May 11, 2022

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Business and Ecology.

They LOVE trees. They love hanging out with trees, they love planting trees and they love how important trees are to life on this planet.

TREES PLANTED

600

Hepburn Distillery began with the idea of local and drawing from the mineral-rich soil, and abundant rainfall of Hepburn Shire. Surrounded by forest in cold, spud country, the owners of Hepburn Distillery were inspired to make a product that grew locally, was free of chemicals and low in food miles. They source as many of the raw materials locally, organically and seasonally and grow some of the botanicals for the gin.

 

Basil

 

Meet Basil and Jane, owners of Hepburn Distillery. They LOVE trees. They love hanging out with trees, they love planting trees and they love how important trees are to life on this planet.

We love your commitment to sustainability. Was this always an important part of the business for you? What drives your passion for sustainability?

We’ve been involved with sustainability our whole lives. Jane has worked as a social ecologist for almost 30 years beginning at Greenpeace in the early 1990s. We’re passionate about creating a life that is aligned to our values and that is sustainable both personally and professionally. Business and ecology do not have to be at odds with each other. Business can be a force for good in the world and can be used to support regenerative agriculture, forestry and investment in renewable energy and sustainable packaging. We’re passionate about being the change we want to see in the world. We believe people and the planet can both thrive when we make holistic decisions.

Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, from the packaging we use through to where we source our base products. Local is always the first decision, along with organic, chemical free and seasonal. We compost all our organic waste or feed it to local pigs. We use renewable energy to power our stills and recycle water for cooling. We only use rainwater in our products and unlike most distilleries, we ferment and distill all our base product onsite, rather than importing it in. We choose to sell locally rather than transport stock across the state or the country and even when we post items we make sure the postage kilometres are offset.

What is it about planting trees that appeals as part of reducing your carbon footprint?

We LOVE trees. We love hanging out with trees, we love planting trees and we love how important trees are to life on this planet. Not only are they the lungs of the world but provide incredibly important habitat and other ecosystem services. Trees are life and we need lots more of them! We feel that planting trees is one small way we can give back to the planet, to help replenish the systems that sustain us.

Why gin and vodka? Has spirit-making been in the family, or was it a passion discovered later in life? Hepburn Shire is a beautiful part of the world. How do your products reflect the area in which they are created in?

Basil’s experiments with making vodka began many years ago as an exchange student living in Sweden, where his girlfriend used to make potato vodka on the windowsill of her apartment. Over the years he has experimented with many different types of fermenting – making explosive elderflower champagne and delicious blackberry wine for example. When he decided he was ready to make a change from teaching, fermenting and distilling seemed like a good path to explore. He quickly discovered that he really loved the alchemical process of transforming something as simple as a humble spud into a beautiful, full-flavour, smooth spirit and that he has a real talent for fermenting and distilling.

The vodka we make was an obvious choice because we live in spud country, with rich red volcanic soil. We’re lucky enough to have 5th generation organic farmers working 5 minutes up the road from us. Wombat Forest Organics grow a special variety of potato for us and also supply us with organic strawberries for our Bullarto Strawberry Gin. The gins we make are inspired by our local, seasonal produce and the creative people of the region. We’ve collaborated with our neighbour Annie Smithers, for example, to create a signature gin for her restaurant.This gin has all organic ingredients including organic local juniper sourced from the Garden of St. Erth in Blackwood.  Another neighbour had a crop of sloe berries – so we’ve made a batch of sloe gin from these. Our Organic Potato Saffron Vodka is a collaboration with Trentham Fields Saffron farm.

Smithers Gin.

So for us, creating vodka and gin is all about collaboration, inspiration and making the most of the abundance on our doorstep. Local is important to us because we want as few carbon kilometres as possible and because we love collaborating with local growers, encouraging investment in small local businesses to build a more resilient and abundant community.

Any exciting plans coming up for this year for the distillery? Or is there a special batch of gin we can look forward to in 2022

We’re hoping to move the distillery to a bigger, more accessible premises in 2022. This will allow us to accommodate more tastings and tours. One of our big plans is to start running whiskey making workshops, where participants engage in the whole process of creating whiskey from start to finish. In our new venue we’ll also be able to have fun with more collaborations like the Kimchi Bloody Mary cocktail that is being developed with The Fermentary.

We have planted 600 native trees on behalf of this passionate couple at 2 Victorian sites; Axe Creek and Cape Clear.

 

Site 1. Axe Creek, VIC | 300 trees

About 12 years ago, we set up some exclusion zones/windbreaks on our property at the recommendation of the Land for Wildlife coordinator.  Over several years, we planted these areas up and had quite a high rate of success.

As we have numerous small birds relying on our revegetation areas for shelter, nesting sites and food, we really needed to carry out a further project to plant.  In particular, one of the birds we have using our revegetation areas is the white browed babbler, which is being impacted by loss of habitat in the local area.

We really appreciate this support in keeping our revegetation areas thickly vegetated as it means we are able to provide understorey and treed areas accessible for use by birds, insects and other animal visitors.

Fiona Cannon | Landcare Member | Axe Creek Landcare group.

 

Axe Creek

Site 2. Cape Clear, VIC | 300 trees

I would like to extend my pure gratitude to the generous people that made it possible to allow me to begin to reintroduce native habitat back to the land that my partner and I are caretakers for. Being able to attract new life in the form of bees and birds, thanks to the donated saplings is extremely rewarding.

Elen Rees | Director | Wild at Heart Therapy

 

Elen with River Red Gum sapling.

 

Living close to the earth and the cycles of nature means that every batch of spirit they make is unique. Being small and seasonal gives Jane and Basil the opportunity to forage, experiment with flavour, make use of gluts in produce and collaborate with other producers, chefs and business owners. For example, in autumn they pick blackberries for our gin, in winter they harvest excess lemons. Each season provides new opportunities for experimentation with new flavour combinations.

Thank you Hepburn Distillery for your passion for the environment, gin skills and the understanding of what is important.

Writer: Sarah Hart.Sarah is an artist whose passions include the stories and experiences of women and narrative driven work. Her aim is to delight, to reveal glimpses of everyday beauty and to celebrate flights of the ordinary. Sarah works across a range of media, with an abiding interest in pen and ink, mixed media and the human form. You can find Sarah here.

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