Brad Spalding once spent his days teaching Australian skiers how to carve a turn. These days you’re more likely to find him crafting new spirits at his Snowy Mountains distillery, which he co-founded with his wife Monika in 2002.
The distillery produces award-winning spirits under the “wildbrumby” label, and thousands of people visit to have a meal, wander the gardens, and buy from the distillery door.
The Spaldings began building their Jindabyne facility in south-east New South Wales 15 years ago, opening to the public three years later in 2005. Back then, it was one of the first craft distilleries established in Australia.
Using local produce is key to their products’ success and appeal.
Water too, is all very local, with the distillery drawing from two water licences, depending on the use.
While today wildbrumby has 28 SKUs made from several mountain botanicals and a range of fruits – including apricots, lemons, peach, pear, raspberry and mango – when they began, the first schnapps simply had an apple base.
Around 10 years ago, the couple also began experimenting with Australian natives, after coming across a farmer at Bellingen who was producing lemon myrtle, aniseed myrtle, and other locally indigenous botanicals.
Over about a 10-year period, they developed a portfolio of botanicals, then released the Kosciuszko Vodka 101 [500 millilitres, 50.5 per cent overproof spirit], then gin.
The latest gin on the scene is the Rubus Patch (700ml), a more floral gin that can be mixed with soda rather than tonic. Rubus Patch is blended with raspberries and pH-balanced alpine water.
Online sales are less than 10 per cent of the overall business, but growing. A large chunk of the profit has come from skiers and visitors buying at the distillery door, then wanting more before they head back to Jindabyne. Spalding used to joke that they “didn’t export other than to Thredbo”.
However, since Canberra Airport upgraded and established daily international flights to Singapore, it’s changed the mountain scene.
The distillery has established a strong working relationship with numerous Canberra businesses, including the airport, and supplies several bars wholesale as well as independent bottle shops with retail product. Some have been on board since wildbrumby came into existence. It also supplies venues at Perisher, Jindabyne, Thredbo, Melbourne, and Sydney.