Meet Underground Spirits, the new boutique distillery from Canberra

Jil Hogan
The Underground Spirits range.
The Underground Spirits range. Photo: karleen minney

A doctor, a bartender and a public servant walk into a bar.

This isn't the start of a joke, but instead the start of a business - a spirits business to be exact.

Underground Spirits is a brand new boutique distillery, running out of an unassuming shed in Kambah in Canberra's south - and the group has their sights set on creating some of the best spirits in the world.

Toby Angstmann (left) and Andy Galbraith in the new Underground Spirits distillery in Canberra.
Toby Angstmann (left) and Andy Galbraith in the new Underground Spirits distillery in Canberra. Photo: Karleen Minney

The venture is the brainchild of self-confessed "giant nerd", Dr Toby Angstmann, and ultimately started from his love of science.

"I came back from a recent trip overseas to Scotland visiting distilleries and I just went, you know what, we've got all of these things here - we have really clean water, we've got an amazing environment, we've got these great regional producers - and I thought let's see if we can just put something together locally," Angstmann says.

"My background is as a medical doctor and a chemist, my first degree was chemistry, and so the technical side of distillation has always fascinated me."

Over a beer, he suggested the idea to two mates - eightysix bartender Andy Galbraith and public servant Jacob McMahon, and the business was born.

Their biggest point of difference is their distillation process. Angstmann has created his own technique - the patent is pending - which they combine with medical grade equipment and surgical precision.

"I'm an IVF doctor, I make embryos, and so we've borrowed very heavily from some quite advanced medical hollow fibre membrane filtration techniques," Angstmann says.

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The process involves a submicron, subzero filtration technique - in layman's terms, extreme freezing, and the liquid gets so cold that they can remove the aldehydes from the liquor.

And you can taste the difference. The result is a much cleaner, smoother finish. It's more flavour, and less burning.

The Underground Spirits range currently includes a gin, a vodka, plus three flavoured vodkas - hazelnut, vanilla, and the indulgent caramel vodka, flavoured with caramelised sugar cane. All of the ingredients are sourced locally and there's nothing artificial added.

They've also barrelled their first whisky - you can expect it to hit the market in two years.

It's a passion project for the trio, who still all have full time jobs, but they're no less hands-on - each bottle is hand-poured, capped, sealed and labelled by one of the team.

"Every bottle we put out, someone has put their name to it - someone has signed, someone has taken responsbility for. And that's our ethos - we don't have anything that goes out without that," Angstmann says.

For now, the spirits are popping up at a number of Canberra bars, and will be available at bottle shops in the future. They are also available online. See undergroundspirits.com.au.