Meet the man behind Ink Gin, your favourite purple coloured spirit.
Meet the man behind Ink Gin, your favourite purple coloured spirit.
Correct us if we are wrong, but most of us would be pretty well versed in knowing the taste and look of the famous purple liquid that sits behind most bars. And of course, we are referring to none other than the renowned Ink Gin. And ahead of International Gin Day (yes it’s a thing) on the 9th of April, we thought it would be only fitting we interviewed the man behind Ink Gin. Founder of Husk Distillery, Paul Messenger gives us an insight into how Husk came about and what the once-Goldy-local loves about the Coast when he does make the trip up north from his home in Northern NSW.
How long have you been a Northern New South Wales local?
I grew up on the Gold Coast and have fond memories of visiting Tumbulgum as a ten-year-old when the chain ferry ran people and cars across the river. When we realised we wanted to make agricultural rum, Tumbulgum was the first place that came to mind with its fertile soils, abundant water, rich sugar cane history, picturesque river village and close proximity to some of the world’s best surf beaches. It was with enormous satisfaction and a great privilege that we were able to buy Husk Farm in 2011, finally moving here in 2012.
Tell us how Husk came about.
It’s a long story. I was flying over the Nullarbor Plain on my way to a drill rig in the West Australian goldfields in 1998 when I read a story about how a fella by the name of Bill Lark, the Godfather of Tasmanian whisky, lobbied to change the law and allow small craft distilleries to operate legally. That story captured my imagination and over the next 10 years I followed the success of Tasmanian Whisky and wondered how I too could follow this dream. But it was during a Caribbean cruise in 2009 that my distilling ruminations started to take form during an afternoon sipping 20 year-old Rhum Agricoles in a small bar next to a small distillery on the small island of Martinique. While reflecting on the vast fields of sugar cane back home, my dream took on a clarity quite at odds with the relaxed rum haze that became the rest of the afternoon in that charming place. The locals explained to me that rum made from fresh cane juice has “terroir” – the taste and soul of the place where it’s made. As a geologist, the idea of capturing the provenance and spirit of the place where I grew up made my heart skip a beat and that was where our journey began.
What’s your proudest entrepreneurial moment?
Everything we were doing was novel or innovative and it was clear that it would take many years of devotion to perfect our rum and reveal the true spirit of this place. It was also clear that we needed an income fast, and with the early signs of a gin renaissance taking root in England we started looking for quirky gin ingredients. I actually found the colour changing butterfly pea flower early in the journey and had been experimenting with it in liqueurs, vodka, even rum as well as with a range of gin botanicals. I was mixing these concoctions with lemon or lime to make the colour change, but the “eureka moment” came when I mixed an experimental butterfly pea gin with tonic water. The magic of seeing that deep blue liquid transform into a bright, sparkling blush pink colour sensation will stay with me forever, I knew we were onto something big and that butterfly pea gin and tonic would be a match made in heaven.
What’s the most popular Husk Spirit you sell?
At the moment, at least, Ink Gin is by far our most popular spirit, even though we continue to invest heavily in developing a unique Australian expression of a French-style fresh cane juice rum. Ink Gin came about because of the need to generate cash flow and because cane juice rum is seasonal and can only be made during the harvest (August-November). The fact that we spent three years developing the recipe and getting the infusion right meant we had to keep our day jobs for a few more years, but we wanted to make sure that people would buy the first bottle because of the colour but they’d then buy their second for the taste. Ink Gin hit a nerve with people at the right time, when the craft gin boom was about to take off and people were thirsty for something new and different.
What’s your personal favourite Husk Spirit and why?
No question, Husk Pure Cane. This is how all our rums start – it’s the most pure, unadulterated expression of our ‘terroir’, our provenance. Call it what you like, agricole, fresh juice rum or Cultivated Australian Rum, this is a style not well understood in Australia and unaged rums even less so. But in the French Caribbean, where it is as much a part of their heritage and identity, this is how people drink rum – clean, fresh and full of flavour. Drink it in a short ti’ punch, a daiquiri, caipirinha or mojito, but it must be Pure Cane.
What’s a Gin Cocktail recipe you would recommend to all Gin-lovers?
The Southside is one of the classics, that’s also really easy to make at home. Otherwise, you can’t go past the simple G&T. I like simple drinks where you can really taste the quality of the spirit.
What does the next 5 years have in store for Husk Distillery?
The next 5 years will be just as adventurous, bold and busy as the last 10 years. We are investing in the future of Australian rum with a new sugar mill onsite at Husk. This is a complicated project which will take up a lot of my time this year and next. We are also finishing up a new tank farm and barrel storage and we are planning additions to our fermentation capacity and an upgrade to our wastewater treatment. As always we are very focused on quality control and process improvements and we are committed to making Husk Distillers, Tumbulgum one of the safest, most efficient and sustainable distilleries in Australia. You can also expect to see plenty of new product releases, a new Husk Rum brand identity and bottle (shhh…), and lots of new experiences at the Husk cellar door.
When you visit the Gold Coast, what are your favourites…
Café: Café D’Bar after a surf off the rock wall is always a favourite.
Coffee spot: Zephyr Coffee in Kirra is fantastic. And they roast their own beans!
Restaurant: Jimmy Wah’s in Burleigh is great.
Bar or pub for a drink: Rainbow Bay surf club. Best view on the coast.
How do you choose to spend your weekends?
Surf as much as I can, catch up with work, spend time with my beautiful wife. BBQ with family and friends and share a few Botanicals & tonics. We also enjoy cruising down the coast and catching a show at Bruns Picture House. Ending up in the Brunswick pub also makes for a great Saturday night.
More and more these days we, the people, love knowing everything there is to know about local businesses. How they were created, how they operate, what goes into creating something that works.
Luckily for us, there are many an incredible local business popping up both on the Gold Coast and within the local surrounds that have interesting stories to tell, the latest of which is Husk Distillers.
Creators of Ink Gin (you know the magical purple elixir that changes colour), Husk Virgin Cane Rum and Spiced Bam Bam (spiced rum, love you), Husk Distillers was born in Tumbulgum, tiny little northern NSW town now home to a quite big, much-loved local brand.
Now, the impressive paddock to bottle brand have announced the opening of Husk Farm Distillery and it’s set to be an absolute must-visit destination.
Set on the Messenger family’s farmland with the stunning Wollumbin (Mt Warning) as the backdrop, the cellar door, bar and café will be open to the public in mid-June and, as you’d expect, there will be many a tasty treat.
The cocktail and café menus will showcase local produce, along with Blackboard coffee, gin and rum infused chocolates, local cheese/charcuterie boards and tasting paddles made from old barrel staves.
So all of the very best things. Plus of course, you can take home a bottle of Ink Gin or three for the cabinet slash that nights’ drinking shenanigans.
In case you haven’t heard the story; Husk is the baby of the aforementioned Messenger family, inspired by their love of all things rum and the culture of Caribbean, the family began their adventure in 2012, creating a plantation distiller on their cattle and cane farm.
Production began with their first paddock to bottle agricole rum, made with their homegrown sugar cane and capturing the flavours of the region.
The cane harvest is restricted to August – November and the months off over summer made way for the development of the ever-popular Ink Gin. Meanwhile, Husk Virgin Cane Rum and spiced rum, Spiced Bam Bam, quietly matured on oak in the background.
Ink Gin hit the market with a bang, with lucky sippers getting on board with the smooth Australian taste and quirky colour change of the butterfly pea (from blue to purple) when you add tonic. So great.
And now, after much hard work from the Messenger’s and much gin sampling from us, Husk Farm Distillery is set to be our new favourite destination drinking hole.
Bring on mid-June for bulk roadtrips down south.
LOCATION: Dulguigan Rd, North Tumbulgum
On June 13th each year we raise a glass to World Gin Day and the spirit that has certainly had its come up over the last little while. The Gold Coast boasts our very own gin distillery plus a host of bars making magic with local gins. All of which you won’t be surprised to learn we’re big fans of.
In honour of that, here are the best spots to get your gin fix on the Gold Coast this World Gin Day (or anyday for that matter). Happy sipping.
Tamborine Mountain Distillery
Tucked away on Mount Tamborine is one of Australia’s smallest and most unique distilleries with over 280 International Awards. Their gold medal award winning gin is the Lilly Pilly Gin, a pot still gin using botanicals such as Australian Lilly Pilly (Riberry), Juniper, Angelica root, Orris root, Citrus peel, Caraway, Coriander, Aniseed Myrtle, Elderflower, Mistletoe, Passionflower, Shepherd’s Purse and more. The best part about it, it’s got a delightful pink hue.
Where: 87-91 Beacon Road, North Tamborine
The Island Rooftop
It’s always a good time on the rooftop in Surfers Paradise, overlooking the city and with guaranteed good vibes. While all the sips are sweet, our recommendation is the Clover Leaf made with Beefeater gin, raspberry, lemon and egg white, so good.
Where: 3128 Surfers Paradise Boulevard, Surfers Paradise
Aloha Bar & Dining
How does a Saturn Juniper Uranus sound? Cool right. That’s exactly what you should order at Broady’s most colourful alleyway bar, Aloha Bar & Dining. It’s got Four Pillars gin, sloe gin, orgeat, passionfruit, lime and rosemary and it’s out of this world. The bar itself is decked out in full colour, with hidden rooms and moody, good time vibes aplenty. Follow the music down the alley and you’ll find yourself in a magical world of tiki goodness.
Where: 18 Main Place, Broadbeach
Fig & Frankies
Another delightful Broadbeach bar dedicated to exceptional sips and very good times is Fig & Frankies, also newish on the scene and also very well-loved amongst Gold Coast locals. Their cocktail list is tight and filled with delights made up of local spirits and you’ll want to try them all. Drinks are numbered rather than named and each is absolute perfection to be honest. We particularly loved Number One (aptly named) because it is made up of MAC by Brookies, clarified green apple and house lemonade and we cannot overstate tasty enough. Gather the crew and sip up a storm.
Where: 4/2707 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach
A must-visit cocktail bar in Broadbeach, Roosevelt Lounge is one of the city’s sexiest spots for a cocktail, capturing the seductive style and glamour of decadent New York. For World Gin Day try the Down the Rabbit Hole Signature Cocktail made up of Ink gin, in-house chimmer liqueur (pink moscato, pisco, peach & orange blossom), blueberry vinegar, citric acid and life of cha crystal tea. Delightfully served in a tea pot, this cocktail is an Instagram dream.
Where: 75 Surf Parade, Broadbeach
The Gold Coast’s first gin distillery Granddad Jacks are, quite obviously king when it comes to gin cocktails (and gin in general). Our number one on their list is the Seymour Street with their very own Greenhouse Gin plus Eucalyptus and fresh lime juice because it’s the ultimate in Aussie-inspired freshness and it tastes top notch too. Love your work mates.
Where: 45 Lemana Lane, Miami
Oh Rosella’s, little love of our lives. A refined Australiana bar in the heart of Burleigh Heads, Rosella’s is bringing all Aussie eats and tipples to the very appreciative people. On a list of cocktails that will 100% improve your life (especially the Pet Nat Slushie – love you) but for the purposes of this article let’s chat about the Kylie Minogue Martini with Vickers Gin from Beenleigh Distillery no less, vodka, elderflower, verjus and pink peppercorn. It’ll have you spinning around in no time.
Where: 6/1743 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads
Tucked away down Justin Lane behind a red velvet curtain is Lockwood Bar. They a serving up a sexy sip titled Brookie’s Aviation which fuses Brookie’s Dry Gin, lemon juice, Tempus Fugit liqueur de violette and Luxado Maraschino liqueur. Topped off with a maraschino cherry, you know it’s a goodie.
Where: Justin Lane, Burleigh Heads
An intimate little space down Palmy way is Suga, a cocktail and rum bar open until late and serving up cocktails that are quite unlike anything you’ve sipped before. On World Gin Day we recommend a Gin Lippy with Larrikin Gin, citrus syrup, housemade lemonade and a whole lots of tastiness. A very tasty tipple indeed. Pop on in for a few of those this weekend.
Where: 1142 Gold Coast Highway, Palm Beach
The Collective Palm Beach
The Rooftop Bar at The Collective Palm Beach is a gin-lovers paradise with beloved gin-based cocktails including the Rose Hip Martini with Poor Toms Gin, hibiscus syrup, lime and grapefruit and the Unnamed Sympathy served Tiki-style with macadamia-infused Nobel Cut Gin, Bushfire Botanic Australis Gin and pine-lime allspice. Both of which are tried and tested by us and both of which are really very delicious.
Where: 1128 Gold Coast Highway, Palm Beach
Saint Helen’s Kitchen + Bar
If sipping cocktails seaside is your thing (and we know it is), you’ll love Saint Helens Kitchen + Bar signature slurp The Gin Thruster. It’s got gin, blueberry and tonic. It’s bright, refreshing and super Insta-worthy – if it lasts that long.
Where: Shop 2/78 Musgrave Street, Kirra
Words by Kirra Smith
Luke Ridden is a man passionate about the Gold Coast and in particular, our thriving creative and small business communities.
As co-owner of two of our absolute favourite venues, Granddad Jacks Craft Distillery and Burleigh Co-Op, he’s committed to showing the rest of the world just how incredible our city is. Not to mention, he’s one of the nicest blokes you’ll ever meet.
We sat down for a chat about how Granddad Jacks came about and their inaugural batch of whiskey.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I have been on the Gold Coast for 12 years now.
What do you love most about living here?
I really love the art and culture vibe that’s taking over the Coast as well as the foodie scene especially down near us in Burleigh. The growth in the area has created a lot of opportunity for small business owners like myself. I also enjoy the fact that we don’t have as many people as the bigger cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane do and this means that not only is it a more cruisy lifestyle here with nice people but also that not just any small café, restaurant, brewery or distillery can survive. You have to be good to survive and if you’re not, we don’t have the overflow of people to sustain your business.
Tell us how your Miami distillery, Granddad Jack’s, came about?
My father and I were always close to our grandfather, David Goulding AKA Granddad Jack who passed away in 2012. Ever since he passed away, we’ve wanted to pay homage to him in one way or another. Fast forward to late November 2017 and we were talking over a few beers when my old man asked what I thought about starting a distillery. After a few Google searches and some YouTube time I figured it was a great idea. I headed down to Tasmania and then Dad and I headed over to the USA to learn and understand what craft distilling was all about. The day we landed back in Australia we secured the building and I started demolishing at 5pm that night. Seven months, 15 skip bins and an almost entire rebuild later, we opened in late August 2018 with whiskey in barrels and three gins available.
What did you want to bring to the city by opening it?
I wanted to bring something that didn’t exist, something fresh and new and something that would compliment the great community and awesome businesses that are around us in Miami/Burleigh. It was also very important to me that it was truly a local’s spot where dogs, families and pushies are always welcome.
You built the entire space yourselves, what did it take to bring it all together?
A lot of hours, love, a detailed brief, attention to detail, an amazing architect and a small but world-class team of tradies.
You’ve just released a ‘Make your own gin’ series for Gold Coasters, what do people get who attend?
A truly unique experience that includes a tour of our distillery from myself and my father, a gin tasting, gin history lesson, gin and tonics, pizza, a complete distillation of your own 500ml bottle of custom gin that you have created and even the chance to win the opportunity to have your custom made gin become a small batch release to be sold in our tasting room. What more could you want? I’m biased but damn that’s some value crammed into four hours!
You’re in the process of making a batch of whiskey, talk to us about that…
Just last week, we made over 5000 litres of what’s called whiskey wash (basically un–hopped beer) that will ferment, creating a mixture containing around 10% alcohol which will then be distilled into our single malt, bourbon style, rye and peated whiskeys.
You also co-own a cafe, Burleigh Co-Op, what’s the vibe there?
Burleigh Co-Op is truly a place that’s by the people for the people! With seven different businesses coming together to create a clean, refreshing spot for Gold Coasters to enjoy world class food and great locally made coffee.
What else is in the works for 2019?
A bunch more fun! Every month Granddad Jacks will be releasing a small batch creation. Everything from coffee liqueurs to agave spirits will be on offer. There is a distillery experience at least once a month and a lot more five questions videos on our socials where we get to introduce epic locals to the rest of our followers. Wherever there is an opportunity for me to create something new I’ll be jumping at it! A lot can happen in seven months.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Café for breakfast: Burleigh Co-Op of course!
Restaurant: It’s a three-way way tie – Restaurant Labart, Hideaway and Fredrick’s.
Coffee spot: I’m a Cold Brew fan so Burleigh Co-Op or Commune
Where do you like to spend your time off: I love being able to hang out with my five-month-old boy Archer and my better half Jess. However, I love what I do so I never truly feel like I take time off and my mind is always going a thousand miles an hour.