Evoke: Far South Tasmania distilled
DESCRIPTION: We harness the fragrances and flavours of Tasmania’s ancient cool temperate rainforests to bring you a truly unique regional taste.
SPIRIT BASE: Neutral spirit from 100% Australian sugar cane molasses.
BOTANICALS: 100% locally grown botanicals, featuring Blackheart or Southern Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum).
DISTILLERS TASTING NOTES
Reflections of anise, mint, citrus and vanilla filtered through forest moss.
‘Evoke’ and the Evolution of Botanical Spirits
First there was the natural process of fermentation whereby grains, fruits, vegetables, roots, in fact anything that could produce enough sugar from the natural world would, under the right conditions, be converted into alcohol. This process was to be later replicated under controlled conditions by humans.
Next the art of distilling began to evolve, whereby the resultant alcohol from the fermenting process could be refined, allowing for a stronger alcohol to be extracted. The strengthened alcohol providing an excellent means to dissolve and administer botanical concoctions externally and internally, as well as allow them to be preserved out of season.
As cultures predominantly from the northern hemisphere established local flavoured botanical spirits, subcategories of botanical spirits came into being, such as gin, absinthe, akvavit, eaux-de-vie, pastis, ouzo, flavoured vodkas, just to mention a few.
Gin is probably the best known of all the botanical spirit subcategories and is defined with the use of a highly refined alcohol base with little flavour attached, to extract via vapour distilling the oils from chosen botanicals, the principal of these being juniper.
Since the distilling laws here in Australia were changed back in 1992, we have witnessed a steady growth in the number of new distilleries, many keen to experiment with Australia’s unique native botanicals. Most so far have decided to market their product under existing botanical spirit subcategories, while not all of those have chosen to follow the time-honoured definitions for those subcategories.
‘Evoke’ is produced in much the same way as gin, but without the juniper-led aromatics and flavour. Our highly refined (neutral) alcohol base is derived from fermented Australian sugar cane molasses, a by-product of sugar production.
All the botanicals we use to flavour our spirit are locally grown and ‘evoke’ features one of the most aromatic and flavourful trees in our native cool temperate rainforests of lutruwita/Tasmania, sassafras (see below for more). The dominant sassafras profile is complimented with a second native botanical, known commonly as native pepper bush. In addition we have added some garden grown citrus and macerated cherries.
‘Evoke’ joins a growing number of Australian and as yet uncategorised botanical spirits, which speak of country and whose popularity is steadily growing. This allows both existing and potential new patrons of botanical spirits to become more adventurous.
The Distiller: Marti Wohlgemuth has had a lifelong association with the wild side of lutruwita/Tasmania, and as such has had the privilege to have insights into the contributing factors that shape the islands landscapes.
Of the Islands native vegetation types, his most cherished are the cool temperate rainforests, which provide a complex rich tapestry of sensual stimulation, and which he equates to his equivalent of a cathedral.
During the 80’s and 90’s Marti was a active environmental campaigner working to save the remaining native forests of this island. The introduction of industrial scale clear-felling in the 1960’s had devastated much of his beloved island home’s native forests forever.
In 1991 Marti decided to take the campaign to the marketplace of Japan. His decision to go to Japan that year was instrumental in creating ripples in Japanese society which ultimately ended the Japanese reliance on Tasmanian woodchips for paper production and had the temporary effect of reducing the rate at which the local native forest was being cleared.
Ten years ago he decided to join the growing number of want-to-be distillers and teach himself how to produce an alcoholic beverage which captured the essence of the inspiring country around him and the ‘Evoke’ brand was born.
His approach to running the production processes of the distillery embrace the same values which make his island home so precious to him.
About Sassafras, Southern Sassafras or Blackheart Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum) is a conical shaped evergreen tree native to the cool temperate rainforests of Australia. With Gondwana origins, its distributional epicenter these days is lutruwita/Tasmania. Growing up to forty-five meters tall with a diameter of up to one meter, it can grow to be two hundred years old. The trunk and branches are often covered in lichen and the leaves have a distinctly coarse toothed edge. Flowers form in winter, facing down to avoid rain and snow. The fruit capsules mature opening around January to release tiny feathery windblown seeds.
Southern sassafras has been an essential part of the human story of lutruwita, for many thousands of years. In more recent times it was used to flavour, colour and provide the bitter for the first ales made here by the newly arrived colonial invaders.
Around 70 years ago, safrole a compound known to exist in the broader order of the sassafras family became totally banned for human consumption in the USA and gained equal urban myth status here in Australia. This effectively stopped any further experimentation being undertaken using the plant for culinary or beverage use. Ironically, other plants with high content of safrole such as black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg were allowed to continue to be part of the human food and beverage experience without question.
As it transpired samples of ‘Evoke – sassafras’, were sent for laboratory testing and no traces of safrole were detected.