​The mother of all spirits: Three bottles crafted by women

Maturing in oak barrels gives Black Gate's rum bold toffee and caramel characters.
Maturing in oak barrels gives Black Gate's rum bold toffee and caramel characters. Photo: iStock

Nothing says Happy Mother's Day like a bottle of good spirits crafted by a woman's hand. And it will please every matriarch and her tribe to know that the choice is wide.

As recently as five years ago, Australia's population of female distillers could be counted on two hands, but it has since blossomed to more than 50, with that growth matched only by its accumulation of medals and plaudits. Australian women don't just make spirits – they rule at this game.

Our matrilineal distilling line began in Tasmania with Lyn Lark, Australia's first female distiller and wife to Bill Lark, founder of this country's modern whisky industry. The pair admit that it was Lyn who first found her way around their second-hand still with no instruction book back in the early '90s. Their daughter, Kristy Booth-Lark, now makes cracking gins, whiskies and vodkas at her own Killara Distillery. At Geelong's Anther, an all-female distilling team produces a range of acclaimed gins. Their take on Navy Strength is dubbed Goddess Strength.

Killara's Kristy Booth-Lark checks her still.
Killara's Kristy Booth-Lark checks her still. Photo: Supplied

In Mendooran in NSW, Black Gate Distillery's Genise Hollingsworth, mother of three daughters and two award-winning dark rums, has emerged as a force in the industry, as has Karu Distillery's co-owner and head distiller Ally Ayres. Ayres has been distilling since she was 26 and her Lightning and Affinity gins just scored their latest gold and silver (respectively) medals at the San Francisco World Spirit Awards. On Mother's Day, Ayres will be enjoying her latest invention: a teabag-delivered botanical infusion for her gins, best appreciated in a generous teacup.

Barrel Aged Apothecary Gin, Killara Distillery

40% ABV; 500ml, $95

Seven weeks' ageing in a whisky barrel adds a whiff of oak and whisky intrigue to Kristy Booth-Lark's new-release, juniper-forward, crisp and clean 10-botanical gin.

Affinity Gin, Karu Distillery

44% ABV; 700ml, $79

In Ally Ayres' new-school gin, juniper and home-grown lemon myrtle balance beautifully with well-rounded citrus, spice, vanilla bean and almonds.

Overproof Rum, Black Gate Distillery

52% ABV; 700ml, $100


Genise Hollingsworth double-distils fermented refinery molasses before maturing the rum in two Australian Tawny casks. The result: a generous hug of big, bold toffee and caramel.