Characterroir #2; Craig Westwood from Cedar Fox Gin

Characterroir #2; Craig Westwood from Cedar Fox Gin

Sunday September 29th 2019, it was a sunny Sunday two days after the shop had opened, and we had our first look at what our world looked like. Our first hangovers as shop owners. We took a walk down to Oheas Bakery to blow out the cobwebs and took a walk from there up to Gaffney Street to see if we could spot the distillery we had heard about over the previous two days. Sure enough, tucked behind a roller door near Coburg Sand and Soil was a tiny distillery (that looked more like a mad Scientist's lab than what you'd think when you thought distillery) and in there was Craig (also looks a bit like a mad scientist.) He introduced us to his stills, Mr Lahey & Randy - and well, from here on in, the rest didn't matter to me. Naming your distilling equipment after Trailer Park Boys characters is super niche, hilarious, and committed and for those who aren't familiar with "Lim Jahey," Officer Jim Lahey, "Fucky the Drunk Clown", it is entirely appropriate. One of Lahey's quotes that stuck with me "Julian, I am the liquor." Enough about TPB. It's on Netflix, or there are some highlights on YouTube. That was enough for me, but it might not be enough for you, so on with the Craig yarn.

One of the reasons why I think the Character part of this "Characterroir" yarn is important is because when you're dealing with a product like Gin that has a really broad array of production techniques and ingredient sources, which can vary from growing all of your own botanicals, then making your own base booze, distilling - or buying in globally traded botanicals, base spirit, then popping your spin on it - in the latter example, a lot of soul can be lost; it can be difficult to distinguish one from another. Craig's early production took more from the former than the latter, but his products always had a distinctive touch. They've always been very much "Gin" driven Gin. On the surface, this sounds stupid, but in a market where products labelled Gin can vary from 20-65% Alc/vol, be full of fruit, sugar, colours and homeopathic traces of Juniper, there is solace in knowing that if you feel like a G&T, Martini, Negroni or a Sour - Cedar Fox Gin will tick all of the boxes. They taste like Craig's Gins; he loves Juniper, he loves pushing things right out to the edge, he loves his pepper blend, but most of all he loves balance.

This stems from Craig's love of classic and authentic things; having had more than a few beverages with him over the journey - it's punchy classic IPA or crisp proper Lager that floats his boat. A taste developed during his time at White Rabbit & Mountain Goat during the glory days. In whisky land; it's the clean and pure stuff that gets him going - no mess, no fuss; probably fostered by time on the tools at Starward before the moved from Essendon Fields. Vino? Good, traditional bubbles or Chardy - can't make a link to any work experience there, so I'm going to blame his love of this stuff on his lovely wife, Ran. It's not just booze that gets him going though; many of you have walked in here and been asked for "one album please" so we can listen to something a little different and/or exciting. We've done this to Craig on more than a few occasions and haven't ever been let down; he likes it gutsy, soulful and entertaining. It's easy to draw a comparison to his booze with this analogy. Speaking of music, he's one of those jealousy-inducing cats who is very talented at more than one thing, and music is another feather in his cap. He's had a ripper of a time playing tunes here there and everywhere, in the 90s with Christbait then Dern Rutledge - now sporadic solo stuff. More about that here. This all loosely ties in together by saying Craig likes making and sharing things that I think are nice and you think will be nice too.

With all that said, I think we're in for a good time at Cedar Fox's Distillery door. It's opening this Sunday, 14th of May at It's open. It's great. Please go visit.  11 Mantell St Coburg North.

I think I'm out of words. I know this has been a pain in a butt to get going, and wish you all the best Craig. I can't wait to see how this all pans out. It's a great adventure for you, your family and Coburg.

You can check out Craig's Cedar Fox products here.

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