There’s something about distilleries that reminds me of the saying ‘The stolen apple tastes the sweetest.’ Maybe it’s the hangover of a prohibition upbringing, or the connotations of ‘hard liquor’. Whatever! Actually, the first liqueurs came about with herbal concoctions sweetened to make them more palatable; an easier way to swallow medicine.
Founded in 1993 by Michael and Alla Ward, Tamborine Mountain Distillery’s beginnings were momentous, the couple being the first to be granted a distillery license in Queensland in more than a century!
The fame of the distillery now reaches down from the mountain to the world beyond. Australia’s smallest operating pot still distillery is also the most internationally awarded distillery in Australia. Their liqueurs have won the coveted China Wine and Spirits ‘Liqueur of the Year’ Award and the Asia Pacific Spirit Producer of the Year Award.
Our first visit to the distillery several years ago been a day of celebration, especially when Alla and Michael found out that an engagement had taken place earlier that morning. Serenaded by Alla on the piano accordian, it was a happy, joyous visit.
The distillery was sold by the Ward family in 2018 to Shumei Hou, the principal owner of Tamborine International Pty. Ltd., who has a background in law and international business, the business currently being managed by her partner, Gordon Chalmers.
Having moved the tasting rooms from the Tudor-style distillery built by the Ward family from recycled cedar and stone, Shumei has attempted to keep some old world charm in the new building just around the corner from Gallery Walk. It too references Tudor style and the heritage of the distillery founded by Alla and Michael Ward, each one of the liqueur bottles painted by Alla’s own hand.
On the opening of the new showroom, shot glasses of liquor are passed out for us to taste: Lemon Myrtle Vodka (tasting of Aussie bush and booze), Caramel Vodka Liqueur (so smooth that it could become a serious addiction), Australian herbal Liqueur, Absinthe, Cheeery cherry…you can see where this is going…by now we’re losing the plot…Oh, and let’s not forget the Limoncello, one of the best in the world! Who could leave without a bottle or two!
Every liqueur tastes different and wonderful.
While the original distillery sold gifts reflecting Alla’s Ukrainian/Russian heritage, such as matryoshka nesting dolls and jewellery,Gordon hopes to show off local art, some of which he says is quite quirky.
We’re happy to see the wall display of awards from the Ward’s time of ownership. Over 300 in total, they’re testament to two decades of the family’s dedicated work and tireless effort to increase recognition of their products. It’s paid off, with Gold Medal wins in world spirit awards in Europe, America and Asia.
Shumei is keen to increase export of the seventy or so famous liqueurs and, though the bottles are no longer hand-painted, she is keen to retain the distillery’s artisanal approach.
A visit to Tamborine Mountain Distillery will put a smile on your face, for sure! It may be a bit chilly on the top of the mountain in winter, but you’ll get a family welcome warm enough to draw you back inside! It’s a sweet reason to visit!
And about that limoncello… Here’s my version of Sgroppino, Gold Coast style. Thanks to Bree from Goldtoast Supper Club for the introduction!
Sgroppino (Good Food Gold Coast style)
1 scoop of lemon sorbet
2 tbsp limoncello
Mint to garnish
Half fill a glass with champagne. Add a scoop of lemon sorbet. Pour 2 tablespoons of limoncello over the top. Top up the champagne if necessary. One quick stir, and ‘Voila!’ – a Sgroppino, mountain maid style.
Note: Sgroppino is traditionally made with Prosecco, vodka and lemon gelato whisked together, but our guests concurred that our version of this very adult ‘spider’ was a big hit. (It certainly started the party in a hurry!)
Address: 10 MacDonnell Rd, Tamborine Mountain, Queensland 4272
Open: Mon – Sun 10am – 34pm Phone: 07 5545 3452