It’s not easy getting a small-batch distillery up and running in Queensland, and harder still to make it grow. Just ask Megan Donsky – founder and head distiller of Winston Quinn. Megan built her gin business from bare foundations, starting with an extensive botanical-soaked research-and-development period before securing a premises (located in a red-brick 1960s warehouse on Prospect Street in Fortitude Valley’s fringe) from which to distill and distribute a sublime core range of gins. Queensland’s liquor laws prevented Megan from selling directly to consumers at first, forcing the team to take a grassroots approach to promotion – this meant hand-delivering sample packs to local bars and restaurants in the hopes some would take a chance on the product. Many did, and soon interest percolated until Winston Quinn’s signature textured glass bottles were seen in the back bars of boozers and eateries across town. The next phase of Winston Quinn’s evolution entailed opening a tasting room at the distillery in March this year, but just as the doors were set to open COVID-19 struck and the team were forced to hold off. To make matters worse, with restaurants and bars closed and no way to sell to customers directly, Megan faced the grim proposition of having the distillery’s capacity to earn being severely reduced. After lobbying the powers that be to allow online and takeaway liquor sales, Winston Quinn was fortunately granted an expansion of their licence and immediately the WQ crew spread the news that their gin could be obtained from the source online and by grab-and-go. Throughout the lockdown, Megan and her team specialised in quarantine survival packs, boasting a bottle of Winston Quinn’s Dry Cut and a limited-edition Winston gin goblet glass. To date the team has sold more than 2600 of these packs, exhausting their wholesaler’s supply of glasses, cementing the distillery’s place as a player in the market and tiding them over until restrictions eased.
Now that venues can accomodate 20 guests at a time, Winston Quinn has officially opened its tasting room for bookings. The space has been fleshed out with a gorgeous back-lit bar, a collection of comfy furniture (think cushy velvet chairs, leather couches, sturdy timber tables and polished barrels), a greenery wall that shields the distillery’s packaging area, mood lighting (plus a cheeky ‘Gin Completes Me’ neon sign – a huge mood), an adorable mural of Quinn the golden retriever (one half of Winston Quinn’s namesake) by Elliot Crombie and a gleaming copper still (used for limited-edition gins) standing by the window. The distillery is running tasting sessions from Thursday to Sunday, where guests can enjoy a 90-minute experience that allows them get familiar with the core range. The tasting paddle features a splash of each of Winston Quinn’s flagship range (the versatile Dry Cut, the blue-coloured dry-style Skinny Jeans, pink-hued strawberry-infused Pink Fit and the herbal Slim Crop), plus a bottle of soda water or tonic and a selection of garnishes to customise your sip. Each tasting experience also comes with a gin and tonic included, so if there is a gin you love more than others the bar team will work it into something spectacular. The tasting room also has a food and booze menu you can use to bolster the experience, including classic cocktails like martinis and negronis (made using Winston Quinn gin, of course), mocktails, cheese boards and grazing plates. If you’ve done a tasting session before, and are eager to come back but aren’t keen on a repeat experience, Winston Quinn is offering streamlined general-admission session that includes a welcome cocktail instead of the tasting paddle. In the coming months, Megan is looking to trial masterclass sessions where gin lovers can get more insight on the distilling process. Additionally, Megan is currently tinkering with some limited-edition drops (including a potent navy-strength variety) that’ll be a must-buy for any die-hard gin connoisseur.
Head to the Stumble Guide for Winston Quinn’s booking and contact info!