NOT too far along The Bucketts Way turn-off on the Pacific Highway is the Sepos Farm.
The family-owned free-range egg farm is run by third-generation farmers Gavin and Kylie Sepos, who live on the property with the two children.
It’s not all about eggs though.
The property at Allworth is also home to the region’s newest craft spirit maker, The Farmer’s Wife Distillery, which takes its name from the distillery’s creator.
“My husband has a free range egg farm - that’s what he has done all of his life - so that’s where the name comes from,” Kylie Sepos tells Weekender.
“He is the farmer and I am the farmer’s wife. I am also the distiller - I do all the making of the gin.”
Kylie launched The Farmer’s Wife Distillery eight weeks ago with her first batch of hand-crafted Autumn Dry Gin after spending the last four years working toward her dream of opening a distillery.
Until recently, Kylie spent 19 years in the corporate world working for Entertainment Publications - better known as the Entertainment Book - during which time she admits she was “spoiled” with eating out and developed a strong appreciation for outstanding food and wine.
It was on a trip to Tasmania four years ago that she discovered the depth of the Apple Isle’s incredible produce - and its vast number of award-winning craft distilleries.
“We visited a lot of little craft distilleries and on our travels I said, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to make gin for the rest of my life’.
“So I told my husband and he didn’t laugh at me, so I knew that was a positive [laughs].
“We came home and spoke about it, and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Kylie says there was no question around which spirit she would first attempt in her custom-built copper still.
“Gin is my thing. I love gin. It is my drink of choice,” she says.
“I am a massive whisky fan as well, don’t get me wrong, but whisky and gin are very different. That’s why I started with gin - I love the fact that it can be so different and so unique because you’re dealing with natural ingredients.
“You’re growing the kaffir limes that I go and pick off my tree, and I crush them up and I put them in.
“The fact that I’m growing something that I can then use to make this amazing spirit and then can change the flavour profile of it so quickly just by getting different types of natural ingredients - it’s amazing.”
The Farmers Wife Distillery is one of a growing number of craft distilleries in Australia.
The emergence of boutique spirit makers in Australia has risen significantly, particularly in the past five years.
The boom stems back to 1992 when Tasmanian distiller Bill Lark - considered the “godfather of Australian whisky - established Lark Distillery after successfully pushing to overturn a ban on small distilleries that had been introduced in 1838.
The law change extended nation-wide, opening the doors for craft distilleries to find a place in the market.
According to nipofcourage.com, Australia has 154 craft distilleries (35 in Tasmania, NSW and Victoria, 17 in South Australia, 16 in Western Australia, 12 in Queensland and four in the ACT.)
Although Kylie had a background in studying science, she had nothing but a “good palette” to work with in setting up a distillery.
She read everything she could find about distilling and researched it thoroughly, then completed a distilling course at Redlands Distillery in Tasmania for hands-on experience and then a course at Melbourne Federation University which focused on the biochemistry side of distilling.
Kylie knew she wanted to create the gin using traditional methods, so she ordered a copper still from Tasmania which took 18 months to arrive.
“It has taken me two-and-a-half years to get the recipe developed to where I want it to be, so the 18 months wait was OK in hindsight,” she says.
“The distilling is done in a traditional way, which is all of the botanicals in the pot, and mix it all together and then you turn it on and what comes out the other end is the magic.
“For me, it’s like cooking. I love to cook and I love to garden, so having to grow something and then cook it, and then have it come out and produce this beautiful thing you can share with people is my passion.”
The Farmers Wife Distillery’s launched its first batch of Autumn Dry Gin in Stroud, not far from their farm, two months ago.
Kylie has spread the word at events such as Dungog Festival and The Olive Tree Market in Maitland, offering samples from her mobile gin van, which her husband upcycled from an old horse float.
She is confident that once people taste it, they will understand what makes her gin special.
“We want to get out there and get people to taste the gin and understand what it is that makes it unique, why is it different, let them know how best to drink it and what it works with.
“People who normally don’t drink gin will come and have a taste and go ‘Wow - that’s so different’ which is what I was trying to create from the start.
“I made this gin so that it could be sipped, with ice, and so it sips beautifully because it is really soft.”
The Autumn Dry Gin is distilled with 13 botanicals, which makes it complex compared with standard gins which typically combine four to five.
It includes native botanicals, such as lemon and anise myrtle, native sage and pepperberry, while the citrus profile is derived from kaffir lime and ruby red grapefruit, which Sepos says is a lot softer than using lemon or lime citrus.
The signature botanical is native bee sugar bag honey.
There are plans to release a gin for each of the seasons - a spring gin with strong citrus profiles and floral notes, a barrel-aged winter gin, and a summer gin infused with native fruits - as well as creating a line of whiskey and rum, too.
Kylie has developed cocktail recipes for the gin (found on their website), including a G&T with dry tonic, ginger mule and - her personal favourite - a negroni.
“It stands up really well with the Campari,” she says. “Campari can be quite overbearing with a lot of gins, so I wanted to make sure my gin had enough botanical presence that it can stand up to that Campari, which I am really happy to say that it does.”