by SEANNA CRONIN 

If you’ve noticed more of your friends ordering a gin rather than a lager lately, you’re not imagining things. 

Craft beers have had their moment in the spotlight. Now it’s time for spirits to shine.

The number of distillers on the Sunshine Coast has more than doubled in the past two years (going from three to seven in 2020-21) and there’s no doubt gin is leading the charge. 

Sales of the juniper-based spirit are booming both domestically and around the world. From the classic dry to pink, pineapple, barrel-aged and even quandong varieties, there are more than a dozen local craft gins to tantalise the tastebuds.

But that’s just the tip of the ice block when it comes to what’s being produced on the Coast.

Cane spirits, also known as un-aged agricole, are gaining popularity thanks to an abundance of local sugar cane. This crystal clear spirit, similar to a rum but made from freshly pressed sugarcane juice, is best enjoyed on ice with lime or in cocktails like mojitos, daiquiris or a Brazilian caipirinha. 

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’s also a range of vodkas, rums, whisky, liqueurs and a white malt being produced right here in our own backyard.

For Buderim’s Chris and Cathryn Clyne, starting up their own distillery has been a passion project several years in the making.

The couple ran Australia’s second-largest sultana company until flash flooding in regional Victoria decimated the local industry in the summer of 2011. 

They were forced to close the business and moved to the Coast seven years ago when Chris was offered a job as the general manager for a macadamia producer in Gympie.  

Now, they’re putting their production experience to use as the founders of Warana’s Paradise Rum.

“What appealed to us about distilling was potentially building a brand again like we had in the past,” Chris tells the Sunny Coast Times.

“We got tired of the old 9 to 5 job and decided to take the plunge again in October of last year. 

“We’ve done a lot of research on it, talked to a lot of people and got some great advice along the way… When you buy one of our products and you’re drinking it by the pool, we want you feel like you’re in paradise.”

When Paradise Rum’s bar and restaurant officially opens its doors on November 11, there will be seven distilleries open to the public across our region. 

Stretching from Noosa and Pomona in the north to Caloundra in the south, the Coast’s emerging distillery trail has a tipple for every taste.

Where to wet your whistle

  1. Fortune Distillery, Noosa 

Located in the same complex as Land & Sea Brewing company, Fortune produces gin, white malt and white cane spirit in its impressive 2000-litre copper pot reflux still. Last year the distillery teamed up with popular local restaurant Sum Yung Guys to create a pho-inspired gin cocktail – grab the recipe from their website. noosaheadsdistillery.com

  1. Pomona Distilling Co, Pomona

Located at the former site of Pomona’s historic bakery, this family-run distillery boasts a beautiful bistro and art gallery to enjoy while sipping on their signature pink or blue gins. Pomona Distilling Co will also soon offer a gin masterclass where you can create a personalised blend of botanicals for your own bespoke spirit. pomonadistilling.com.au

  1. 20 20 Distillery, Cooroy

Located half an hour’s drive from ‘trendy’ Noosa, this boutique hinterland distillery produces gin and whisky the old-fashioned way including hand bottling and labelling. The award-winning East London Dry gin pays homage to founder Brian Bedding’s birthplace. If you want to enjoy a cocktail and charcuterie board at the tasting bar, make sure to book ahead. 2020distillery.com.au

  1. Diablo, Woombye 

Famous for its spicy alcoholic ginger beer, Diablo Co expanded its range last year to include three vodkas, three rums, a Mediterranean gin and seven liqueurs. Diablo’s pop-up bar is the perfect spot for afternoon drinks in the shadow of the Big Pineapple. diabloco.com.au

  1. Sunshine & Sons, Woombye

Founded by four best mates, Sunshine & Sons produce gin and vodka in two Tasmanian artisan pot stills nicknamed Maria and Sarah. The distillery door overlooks rolling green hills just a few hundred metres from the Big Pineapple, which inspired their popular pineapple parfait gin. Their range also includes small-batch barrel-aged gin, charity gins and a macadamia and coffee-infused organic molasses spirit. sunshineandsons.com.au

  1. Paradise Rum, Warana 

As the name suggests, this new distillery will specialise in five-year aged rum but they will also produce a gin and two vodkas. The flavours of their coconut vodka and spiced rum will transport you straight to the Caribbean. The bar and restaurant will offer up a range of cocktails and tapas-style food.paradiserum.com.au

  1. Beachtree Distilling Co, Caloundra West 

This newly opened small-batch distillery specialises in organic, sugar cane-based gin and vodka made with native botanicals, which are reflected in the nature-inspired label. Founded by locals Steve Grace and Kirra Daley, Caloundra’s first distillery has an ethical and sustainable focus including a ‘one bottle, one tree’ program. beachtree.com.au