THE SCIENCE OF COOL IN THE HEART OF SYDNEY
Four Pillars Laboratory is shaking up the Sydney drinks scene with a gin tasting room, onsite distillery, the sleek Eileen’s bar for edgy gin cocktails featuring the label’s signature spirits and experiences for groups.
“You don’t need to travel to a wine region to enjoy a great drinks experience anymore. You can put a distillery or craft brewery right in the middle of Sydney,” says Stuart Gregor, co-founder of Four Pillars and president of the Australian Distillers Association.
That’s exactly what the award-winning gin label has done with the Four Pillars Laboratory, which opened in the inner city all-day-and-into-the-night neighbourhood of Surry Hills in June 2020, to coincide with World Gin Day. It joins a growing number of boutique distilleries in the inner city.
Despite the challenges 2020 has presented – from bushfires to COVID-19, Gregor is optimistic about the boom that has seen more than 200 local boutique spirits producers enter the scene in Australia since Four Pillars launched in 2013.
“Australia is making some of the best gin and spirits in the world right now,” says wine and hospitality veteran Gregor, who is keen to shift focus from the ‘food and wine scene’ to ‘food and drinks’ – whether it be gin, whisky, craft beers, cider makers, even coffee.
Boutique distillers such as Four Pillars are able to bring a uniquely Australian flavour to gin in particular, Gregor says, by infusing their blends with indigenous botanicals – lemon myrtle, Kakadu plum, native mint and finger lime, to name a few.
The original Four Pillars distillery in Healesville, Victoria is set among the Yarra Valley’s wineries, and has become a drawcard for local and international visitors. While the region was untouched by bushfires this past summer, COVID-19 and hospitality closures have had an impact.
Like many distillers, Four Pillars pivoted to produce hand sanitisers, but also experienced a lift in beverage sales. Expansion plans over the next 12-18 months will see the venue grow to offer more food and event options, alongside the current tasting room and distillery that turns out its signature gins including Rare Dry, Spiced Negroni, Bloody Shiraz and Navy Strength.
The Sydney Laboratory, meanwhile, has a chic urban flavour all its own. It includes the Gin Lab, where visitors can taste and learn, and the Gin Shop to take home favourite varieties as well as cocktail kits and merchandise.
The centrepiece of the Lab is the copper still known as Eilieen (each still is named for the founders’ mothers), which is used to produce small-batch experimental gins onsite. The first winter seasonal blend – laced with fennel, ruby grapefruit and Tasmanian Pepperberry – was a sellout. Groups of up to 18 can also put Eileen to work creating their own blend at a tailored Maker Session, following the production process from start to finish, then having their batch bottled up and delivered to them a few days later when it’s ready to drink.
The experimental vibe continues in Eileen’s Bar, a sophisticated space where edgy gin cocktails by James Irvine, Four Pillars’ Creative Director of Gin Drinks, are accompanied by delicious snacks from top Melbourne chef Matt Wilkinson and a relaxed approach to hospitality. For a truly immersive experience, groups have the option to book the whole Laboratory venue for an event that will leave a lingering taste of Sydney’s best.
Fancy a nip of Four Pillars gin outside Australia? See this list of international stockists to tide you over until your next visit.
The Four Pillars Laboratory is located at 410 Crown St, Surry Hills – five minutes from the Sydney CBD.
Ph: +612 9062 8430