Frankie Mcphail loves whiskey. That said, she’s currently having a rather serious affair with gin.
If you've been to the Heyday brewery in Wellington at anytime over the last few months, you may have noticed a rather splendid and shiny apparatus that protrudes into the air like a giant’s saxophone. This is Southward Distilling Co., the love child of Frankie's passion for spirits that she lovingly assembled by hand in the ultimate Ikea project.
Dreamt up by Frankie in her home of British Columbia after researching local distilleries, the setup speaks volumes on her take on making gin. The 300L copper pot still complete with whiskey helmet and a large basket for botanicals, all help to create a fuller, deeper distillate. She's also opted for grain spirit as a base which gives increased sweetness compared to whey spirit, and uses a process that gives her Botanicals two chances to converse with the distillate. Once in a wet run through steeping in the pot still, and then as a dry component when the distillate hits the basket. Consequently, her gins are far from simple facsimiles of the London Dry style, and can be sipped like whiskey.
For Frankie, making gin is only a small part of the distilling story and opens a doorway to experimentation and opportunity. In this vein, she is bringing an understanding and respect for other drinks’ styles to her process - and the results are impressive. The Mountain and Wave Gin which we stock at Regional Wines form the core range, and epitomise her style with a lovely round mouthfeel and some serious complexity. Then there’s her experimental ‘single batch’ gins which are made in tandem with limited edition seasonal beers at Heyday. I was lucky enough to try a few, and they quickly had me hoping that one day they’d be on the shelves at Regional too.
Her Smoked Rosemary Gin is an exquisite deep copper colour and takes the palate on a savoury journey - caramelised winter vegetables garnished with rosemary that evoke memories of roast lamb fresh from a wood-fire oven. On the other hand, the Blueberry Gin is all about fruit sweetness, but is made with a winemaker’s attention to detail and a deftness of touch with delicate levels of extraction and maceration. The palate is all about bright blue fruit flavours that meld harmoniously with gentle tannins in a mulled wine meets sloe gin experience.
Her Grapefruit Gin is more classical, offering a spectrum of citrus pith and zest that is bottled at 50% giving it some real oomph. This is Frankie's bridge building gin through which she can craft trust in her products, after all, there’s plenty of us out there who still want a gutsy gin to which we can add some tonic.
Her brand building extends further into the Wellington community through her Locals Range. These are gins made in collaboration with restaurants and producers, that to date, has seen Frankie work with Hanging Ditch and Apache, amongst others, crafting house gins they can serve off their lists. This is smart business that maximises her reach whilst allowing for further experimentation.
So, exciting times at Southward with a rapidly expanding list of products and real exposure in Wellington’s food and drinks scene. So what's next? Whiskey of course, after all this is where it all began. Frankie is currently experimenting at home on a series of small stills, perfecting the wash before she takes her ambitious whiskey plans to the next stage. She’s even got some exciting Wellington sites in mind for the distillery that will certainly give the spirit a sense of place, and as with the gin, her sights are firmly set on a malt that is distinctly individual, that borrows from Scotch and bourbon without simply replicating them.
It was once a toss up between moving to Scotland to pursue her dreams or setting up a distillery in Wellington - luckily for us, Frankie chose the latter.
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