Hunter Valley Distilleries: Where To Taste The Best Spirits
From single malt moonshine to shimmering gin and strawberry chilli butterscotch liqueur, the Hunter Valley serves up one-of-a-kind spirits to make your mouth water. It’s bottoms up all the way at the region’s top-notch distilleries, complete with beguiling, countryside backdrops that seem custom-made for swirling, sipping and swanning around with your favourite tipple.
So, what can you look forward to? How about premium vodkas that are simply perfect for a nip on ice or a dash or three in cocktails? If you’re a gin connoisseur, you’re spoilt for choice with creatively infused offerings that’ll make your tonic water sing. Did someone say dessert? It’s a drinkable delight when you fall in love with lavish liqueurs. Your mouth’s watering, right? Here’s where to taste the best spirits in the Hunter Valley.
The spirited magic of Hunter Distillery started in the backyard shed of the original owner and the current owners first planned to set it up as a vineyard. Fast forward a few years and the talented team are now responsible for internationally award-winning, hand-crafted gins, vodkas, liqueurs and schnapps. As for the cellar door, what started off as a one-bar venue has consistently grown to accommodate hoards of spirit-thirsty fans.
Using premium, quality, raw organic ingredients is the secret in the creation of top-shelf spirits, along with traditional production methods and a very large dose of passion. Best of all, there’s a flavour to suit every taste, including the award-winning Copperwave Gin. And, guess what? You’ll enjoy a unique ‘test tube’ tasting experience here.
Half the fun is discovering new spirits, but here’s a sneak peek. You’ll try Mystery Gin, which transforms from purple to pink in tonic water. Get set to fall in love with the buttery deliciousness of Caramel Vodka and sip pineapple-flavoured Butterfly Pea Liqueur, named after the flower that infuses it with a show-stopping blue hue.
What’s my (Suzanne’s) personal favourite? The Golden Coconut Rum schnapps. It’s like the old Bombora spirit from the bottleshop but way better! It’s a little less sweet but with a very mature and refined toasted coconut aspect to it.
It’s perfect on it’s own or with some Schwepps Lime Flavoured Soda water for a spritzy and refreshing summer hit. It reminds me of a trip to Hawaii … no plane ticket needed!
You can also find the perfect triple distilled vodka to go with your favourite Hunter Valley Moscato to make fabulous cocktails such as Mosquitos (vodka with moscato, fresh lime juice and mint). Or try a Ginscato (gin with the same moscato combination as the Mosquito). Keep it fruity with the Hunter Distillery’s Native Gin or the ever popular Copperwave Gin or add a unique blood orange flavour with the Mystery Gin. Not sure which Moscato in the Hunter is the best? Check out our guide to Hunter Valley Moscatos here. Which ever one you choose, it is the perfect way to relax with your friends after a private wine tour of the Hunter.
Throw a shot of Hunter Distillery chocolate vodka (think “chico baby” style chocolate and not creamy chocolate) with a shot of the coconut rum schnapps and you have the perfect “Bounty Bar” shot. No dessert needed 😊
Who could resist a Shimmering Bubblegum Liqueur to add some serious razzle and dazzle to a sensational tasting experience? Small Mouth Vodka will transform your outlook on what gins, vodkas and liqueurs are supposed to be. The Australian owned and run distillery makes hand-crafted spirits from premium, organic ingredients.
They use traditional copper pot stills and a charcoal filtration process for fresher than fresh, pure vodka. No matter what you choose to try, you won’t have to worry about preservatives or artificial additives and flavours. With a motto like, ‘a small mouth doesn’t have room for just anything’, it’s only the best of the best here!
Treat your taste buds to Granny Smith Apple-infused Shimmering Apple Vodka and take some home to make your own apple martini masterpieces. Channel a tropical vibe with Shimmering Pina Colada Liqueur and say “cheers” with citrusy, festive Blood Orange Gin.
What’s Suzanne’s favourite? I know you want to know but that’s a very hard question to answer as there are just so many!
If you are out for a serious flavour buzz that won’t “blow your head off” with heat, then you have to try the Habanero Storm liqueur. Shake it up and watch that glitter swirl and you truly have a storm of slightly spicy, tangy fruit. Imagine a mix of melon and pomegranate with a hint of heat and it’s the perfect way to ignite your tastebuds for a pre-dinner cocktail…. It always seems to make me hungry!
If you are a Ferrero Rocher fan then you have to fill your glass with a shot of Choc Hazelnut Vodka and their new Chocolate Cream Liqueur. Pour in the Choc Hazelnut Vodka (over ice) and then the Chocolate Cream Liqueur and just give your glass a slight shake from side to side (not a full stir) and watch the funky colours and flavours interact.
I love not mixing it properly like this as you get a taste of each spirit separately and together as you sip your way through this dessert shot. Watching the 2 liquids of different thicknesses slide around each other and settle strangely in the glass is like witnessing a lava lamp that you can drink!
You’ll find the thickness of the Chocolate Cream Liqueur tends to keep the glitter stuck firmly to the bottom of the bottle of this one, no matter how hard to try to mix it (unless you physically agitate the mixture vigorously using a spoon or a mixing stick) but if you combine your spirits creatively as suggested above, you’ll get the glitter effect of the less viscous Choc Hazelnut Liqueur providing just the theatrical aspect you need.
A visit to Small Mouth vodkas is a the perfect way to “glitter up” your hens party in the Hunter Valley and makes for some very awesome photo and video moments. It’s especially worth checking out their magnet driven glitter mixing machines. Just watching the glitter swirl around the bottle in amazing patterns is enough to make your head spin!
Hope Estate Distillery
Renowned for fruity, plummy and lip-smackingly fabulous wine, award-winning craft beer and a legendary outdoor amphitheatre, Hope Estate is a firm favourite on Hunter Valley wine tours. As if that wasn’t enough, Hope Distillery opened in 2020, as a small batch distiller offering premium Australian grain spirits.
It all started when Michael Hope brought small batches of Vodka Raspberry and Vodka, Lime and Soda Mixers to club members and festival patrons. And so, with the trifecta of wine, beer and spirits – framed by lush vineyards and epic countryside views – it’s likely you’ll feel like all your Christmases have come at once as you taste your way through this estate.
Gin connoisseurs love Pokolbin Dry Gin, infused with coriander, fennel, cardamom and fennel. Crisp and citrusy Lemon Myrtle Vodka features a floral flair and Single Malt Moonshine is made from 100% malted barley with a whisper of vanilla. Spirit paddles are served with garnish, tonic and mini buckets of ice. Joy!
Kiss of Fire Liqueurs
Magic happens when chilli and butterscotch are blended at Kiss of Fire liqueurs – so don’t expect to escape without forming a new and beautiful relationship with liqueurs. In fact, chilli lovers across the world voted Fired Up Chilli Liqueur as the best in Australia and New Zealand at the Mr Chilli Awards…for three years in a row now!
Not a fan of chilli? These tasty tipples are made for chilli lovers and non-chilli lovers alike. However, one sip of the sweet and spicy flavour with a butterscotch base might convert you to the chilli side for good. Don’t be afraid… it’s not too hot and much more user friendly than the name might suggest. I’m not usually a chilli fan but I can’t pass up a quality flavour hit and if you’re the same then this is exactly what you’re looking for.
A range of flavours stem from the freshest of fresh ingredients and, best of all, they’re handmade. The mastermind is Norman Giese. He loves the versatility of chilli liqueur to cleanse the pallet, warm you up, boost the metabolism and spice up a range of drinks and dishes.
Pick up some Banana Butterscotch to pour over your pancakes and liven up soda water with bright and sweet Cherry Liqueur. Or, just drink these straight (you know you want to). With a dash of Chilli Liqueur in the marinade or simply drizzled on top, you’ll never look at oysters and prawns the same way again.
Hunter Distillery or Small Mouth Vodkas or Kiss of Fire Liqueurs? Which one should you visit?
Well… all of them of course, in an ideal world!
But if you are short on time (or the winos in your group have limited you to 1 spirits venue only for your tour) then be guided by the following:
If you are after a “serious spirit hit” with alcohol being the predominate flavour on the palate then I’d recommend Hunter Distillery. Generally speaking their vodkas, gins and schnapps tend to be the highest in alcohol content when compared to the others and this dominates the flavour profile (ie. It’s the chosen spirit with some flavour in the aftertaste).
If you want the best of both worlds (ie. Flavour and alcohol blended together) then I’d go for Small Mouth Vodkas. Their products are strong enough to still make you sit up and take notice but they don’t “take over” from the flavour. You’ll also find you can easily pick the different flavours between the products. You don’t get the feeling that they are all the same spirit with just different flavours added.
Don’t be afraid or “put off” by the shimmering edible glitter. There is enough in there to dazzle the eye without being able to notice the texture. It is certainly not like swallowing sandpaper and there is nothing to “munch on” as you swallow it down. The spirits are just as smooth as any high quality vodka or gin you’ll have the exciting privilege of sampling.
And I have it on good authority that the glitter is a completely digestible product and if you get addicted to their flavours (like me) you won’t poop glitter in the future from over indulgence!
If flavour is your priority rather than an alcoholic “one, two punch”, then Kiss of Fire Liqueurs is the place for you. Especially if you have a sweet tooth as all of their products are butterscotch liqueurs with various flavours added so all of them are a “liquid dessert” essentially.
At first, I couldn’t imagine the heat of chilli with the sweetness of butterscotch but they have the balance just right for their signature “Kiss of Fire” chilli butterscotch and the sweetness makes the chilli hit do-able and user friendly for a non-traditional chilli lover such as myself. So, if you are seeking a dessert hit, look no further than Kiss of Fire Liqueurs.
Hunter Valley Distilleries are worthy of a visit alone. However, if you’ve got a few winos and a couple of craft beer fans in your group too, top-notch spirits round out the perfect tasting tour! Ready for more? Of course you are! Check out our Hunter Valley beer and wine tours which include a visit to a spirits tasting venue.