What is Harvest? Meet our new vintage series
Our new vintage series, Harvest, celebrates provenance, sustainability and the bounty and diversity of the annual Australian harvest. Each year, we’ll be releasing different spirits – including gin, vodka, whisky, rum and others - with a hero theme or ingredient that showcases the growers, providores, foragers and regions Archie Rose has worked with the preceding year. Our first release under this label, Harvest Gin 2019, will be released on 24 February 2020, featuring the rare and unassuming citrus, Poorman’s orange. Archie Rose founder, Will Edwards, fills us in on what it’s all about…
When did you first conceptualise the Harvest Series?
“To be honest, we’ve got Poorman’s orange to thank. I remember stumbling across an article in Gourmet Traveller Wine last year and grabbing Dave Withers [Master Distiller] while he was having lunch. It turns out, Harriet [Head of Hospitality] had seen the same article. We all became fixated by this botanical – slightly elusive in terms of commercial growth and completely unique. We knew of [citrus grower] Peter Dryden and his reputation for growing unusual and high-quality produce for Australian restaurants. From a conversation among friends to one of our most ambitious releases, it all snowballed from there.”
What makes an ingredient Harvest-worthy?
“We’ve distilled a whole bunch of citrus before – both bergamot and laraha are great in gin – but we’d never come across Poorman’s orange. It captivated us – the quality of the product from Peter, the uniqueness of flavour and its rarity in Australia. Harvest, as a release, allows us to focus on a raw ingredient like a grain or botanical and really invest in it. It becomes a reflection of the year that’s passed, our relationship with different growers and what’s captivating our team at that particular point in time.”
What excites you most about the Harvest series?
“The breadth of potential releases no doubt. We’ve got some whiskies in the works from previous years’ harvest – and they’re precisely what the Harvest series is all about. In most of our spirits, we aim for balance, depth of flavour and a bunch of complementary parts coming together. It gives us the freedom to work with a whole range of raw ingredients, focusing and championing one particular component. For 2019, that happened to be the Poorman’s orange grown by Peter in NSW’s Hunter Valley.”
Tell us more about the relationship between Archie Rose, its growers and sourcing local ingredients...
“That relationship has always been fundamental to what we do. Our spirits are all made from raw ingredients – there’s no getting away from it. You have to source great produce to make great spirits – it’s as simple as that. Take our whisky journey, it’s taken us five years and eight different varieties of malt and we’re constantly working to source produce in the state. If we can’t get things locally, we’ll grow them ourselves, or assist local growers to increase and stabilise their production so they can continue to grow their businesses. For botanicals, that means seeking out amazing growers like Peter and supporting them in every way we can. The heat and drought combined with the recent bushfires has resulted in 80% of Peter’s farm being burnt which will have a significant impact on the 2020 crop. We therefore feel very fortunate and humbled to be featuring the 2019 harvest of Poorman’s orange in this spirit and to be working with and supporting growers and providores such as Peter and [fellow grower] Vickie Shina to showcase their produce the best way we can through our Harvest series.”
What would surprise people about the 2019 Harvest release?
“How challenging it was to make. First up, it’s got an unusual primary ingredient – very few people have actually heard of Poorman’s orange. Beyond that, it was the most technically difficult gin we’ve ever created. We struggled to secure supply from Peter, sharing the harvest with Restaurant Orana's 2019 Sydney residence, and managing their production needs as well as our own. Another one of the botanicals, orange blossom, turned out to be sensitive where the infusion margin for error was a matter of minutes. Making a really nice summery citrusy gin sounds right up our alley – we’re very experienced in this kind of stuff – we know how to troubleshoot. But it was much trickier than you’d imagine.”
Any hints on the 2020 Harvest release?
“There are certainly things we’ve discussed that we’ve found interesting and we’ve got a few whiskies in the works. But I think that’s the nice thing about it – we’re not hoping to discover something in particular – it’ll be a very organic exploration into something we’ve found intriguing throughout the year.”