Four Pillars: Craft Distilled

Can you tell us how Four Pillars was born?

Over a lot of wine and gin! I’d love to say there was some great masterplan, but really we started Four Pillars with a simple idea: to make the best gin we could, and make it right here in Australia where back in 2013, the gin scene was dominated by the big global players. We had a hunch that Australia had the potential to be a fantastic place to make gin. It just needed someone to focus on it!

What are the three elements that most define the Four Pillars brand?

The thought behind the name came from the idea that making great gin (or great drinks, or anything else really) meant focusing on a few key pillars. In other words, getting the basics right and focusing on your craft. I’m guessing the same is true for tailoring!

So, we talked from the beginning about wanting to be makers, not marketers. And the question from the beginning was about how to make the best possible gin. For our first product, Rare Dry Gin, the four things we focused on were our stills, our botanicals, our water and natural environment and our craft and attention to detail. 

As we focused on those things, we found some real game-changers. One was that the best gin stills (basically giant kettles) were made by CARL in Germany. So, we decided we had to have one and joined a 12-month waiting list to get hold of Wilma, our original still named after Cameron’s late mum. Wilma has since been joined by Jude (named after Stu’s mum), Eileen (my mum), Beth, Coral and Linda (the last three all named after the mums of three of our original employees, Scott, Michelle and Elton).

The other massive game-changer for us in those early days was discovering the huge untapped potential in all the stuff we grow here in Australia, from our native botanicals like lemon myrtle (which is more ‘lemony’ than a lemon) to our year-round supply of fresh citrus, means we can make gins that are bigger, bolder and more exciting in flavour that anywhere else on the planet.

There's a distinctly Australian sensibility to Four Pillars, where did it come from?

Well, it starts with where we’re from. Four Pillars Distillery is in Healesville, just outside of Melbourne, which means we’re constantly inspired by the most creative and exciting food, drink and hospitality culture in the world. 

And that’s what keeps reminding us that nowhere in the world tastes quite like Australia. It is arguably the most delicious, diverse and creative place on earth. So that’s exactly what we look to convey when making our gin. It combines the best ingredients, know-how, creativity and traditions and the result is something uniquely Australian, modern and delicious. We always utilise fresh Australian produce like oranges, Shiraz grapes, olives and even fresh yuzu to deliver gins that are  boldly flavourful, delicious and awesome in drinks.

Describe the Four Pillars brand in 3 words

  • Deliciously and diversely creative
  • Design-loving and quality-obsessed
  • Hospitable, authentic and great fun

All of which are characteristics of the modern Australia we love. They’re probably also the reasons why we love Oscar Hunt, because I reckon there’s a lot of shared values between the two of our brands. And yes, I know that was more than three words!

Masters of Craft

What makes Four Pillars distinct from other gin brands?

At the heart, it’s about our total focus on the product (the gin!!!) and the processes required that makes it great. That’s what has kept us so hungry to explore the full possibilities of making gin in Australia, leading to iconic Four Pillars originals like Bloody Shiraz Gin, Fresh Yuzu Gin and Australian Christmas Gin. And that’s also what has allowed us to now expand into gin-based ready-to-drink cans and gin-inspired alcohol-free spirits, making products that are genuinely world-leading when it comes to gin flavour.

That obsession with making is also what has propelled us to achieving carbon neutral status and leading the way in terms of sustainability, saving water, energy, glass and even flavour through our Made From Gin programme that gives our waste botanicals a second life in products like gin-steamed orange marmalade, gin salt and even gin chocolate.

The other side of what makes Four Pillars so special, I believe, is the passion, craft, colour and fun we bring to sharing the stories of our craft. More and more we all want to know the stories behind the brands and products we consume, and that’s something we’ve been focused on since the very beginning. Come to our distillery home in Healesville or visit our drinks laboratory in Sydney’s Surry Hills and you’ll hopefully see what I mean…great drinks, beautiful design and warm hospitality that puts a smile on your face. All designed to do justice to the craft that goes into every bottle of gin we make.

How is Four Pillars made? Is it a uniquely Australian process?

Ok, so this is a super interesting question and it gets to the heart of what modern Australia is all about. For us, modern Australia is diverse in its influences, combining the best of what the world has to offer with the best of what we can uniquely grow and make here in Australia.

Our core processes are based on what it takes to make the best gin on the planet. For us that was about using all copper stills from CARL in Germany and importing the world’s best juniper berries from countries like Kosovo and Macedonia in Europe. What then makes our gin uniquely Australian though is our approach to both botanicals and fresh produce.

The distinction between botanicals and produce is important because of two distinct techniques we use to distill our gin…pot distilling and vapour distilling, which means we can distill dry botanicals (think seeds, nuts, berries) in the pot while steaming fresh botanicals (like oranges, apples, grapefruit and yuzu) in the botanical basket. This gives us huge control over the flavours we pack into our gins.

And then there’s the other side of our Australian DNA, which is just that willingness to challenge conventions and have fun with gin…from ageing gin in old Chardonnay barrels, to blending gin with fresh Shiraz grapes, to using olive oil in our gin, to collaborating with other distillers to come up with wild new gin ideas…I think this is something that just comes with the territory of being Australian.

One of the things that strikes me about Four Pillars is an unrelenting focus on bettering the brand and the product. What drives that?

Lots of things, but the one I’d call out here is focus and discipline. Having made the decision to make gin and only gin, we’ve stuck to our guns and are always looking for ways to better our craft and more importantly, ways to share that craft with as many people as possible!

Why do you think the brand has had such a huge amount of success, both locally and abroad?

I’m the brand guy at Four Pillars, so I’d love to say it’s been down to clever branding, packaging and marketing. But deep down, the truth is much more straightforward. Cameron and his team at the distillery make the best, most exciting and most delicious gin in the world. And everyone who tastes our gin, especially if they taste it with the team at the distillery, gets a big smile on their face. Because nothing tastes like Four Pillars Gin. And ultimately that, and that alone, is what it’s all about.

OH Partnership

What do you look for in partnerships?

Good people who are as obsessed with the craft and quality of their product as we are of ours. People who want to have fun and make things together. Partnerships that will add some value to the culture and make all our customers and fans excited to see what comes out of it.

What prompted your partnership with Oscar Hunt?

It started off with Oscar Hunt founder Chris emailing me to organise some gin to serve in the showrooms, and it spiraled from there. COVID got in the way for a while, as everything went online and life got very sofa-centric, but we’re back up and running now, getting dressed up, shopping and hitting bars again!

What are the common traits both brands share?

Here are four, naturally…

  • Modern Australian creativity. 
  • Craft and style without pretension. 
  • Making style and design fun.
  • Good people who care about their craft.

We use the term “master of craft” a lot at Oscar Hunt, what does that mean to Four Pillars as a brand?

Making, making, making. Knowing that however good your product is today, there's something you're going to discover, or someone you're going to meet, that inspires you to make something new and better tomorrow.

Personal style

If Four Pillars was a person, what would their personal style be in 3 words?

Wow, Four Pillars’ personal style. In three words. Do you have any harder questions?

Seriously, I think if Four Pillars was a person their wardrobe would be timelessly, effortlessly stylish with splashes of colour and new influences. So, think Jeff Goldblum meets Coco Chanel with a dash of Harry Styles.

Sneakers or loafers?

Sneakers, definitely. There’s just so much room for self-expression, creativity and collaboration. Plus, there are so many different times and places where you need a sneaker (just like gin). But, that said, we’re fully supportive of our loafer-wearing friends.

Jeans or trousers?

Jeans mostly, but trousers or kilts for special occasions (Cam and Stu, my co-founders, are both very proud of their Scottish ancestry).

Colour or monochrome?

Colour, 100%. Although we do love black too!

Who is your style icon and why?

Cameron Mackenzie rocks a t-shirt and a kilt with equal brilliance. Now we just need to get him into an Oscar Hunt suit too!