It wouldn’t be the first time someone wanted to bottle their Northern Rivers experience, but Husk Distillers is actually doing it.
Paul Messenger heads up the family-owned rum and gin distillery in the Tweed Valley with its paddock-to-bottle philosophy.
“Tumbulgum village is at the confluence of two rivers with views to Mt Warning in the prettiest valley in the country, possibly the world,” Paul says. “That’s what we’re trying to extract and put in a bottle.”
The Husk Distillers story starts in the tropical paradise of the Caribbean. Paul and his wife Mandaley Perkins were on holiday in 2009 and discovered an array of rums, including the traditional agricole rum, made from the local sugar cane.
Husk Australian Agricole Rum was Paul’s initial passion project, but it’s what happened next that has the world talking about Husk Distillers.
The Husk team had heard about the butterfly pea, a flower that’s been used in Thailand for thousands of years in cooking and herbal infusions. The flower is pH sensitive and changes colour when something acidic – like lime or tonic water – is added. Husk started building the recipe around that flower … the result? In 2015, Husk launched the world’s first colour-changing gin, Ink Gin, made from 24 traditional, exotic and Australian Native botanicals. In the bottle, the gin is a dramatic indigo liquid, which transforms into a light pink hue when tonic water or lime are added.
Ink Gin won the Northern Rivers innovation award, quickly followed up by the Australian Drinks Industry Best Innovation in Spirits Award, up against some of the biggest spirit companies in the world. Ink Gin is sold in Singapore, Thailand, Japan, the UK and Italy and will be launched on the US market later this year.
But there’s no resting on their laurels for Paul and Mandy, whose three daughters are also employed by the business. The eldest, Harriet, runs sales and marketing, middle daughter Edwina looks after logistics and despatch and youngest Claudia, works part-time on the bottling line while she’s still studying.
The family have launched a cellar door and café, offering tastings and little tours through the distillery.
“People are more interested in understanding how the things they eat and drink are made,” Paul says.
It’s a bonus for visitors that Ink Gin and Husk Distillers Agricole Rum are bottled in one of the most beautiful valleys in the world.