March 13th, 2021How Basil brewed a golden beauty
Recently 55-year-old Basil’s been whooping around their house, celebrating the awarding of a gold medal to his vodka in an international competition judged in London.
Artist, teacher, national martial arts trainer, poet and author of about a dozen books, Basil began his medal-winning run by considering climbing his apple tree and making cider. He was just 15 and living in Sweden in 1982 when he first learned about distilling.
“Wouldn’t you rather make whisky?” asked Jane. In fact, he expects the first batch of whisky to be released at Christmas, but meanwhile he’d been busy with the gin and vodka “on the side”. Behind his brew is a fascinating story. Alcohol was made there during the goldrush at a pub called Gleeson’s or the Travellers’ Rest. Woodcutters who cleared Lyonville bush to make props for the Bendigo mines would slake their thirst.
Basil started making vodka two years ago. Of course, COVID meant life had got a bit tough and production went along quietly. After some difficulty and delay his entry was accepted in London. He sent three bottles and forgot them.
Then came the emailed news. “Gold and silver medals are allocated to each country,” he says. “But some countries don’t get a gold.”
Already he’s been approached from the US and Japan. He told the Japanese it’s not for export, saying, “No, no, no. It’s local, local, local.”
The potatoes for his vodka come from Wombat Forest Organics, “64 seconds from our fence”, where Adam Bremner is a sixth generation farmer.
The well water is pure and solar power drives the stills. And there’s muscle involved: Basil reckons his 15 tonnes of spuds had to be lifted 10 times. Now he’ll scale up production. At $78 a bottle his vodka is not expensive, he says. As for its taste: “Sweet, soft and smooth and a tiny bit peppery.”
Words: Kevin Childs | Image: Contributed