Grose Vale's Karu Distillery has picked up a much-coveted award for the world's best contemporary gin at the International Wines & Spirits Awards, and distillers Nick and Ally Ayers couldn't be happier.
The duo - who are no strangers to accepting awards - said this accolade truly put Karu, their Lightning Gin, and the Hawkesbury, on the map.
"It means the world to us," said Ally. "We see this competition as the pinnacle award for absolute quality."
Nick said: "We've managed to hold our quality strong through everything the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains have been through over the past 18 months - fires, floods and the pandemic."
Karu began making gin in the Hawkesbury in 2018 and now has 42 global awards under its belt.
The Lightning Gin which won them the latest gong also won Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition earlier this year and a Double Gold at the same competition in 2019.
It was the only Australian spirit to win 98 points in all categories at the International Wines & Spirits Awards and judges said in their tasting notes: "Layered and compelling, juniper and spice run alongside other botanicals. Great mouthfeel with citrus at the fore and good botanical boldness. With added water, the floral parts open up a lot with waves of spice."
Ally said the Karu team liked to drink it "as a gin and tonic with pineapple - it's a non-conventional garnish for gin and tonic but it works really well" and they also liked it as a frappe.
Nick said it proved that Hawkesbury-made products could compete with the best in the world.
"We are on the global stage here in the Hawkesbury," he said. "You can go out to the Hawkesbury and enjoy some high-calibre, quality gin - you don't need to go into the major cities to find it."
Their next project is to open a tasting room at their distillery, which backs out onto The Devils Wilderness in the Blue Mountains National Park.
"We'll build experiences, where you can sit out and enjoy a gin and tonic while being out in the Australian bushland. You can walk a bush trail and we'll have masterclasses. We're also looking to showcase more local produce," Nick said.
They also plan to launch their first rum by the end of the year.
In the meantime, they will keep distilling until lockdown ends, at which time they plan to celebrate their award properly with their family and friends.
Lightning Gin can be purchased at independent liquor stores around the Hawkesbury as well as online at karudistillery.com.au