All the gin you can handle with this 3-day Margaret River gin tour getaway.
Being invited to a three-day gin getaway is not something you can turn down. So when Hidden deTours asked if we’d come along on their three-day Gin Getaway to Margaret River, we obviously jumped at the chance.
Gin’s totally having a moment, and WA produces some of the world’s most unique gins due to our native flora being added as botanicals to either grape, grain or sugar-based neutral spirit and, the main proponent of gin – juniper! Add to that the passion and skill of the people behind the stills, and the crystal clear water of our gorgeous South West and you’re onto a gin winner.
As a gin fan (I prefer GINthusiast) I was excited to visit some distilleries, meet some makers, and support the local economy (read; buy gin) and then tell you all about it.
I wasn’t sure what was in store for me across the three days as Hidden deTours like to keep an air of mystery about their experiences. I only knew I had to meet the bus on Hay street on Friday morning, that I’d be staying at Stay Margaret River for two nights (including breakfast) and I’d be home Sunday early evening. It’s actually very relaxing not having to plan your own itinerary! Just jump on the Gin Getaway bus and you’ll be completely taken care of.
I met Ivan, our driver and after an intro and a check-in with the COVID app, we set off on our Gin Getaway, destination unknown.
Gin Getaway Quick Run Through
- Harvey Cheese
- Harris River Estate
- Balingup Fruit Winery
- Golden Valley Tree Park
- Giniversity – Margaret River Brewing Co.
- Three Lily’s
- Dune Distillery at Black Brewing Co.
- The Grove Distillery
- Petra Olive Oil Farm
- West Winds Distillery & After Hours Wine
- Wise Winery & Distillery
- Gabriel Chocolate
- The Colony Concept
- Cuprum Distillery
For more details, read on!
Gin Getaway: Day One
Our first stop on our Gin Getaway wasn’t a distillery, but it WILL be soon!
We parked up at Harvey Cheese in Wokalup and did a cheese tasting of some amazing fresh cheese and butter (all made on site) then it was revealed that Harvey Cheese will soon be making gin from whey – a bi-product of the cheese-making process. Apparently, whey makes the gin really creamy, without being milky. Howard took us on tour of the venue, including the tasting room and we also got to see the new still in all her copper glory.
I grabbed some of their fresh halloumi, a wheel of brie, some fabulous cultured butter (anyone else remember real butter?) and some assorted other snacks – perfect for a carpet picnic or dinner in my hotel room later on.
As for their future gin, I’m very keen to go back and give it a shot (pun intended) once production has started! Keep your ears out for what (I think?) is WA’s first cow’s whey gin.
Harris River Estate
After not too long staring out the window at the changing landscape we were at our second stop in the stunning Collie River Valley, Harris River Estate. Harris River Estate is a distillery, brewery, winery, function venue, cellar door and restaurant. Sounds exhausting! Somehow brewer/winemaker/distiller Banjo made time to come out to the deck and take us through a guided tasting of their range of gins, and even showed us a few others he’s working on that aren’t available yet.
We sampled the Boodjar Gin, the Australian Wildflower Gin, the Pink Wildflower Gin and the Blue Wren, which is coloured blue by butterfly pea flower and turns a bright purple once tonic is added due to the change in PH.
These gins are all made from grape based spirit (as can be expected when a distillery is located on a vineyard) with mostly native Australian botanicals added to bring them to life – other than the juniper, which is from Macedonia.
The Pink Wildflower gin is coloured and flavoured with strawberries, hibiscus and banksia and isn’t overly sweet like many pink gins.
Banjo explained each gin in detail, and why each was served with a different garnish to bring out the best in the botanicals. We enjoyed a lunch of one of the most impressive platters I’ve ever seen, loaded with meats, cheese, fruit and all the good stuff so we could line our stomachs while we looked out across the property. All while head of security, Diesel (the kelpie) and Banjo’s young daughter watched on. It’s truly a family business!
Aside from the gin paddles, Harris River Estate also do wine and beer tastings, plus lunches and events. If you’re going to check out Collie to see the Wellington Dam Wall or Black Diamond Lake it’s a must-do. I may have snuck in a cheeky tasting of the Cabernet Sauvignon too which was thoroughly enjoyable.
We headed back to the bus to continue our Gin Getaway, but not before grabbing a bottle of the Blue Wren to add some colour to my collection.
Balingup Fruit Winery
Next, we stretch our legs in Balingup at Balingup Fruit Winery where we meet the lovely Tim! Tim makes a range of fruit wine.
What’s fruit wine you ask? It’s similar to port (not that you can call it that anymore – it’s fortified wine now) but made from fruit not specifically grapes.
Which fruit? Take your pick!
There’s a rainbow of fruit wine to try including mango, blueberry, cherry and nectarine to name a few. This wine is sweet and delicious, low in alcohol and makes a great end of the night drink. Or as Tim showed us, mixes very nicely with soda water for a spritz type beverage, which was a bit more to my palate.
I couldn’t resist taking a couple of these home with me (I got cherry and blueberry – but they’re honestly all good) and I intend to make some spritzers myself, maybe even add them to some sparkling wine instead of soda water.
We crossed the road from The Packing Shed, where the fruit wine tastings are held to the iconic Tinderbox. Have you even been to Balingup if you haven’t stepped into the day-spa-smelling store that’s been around long enough to be a “geriatric millennial”?
Tim had told us about a stop nearby that we had to check out, especially as it’s autumn and the next stop on the Gin Getaway was locked in.
Golden Valley Tree Park
Have you ever been to Golden Valley Tree Park? I hadn’t. I think that’s when it occurred to me what was so special about this tour – there was so much more than just gin tastings. Sure, it’s a Gin Getaway, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to stop and smell the air, crunch some leaves underfoot, and taste all the yummy things!
It’s better than what you’d do if you drove yourself (hands up not designated driver) as you tend to get so focussed on your destination. I loved that we stopped and got out to explore the park on the recommendation of our last producer, Tim.
And the park itself did not disappoint!
Day One Ends
After much enjoyment of watching the verdant South West roll by with full bellies and tipsy hearts, we arrived at our home for the next two days, Stay Margaret River.
It’s a manageable walk into the main drag of Margaret River and has all the usual suspects plus giant chess, a pool and BBQ facilities. The grounds themselves are really lovely, which is probably why there’s so much bird life during the day and quolls by night.
It’s great to stay somewhere that feels comfortable and secure, but not so overly built up that you forget you left the city behind.
Gin Getaway: Day Two
A not-too-early start is music to my ears and we grab a leisurely breakfast (a hot and cold buffet included in the tour price) to line the stomach for a big day tasting gin!
First cab off the rank for day two of the Gin Getaway is Margaret River Distilling Co, but you may know them better by another name.
I like to think I’m well educated about gin, but I’d never miss the chance to graduate Giniversity.
We arrived early on a rainy Saturday to one of WA’s best known distilleries for a tour and guided gin tasting with Ben. He’s been around the booze scene for a long time and although I’ve had the distilling process explained to me several times, he made it actually sounds very straightforward as he showed us the still, named Optimus Prime.
We tasted their Australian Native gin, the Botanical gin, the London Dry and the Barrel Aged gins, each neat and then with their accompanied garnishes – again chosen to accentuate the botanicals distilled into the gins.
I opted to add the remaining tasters of both the Smoked Hemp and the Whiskey Cask gins (and a bottle of that found its way home with me). Ben was really knowledgeable and generous with his time and the venue was filling up fast as we left, despite the weather rolling in.
Our visit to Giniversity set us up for an awesome day of gin tastings. And no, “too early” to do a gin tasting doesn’t exist. As long as the taste of toothpaste has faded and you’re not driving – get into the spirit!
Three Lily’s sells treats for the young and old. It’s a lolly shop and cellar door – what a combo! After browsing the shelves of brightly coloured delights we settled in to taste some gin and liqueurs.
Three Lily’s currently only produces one type of gin, but they make a gin-cello (think limoncello but gin), and a range of gin-based liqueurs. We tried a paddle which included the regular gin (one of which is now in my collection), the gin-cello, mango, gin-colada (coconut and pineapple) and the ginger (which tasted exactly like a ginger beer). These are all delicious and very much for those with a sweet palate.
They’d make an excellent addition to a glass of sparkling, especially the mango or even at the end of a night as a dessert drink.
Three Lily’s also do a range of grape-based liqueurs including one from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and one from Sauvignon Blanc and they come in very gift-able bottles.
We stocked up on drinks and lollies and headed back to the bus for more Gin Getaway adventuring.
It was really coming down in buckets now! Our next stop was for lunch and some more gin tasting at Dune Distillery, which lives at Black Brewing Co.
We arrived to a very busy (and gorgeous) venue where we were presented a gin tasting paddle each containing their Signature Gin, the Lime and Green Tea gin, the Australian Xmas gin and their Moonshine.
What’s moonshine? Well, you can’t call whiskey a “whiskey” until it’s been in a barrel for a certain amount of time. Here it’s 2 years. In Scotland it’s 3. So, the pre-two and three-year-old product needs another name – Moonshine, and it rounded out our tasting paddle.
My favourite of the Dune Distilling Co gins was the Xmas gin, but as it was such a busy venue we didn’t get as much one-on-one time as the smaller distilleries on the Gin Getaway (this place is HUGE and they were running lunch service, so – not a complaint, just an observation) and it was harder to concentrate on the intricacies of each gin.
We took our topped up paddles to our table and were served the lunch we pre-ordered from the bus, so it came in no time and everything was delicious and served with a smile.
The Grove Distillery
The Grove Distillery makes a bunch of drinks in addition to gin! Which is possibly why there’s crocodiles guarding the venue from the water feature in the front (if you know, you know).
They have rum, liqueurs, vodka, gin and an organic absinthe!
We tried a selection of tipples here and the chai liqueur was a group favourite, as well as the coconut rum.
I tried the absinthe, not because I love aniseed (I don’t) but because I love the history of the drink itself (and it was said to cure the black plague among other incredible stories, so it’s basically a medicine…) and I really enjoyed this organic local version so there’s now a bottle on my bar at home.
The Grove is a popular spot, but we got pride of place up at the bar and it was really enjoyable to taste more than gin again. It’s really SO much more than just a Gin Getaway…
Petra Olive Oil
It was probably for the best that our next stop didn’t serve any booze as we might have needed a little break! Among the kangaroo-lined olive groves on the way up the driveway we knew this would be a special stop. And we weren’t disappointed.
Petra Olive Oil produces olives (shocker) but they don’t stop there. They press beautiful oil from these olives and make it into a whole range of things, including my favourite – their skin care range.
Something that really stood out was finding out Petra Extra Virgin Olive Oil typically contains 430-450ppm Polyphenols (the antioxidant in olive oil) and most extra virgin olive oils have 100-250ppm. Ordinary olive oil (non EVOO) only up to 50ppm. You could just say – it’s full of the good stuff.
This is a gorgeous shop, and we tasted their range of oils, spreads and dressings and everything was delicious – a total foodie paradise. We also tested the skin care products and these definitely won me over.
West Winds Gin
After a BIG day of tasting and grazing our final stop was at West Winds Gin on the site of After Hours Wine. We were welcomed to the cellar door by Warwick and his wife Cherylyn with open arms and a lovely grazing board.
As one of the granddaddies of Western Australian gins, West Winds was somewhere I hoped we’d visit, having tried some of their gins but not been to the cellar door before. I also didn’t know it was at a winery, and hadn’t heard of After Hours Wines.
Warwick took us through a guided tasting of the range of gins including The Sabre, The Cutlass, Wild Plum, Christmas Dry Gin and The Broadside (Navy Strength). So much amazing gin! The Christmas Dry Gin is made with seeds from the Australian Christmas Tree (Nuytsia floribunda), you know, the yellow-flowering tree you see around Xmas time and this delicious and unique gin is now sitting on my bar shelf.
We also tasted the After Hours Gin – a collab with the Friends of Kings Park, made purely from King’s Park botanicals to help raise money for the Friends to continue their work. I couldn’t resist taking home this unique little number.
West Winds also make an Avosh Vodka. Triple distilled, six time filtered their grain-based spirit and I couldn’t help but to grab one of these for my growing collection!
Warwick was so generous with his time and even though it was now completely dark, we tasted some of his wines and fortifieds. What a treat to go with the local produce he’d pulled together to make our grazing board. We even got to go and see the steam-driven still as he explained their philosophy of distilling.
Gin Getaway: Day Three
After a restful sleep and another big breakfast we were on the road for our trip back to Perth, albeit with much more luggage that we set off with! But this wasn’t going to be a long boring drive home – oh, no, we were still on the Gin Getaway train and there was ginventures to be had.
Wise Winery is the home of a range of WA gins and Piscos. We were met at the distillery for a guided tasting with Sioban.
We tasted the Pisco, the Signature Gin, the Ginger Gin, Pink Gin and the Pisco Sour mix. Pisco isn’t really my thing, but I enjoyed all the gins here. The Pink gin stood out as it’s not overly sweet and you can actually taste the strawberries used to give it it’s colour and flavour.
Wise Distillery has also done something very cool and gone to all the Western Australian towns with “gin” in their names and produced gins with botanicals grown in the local area. There’s a gin for Gingin, Narrogin, Wagin, Dangin, Corrigin, Muntagin and Badgingarra…well, there WAS. Most of them our now sold out.
What a fun way to travel the state and learn about the local flora without leaving your house!
Foodies rejoice! The chocolate at Gabriel Chocolate is amazing, and there’s something for everyone – whether you prefer a dark single origin or a sweeter milk or white chocolate you’ll want to treat yourself to some decadent bean to bar chocolates after a guided tasting from the knowledgeable and passionate team here.
The Colony Concept
The Colony Concept at Southern Forests Honey is a treat for all your senses. Our next stop on the Gin Getaway as we meander our way back to Perth is the Bee’s Knees!
We enjoyed a tasting plate of their amazing honey-based products and a guided tasting with Simon of their Honey Wines, Mead and Braggot – which is a honey beer and was my favourite.
It’s a lovely space to explore and we also did a honey tasting, the Lemon Myrtle Honey being a standout.
My cup rummeth over with enthusiasm for the Cuprum Distillery in Bunbury where we met Rory for a tasting and tour of the venue. It’s an amazing space and we got the whole place to ourselves while we tasted the range of gins (the West Coast Signature Gin, the Raspberry Gin and the Truffle Gin) plus a nip of the Cuprum Spiced which can’t quite yet be called a rum, but is almost there.
We even got a sneaky sip of the Barrel Aged Truffle Gin (yet to be released) and oh. my. god, get yourself on their mailing list for news about when that drops.
Rory showed us around this gorgeous yet working distillery and the upstairs mezzanine, awaiting the launch of their gin masterclasses. Make sure you sharpen your pencils and get down to Bunbury for that as soon as they’re available for bookings.
Cuprum is the Latin word for Copper, and refers to the metal that stills are made of which is also reflected in their very cool branding.
The Great Gin Getaway Comes To An End
Cuprum Distillery was our final stop on the Gin Getaway weekend and all that was left now was to work out how to get all our loot into an Uber without getting too wet.
What an amazing three days of booze, food and fun – and the best part? I didn’t have to plan a thing! The Hidden deTours team took care of everything, and almost all the experiences listed here were included in the price.
Where: Perth-Margaret River-Return
How: You can find out more or book here
Who: You and your gin-loving friends
Why: Is that even a question?
We hope you’re spirited away on a Hidden deTours Gin Getaway soon, you’ll have a GINcredible time! And if you love the gin but don’t have three days, you can always keep it local with a Gin Walking Tour or Gin Distillery Tour instead.
Feature image: Instagram @giniversity
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So Perth was invited to be a guest on this Gin Getaway, however, all opinions are our own.