Newcastle Living Magazine
Distilling Newcastle’s Favourite
Distilling what makes Earp a Newcastle favourite
Earp Distilling Co is a family-owned distillery in Carrington, opened by brothers Michael and Richard Earp in late 2019. The brothers take a ‘first principles’ approach to business, passionate about the creative and experiential. They are passionate about being innovative and focus on sustainability and quality, and it’s apparent in everything that comes out of the distillery. With several gold medal gins and a range of other spirits due for release this year, you can enjoy a cocktail in their bar or a tasting experience in their cellar door seven days a week.
Newcastle Living sat down with founder and master distiller Michael Earp to chat about all things gin, the distillery’s plans and why he thinks Newcastle is a world-class tourist destination.
What was the inspiration behind opening Earp Distilling?
Curiosity led to a lot of research and a new approach that would be flexible, sustainable, energy-efficient, and produce quality products consistently while not disrespecting key traditional elements. Building the business from a fresh paradigm enabled it to start with the latest equipment and processes. In everyday life, we have transformed with electric cars, amazing apps on our phones, AI and robotics.
Yet, the distilling process seemed centuries old and steeped in secrecy and mystery. Visiting distilleries felt like a time warp to the last century. Coinciding with our initial business plans was the development of new equipment. Whilst it came with its challenges and risks, we understood this was part of starting a ‘next generation’ distillery, and we committed to this very exciting path, we don’t regret it.
What made you decide to open up in Carrington?
Initially, it was the practicalities of zoning restrictions, site availability and the proximity to the CBD. However, we now like to refer to it as Carrodise. A fantastic, diverse community near Newcastle’s natural resources and changing cityscape.
What do you love about owning a business in Newcastle?
Everything feels like it’s less than 20 minutes away, and we have a city that is metamorphosing from overlooked and underestimated into a hub of technology, new infrastructure, career opportunities, and regeneration. For years we appeared to play reserve grade to Sydney in the minds of many, however our lifestyle and underdog approach are our strengths.
Newcastle is also a nice mix of cultures, natural resources, a skilled workforce and good weather – and most people have reasonable expectations. I think Novocastrians like to work, play and party hard whilst respecting one another. People appreciate the extra effort small businesses make, and smiles are more prevalent than in big cities.
You offer four different gins in your range, how would you help someone navigate picking a gin if they’ve never tried any of them before?
Gins are refreshing and diverse in flavour and use. Everyone has different opinions and preferences, so our core range is designed to appeal as broadly as possible.
Just Juniper is our best selling, classic single botanical gin. It’s ideal for mixing cocktails or understanding the true essence of juniper. Everyone from expert mixologists looking to make the perfect ‘clean’ martini, to beginners looking to understand the base spirit will love it. It has no extravagant botanical list but won gold at the World Gin Awards.
Then we have our other best-seller, the classic dry No. 8. It’s beautifully balanced and a perfect partner for a G&T with eight botanicals and a gold medal at the 2022 London Spirits Awards. It’s a mid-palate, well rounded, refreshing dry gin.
Our Navy Strength Portside Gin is more citrus-based with lemon myrtle, wattleseed, and chamomile highlights. At 57 per cent ABV, it packs some punch and is equally at home in cocktails or a G&T.
The spectacular Smoked Juniper was developed in collaboration with local restaurant MEET and is a subtle yet exciting change in direction for our gin. It has a slight sweetness that surprises many.
These core ranges will be complemented with new limited seasonal releases in the very near future.
We noticed you have a ‘Spirit Club’. Tell us more!
The Spirit Club aims to build a community of members who are also curious and would like to become part of our development or learn more about our spirits and processes. We love feedback, and it’s important for us to stay grounded and close to our community as a rich source of inspiration. We have the capacity to change and move quickly with product R&D, but not everything we produce is gold-medal material. So to have a community of people that love our products, feel part of our ‘family’, and have some influence over what is happening with our range is very powerful.
Club members receive an experimental spirit box six times a year, containing new and limited releases to be trialled. Included also are distillers notes, a tailored garnish and mixer, cocktail suggestions, discounts and early access to new products and events.
Can you tell us about upcoming bar and cellar door changes?
We plan to leverage our new container kitchen. The distillery started with the front bar and will retain this key element as a speakeasy – a relaxed and sophisticated bar environment. There are no TAB screens, pokie machines, pool tables or flashing lights. It’s perfect for people looking for something difference, with awesome cocktails, great tapas-style food (no, we don’t do schnitzel and chips), regular live music and excellent service.
The Barrel Bar will be slightly modified to become a multi-function space for corporate, special events and functions as well as our special experiences like bottle art and large blending classes.
Are there any other plans you have for Earp?
Absolutely, however, we need to take it one step at a time. We like to build for the long-term rather than the short-term. Many distilleries start with gin, vodka and liqueurs in order to span the two years required for the legal maturation of rum, whisky, brandy and other dark spirits. As one of those distilleries, our first rum has now reached the two year mark. Our core rum range will be ready around October/November in time for Christmas, which is super exciting.
The economy and many other external factors play a role in how we progress and can limit our capacity to grow. Interest rates, politics, world supply chain issues and other global influences cannot be ignored, but we remain focused on what we can control within this context and work towards becoming a world recognised distillery producing world-class spirits and providing world-class experiences and service. If we get it all right, we should continue to grow – fingers crossed.
Contact Earp Distilling Co
(02) 8317 5777
41 Darling Street, Carrington
Mon – Tue | 12pm – 5pm
Wed – Thur | 12pm – 10pm
Fri – Sat | 12pm-12am
Sun | 12pm – 7pm