit base. Much research was done before settling on Barossa Valley grape spirit as the base spirit for their gin and vodka.
The key reasons being the rounded, soft, viscosity you experience on the palate when consuming neutral grape spirit compared to other sources, especially grain-based neutral spirits.
The second reason is the exceptional quality of the spirit source. In fact, I do recall a conversation with a Barossa-based winemaker a few years’ ago who told me there were some heavy hitters from Portugal scouring the Barossa. They were from Oporto and ran port houses but realised that the quality of the spirit being used in fortified production in the Barossa was far superior to what they were using back home. Such is the quality of the base spirit being used here.
Back to Woombye. The Original Vodka combines two ingredients only, the forementioned Barossa grape spirit and local Woombye water. The dilution is a very crucial part of the process. The water is added very slowly to preserve clarity and to achieve a true cohesion between the water and the alcohol so there is no splitting and the texture is consistent. The water source is also constant and filtration is undertaken through volcanic rocks – the only distillery presently to do so in Australia – with the rocks taken from headlands on the Sunshine Coast.
The limited edition Barrel Aged Vodka is pale, with no artificial colouring used in the distillery; the caramel colour coming from having spent time in barrels seasoned with sherry. In fact, organic certification is actively being investigated. Palate-wise sherry notes are evident combined with peppery nuances and the viscosity and texture which comes with neutral grape spirit. I bought a bottle on the spot to sip over ice in summer.
Let’s get down to gin and the first tried was the Original Gin. Firstly, each gin has its own botanicals and the key botanicals that sets Sunshine & Sons apart is the high florals, derived from pink rose petals, lavender, Tasmanian pepper berry and pomegranate. To highlight these aromatics and flavours better, no garnish is needed as a wedge of citrus changes the chemical balance of the botanicals. Similarly, at Cellar Door the team insists on Schweppes Tonic as they feel that most visitors will experience their gin with that mixer at home and they wish to replicate that experience. The florals really come through on the palate and was exceptional drinking. Again, I voted with my wallet and bought a bottle.
A little more fun for the team is the Parfait Gin, an homage to the Big Pineapple location. Coriander and juniper-forward, the addition of tropical ingredients such as pineapple, coconut, passionfruit and vanilla created a fleshy, rounded palate. When tonic was added there was a dramatic change to aroma and flavour turning it into fruit salad in a glass, fresh and exciting rather than sweet and sickly.
Similar to the limited edition Barrel Aged Vodka, the Barrel Aged Gin sees time in French Oak barrels, seasoned with sherry. With peppery notes to the fore it also has the trademark texture and viscosity from the base grape spirit.
The team is also playing around with molasses spirit to produce rums, but these are in the evolutionary phase at present. The molasses spirit with cold pressed coffee and double roasted macadamia was utterly delicious with the intensity of the coffee matching the intensity of the molasses. They already have several rows of rum in barrels serving out the mandatory two year ageing period before it can officially be called rum. The countdown is on, ready for the big reveal on 22 February 2022 at 2.22pm, an auspicious date for sure. If the gin and vodka are anything to go by, the rums will also be a cracking product.
The team at Sunshine & Sons are producing some fantastic spirits adhering firmly to a quality-first ethos. Whilst the Original Gin and Original Vodka are the standard bearers, the limited edition products that are showcased at Cellar Door will ensure a constant stream of visitors just to keep up with what the guys are doing.
Do yourself a favour, jump in your car after first deciding on a designated driver, and visit the cellar door. It’s a sensational spot overlooking the lush green hills of Woombye and with adequate seating to make and afternoon of it. The guys are unpretentious and the energy from the passion they all share is evident. More importantly they are great drinks that are locally-distilled by people who know what they are doing.