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Question Everything with Evelyn Liong

Since we’re celebrating gin this month, we thought we’d go beyond the distillery doors with a Question Everything interview with one of our own gin experts—someone who spends their days soaked in all of the complexity of our various gins, Evelyn Liong, Spirit Blender here at Archie Rose.

Spirits Blenders are specialists within our production team and are responsible for blending together the different components that make up all of our Archie Rose products. Since Archie Rose is a multi-spirit distillery, our spirit blenders work across gin, whisky, rum and vodka. For white spirits like gin, vodka, and white cane spirits, they help create the original recipes and then recreate them as needed. For mature spirits like whisky and rum, they do the same, whilst also regularly sampling them to track how they are maturing, and when the time is right, decanting them and blending casks carefully to create the finished drop.

Not only are our Spirit Blenders “the custodians of quality”, they are creators, inventors and sensory experts! We get to the bottom of the glass with Ev on what makes our spirits so special and hear her take on what lies ahead in the world of gin.

Hi Ev, what do your days at Archie Rose look like at the moment?

Every day is different in the way we navigate the monthly whisky blend cycle. My working weeks are dynamic and flexible; blending projects and Quality Assurance (QA) compliances, which the Sensory team maintains, are the main aspects of our day.

Some weeks, I’ll have 300+ whisky samples to process for the next blend, which keeps me at my desk, or I might have a busy week on the floor handling blends or a quiet week updating data, preparing for upcoming blends and quizzing distillers on technical processes of the plant.

I’m currently blending a small parcel of rum that is challenging due to its minute volume. Coming off from a large-scale Core Single Malt blend, a different approach is required to balance our available liquid. On the gin front, there are a few Tailored Gin blends for corporate orders to answer to. It’s a fun process as each presents its own creative brief to blend for, which gives me the opportunity to explore unique flavour combinations.

What’s so special about the way that Archie Rose produces gin?

At Archie Rose, we distill botanicals individually before blending into our Distiller’s Strength Signature Dry, Straight Dry range. Distilling botanicals individually gives us blenders a flavour extraction of high intensity and clarity to blend final products in precision further. This method also provides elements to explore flavour in different intensities and textures, blending with components that can be balanced through blending, especially for our Tailored Gin range.

Do you have a personal favourite gin from the archive?

I have two personal favourites from the archive: Summer Gin Project Bush Gin (2018) and Opera House Outside Gin (2019). They are both clever concepts to build a spirit around, with complex flavour profiles which resonate with a place that is uniquely Australian in the medium of distilled spirit.

Has the Archie Rose approach to gin-making evolved over time?

Archie Rose’s approach to making gin has developed into focusing on the clarity of botanical expression, as the team’s process evolves with the increased quality of distillates. Our gins have formed a unique profile that is reflective of that, as we have been able to polish off edges and blend gins in bolder expressions seen in the likes of Harvest Honey Gin 2023.

What do you think we might expect to see in the next ten years in the world of gin? What are your forecasts for some of the challenges or opportunities that may lie ahead?

Gin has a foothold in our collective drinking culture, and it’s been in and out of trend for the last ten years. I see that it’s built a solid following in contemporary times through the changes in cocktail trends and a better understanding of the spirit. I feel the category will continue to grow as consumers’ palates mature, with the industry pushing to pursue a premium craft spirit.

With the localisation of producers/products on the rise, there is an opportunity for growth as consumers look at supporting local businesses and styles. The challenge that we face will be flavour fatigue. With the multitude of profiles available in the gin market, we may see consumers retreating to more simple and clear flavour profiles.

What are some highlights for you over the years during your time with Archie Rose?

Highlights in my time with Archie Rose include taking over the Single Malt Whisky blend. Taking custodianship of that liquid is very special and humbling. The Spirit Blending role at Archie Rose has delivered me to a cornucopia of knowledge. I’m very fortunate to be in this space.

Are there any particular botanicals or notes under your nose at the moment

I prefer savoury tones and tropical fruit notes. I find Native Thyme a fascinating aroma. It’s potent in the smallest dose, but also lends a subtle grounding of herbal Australiana eucalypt to blends. I do try to sneak a splash of it into my gin blends.

What have some of the advancements in technology been over the past ten years, and how have they influenced your work?

There have been many advancements since my time, from pen and paper to the digitalisation of systems and improvements in efficiency. It’s been remarkable being a Gen X and changing with the times, it’s changed the dynamics of how we all work. The digitalisation of distilling through the availability of SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems has provided a level of consistency that has lent us some time back into our days to investigate and fine-tune the nuances of our process to improve system efficiency.

Much of my work experience (bartender, sommelier, wine and spirits buying) has mainly been olfactory and doesn’t rely on technology. Through that time, I have seen the accessibility of information into spirit production increase and information made more available. We’re able to share the more technical side of our work, which has fostered a generation of consumers who seek to understand the magic of what we do.