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The making of a top-notch gin

There is a new gin in town - Twelve and a Half Acres - and it’s produced by Andrew Lancaster, right here in the hills of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

by Victoria McGuin

Andy grew up in rural England in a picture-perfect village that was part of a vibrant farming community. His hard working and supportive parents gave him the encouragement and freedom within this tight-knit community environment that laid the foundation for where he is today.

“I had what you could describe as the ideal childhood – working on farms on a Saturday and during school holidays,” he said.

“I found early on that my energy seemed limitless. At 12, I started a business refurbishing push-bikes, ran a paper round, and worked as a gamekeeper’s assistant until I joined the military at 18. These experiences taught me the value of hard work, initiative, and time management. Between that, long-distance cycling with my local group, kayaking, and staying physically active, I was in pursuit of adventure.

“The military was a natural progression and one which both friends, teachers and family could see was the obvious choice for me,” Andrew shared.

“I was exceptionally lucky during my service to hold six command positions, fly on multiple types of aircraft, deploy on multiple operations, receive medals, and as a mountaineer, climb and ski in multiple countries.

“I was fortunate to have worked for and with some incredible people – watching people grow and prosper in particular was, and still is, an incredibly rewarding experience.”

“The military was not just about accolades and achievements though. It tested my mettle and taught me invaluable life lessons: commitment, loyalty, humility, dedication, and tenacity. I feel humbled to have seen these qualities in spades in the people I worked with so many times.”

Despite his obvious enjoyment and appreciation of military life, Andrew came to a natural breakpoint, admitting he was both worn out and in need of a change.

“I needed a totally different direction to follow with challenges and experiences that I could control,” he said.

“It’s taken me nearly two years to essentially decompress from the intensity of military life, and I still have some way to go, for sure. The challenge is to channel energy into something else, and my Twelve and a Half Acres gin is a very positive new venture.

“I feel that whilst this is my journey, my family and friends are there supporting me and encouraging me throughout. This is a collective journey.”

Andrew’s dream is to be sustainable, while producing quality product that people really want to have in their drinks’ cabinet.

“I’m not interested in being a huge distillery, just a bloody good one that cares about what it does and the community. I’m passionate about producing the best product possible with native/local and my own ingredients in an ecologically sustainable manner – and being an integral part of the community.”

Andrew feels a close connection to the land he owns in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland – hence the distillery name. “I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the country – I see spectacular sunrises and sunsets looking over my 12.5 acres.

“I want to replant native trees, and I’ve just joined Care for Wildlife, an organisation which aims to clear the habitat of invasive species and plant native trees to encourage native local wildlife.

“I want to leave 12.5 acres in a better state than when I bought the property. I feel it sustains me and I need to sustain it …. that’s what I want my product to say and feel.”

I asked what Andrew’s day entails, now he is the owner, distiller, and operations manager of his business!

“After a morning run and local coffee, I start the distilling preparation at 8.30am. This begins with weighing the botanicals, charging the still with premium grade neutral spirit and preparing the equipment required to distil. At 9am I start distilling, ensuring all safety measures are in place.

“Between 9am and 6pm, I conduct 30-minute checks and measurements, recording everything, and also prep bottles for shipment and do the bottling. Between 6 and 7pm I clean up the distillery and then finish any paperwork. Distilling days are long!

“As I mentioned earlier, my main vision is to be self-sustaining - that is, I use rainwater, solar electric to power the stills, grow as many of the botanicals as possible.”

Andrew has served an internship at Sunshine & Sons under head distiller Adam Chapman and had the support of owners Matthew Hobson and Michael Conrad in learning how to distil.

“I have been very lucky to have the support of Adam Chapman, an award-winning Australian distiller and distilling educator, guide me throughout this journey – the support I have had has been invaluable and has led me to the point that we were all happy to go to market

“I really want people to enjoy the product they are drinking – for them to say ‘wow, that tastes good’ and then know the story behind the spirit.

“I’d like people to be inspired that you can change direction in life at any stage; you can do something different.”



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