Josh Dobson, Dobson’s Distillery

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If you fancy a Gin and Tonic, you may have heard about the amazing new creation from Dobson’s Distillery, Dobson’s Sweet Pea Gin. With a rich and deep blue colour, it literally transforms in the glass to a purple or pink hue, depending on what it is mixed with. Josh Dobson (son of the well known distiller Steve Dobson) has returned to the New England and is the brain behind the booze. FOCUS sits and sips with Josh, who tells us about this chameleon spirit.

Tell us a little bit about yourself …

I’m originally from the Northern Beaches of Sydney. After studying and teaching, travelling the world, I thought it may be time to pursue something a little different. So I made the decision to move from the lovely beaches of Sydney to this amazing rural setting! It has been a bit of a transition, but I’m loving being a part of this awesome community.

Did you always have the passion for the creation of boutique spirits?

I had an interest in it, but it wasn’t something that I had a great understanding about, or was particularly driven to do. It was something a bit different, challenging and cool to experience something out of my skillset. When I tried it, I found the mix of scientific and the creative aspects seemed really interesting and captivating. Also, I really enjoy the pace of life out here (Eastview Estate – Kentucky).

How did you come up with “Sweet Pea”?

Well, there was a lot of encouragement from my dad to keep pushing the boundaries and keep finding new
flavours. He was always pushing us to create new flavours and products. Ian (Distiller) and I have tried a variety of ideas, once I really focused on it and chose what I really wanted out of it. Because I didn’t have an alcohol connoisseur background, I felt I was free to create something that I liked, as I wasn’t bound by some of the rules that may hold others back.

I set out to create something really natural and to capture the flavour of the fruits involved in the production. So when it came to the actual production of Sweet Pea, I knew I loved mandarin, grapefruit and tangelo; I knew that I wanted to drink something that incorporated them in a significant way.

I did have some inspiration from some other Australian gins too. The Legume Butterfly Pea Flower, which grows in South East Asia, traditionally has medicinal properties ranging from stress relief to memory enhancement. The use of it in the world of cocktails and bar is quite limited in Australia.

After the numerous tests, trial runs and tastings, what came next? Did you take it to Dad (Steve Dobson) and say, “What do you think of this?”

Well, Dad and Ian were helping me taste it as I went along. But you do find that not everyone’s tastebuds are aligned and everyone has a different opinion about it, so, while we did go back and forth a few times, once a flavour and colour that I liked was established, the big issues was the scientific stuff, bottling etc. – like how to create it so the proteins wouldn’t settle in it. Also, there is a quite long clarification process that the spirit has to go through to make sure it is at a level of neutrality and purity. Nailing down the flavour was the hardest bit, just finding the balance.

Did you know that it would change to a different colour as you add a mixer to it?

Yes, after experimenting with the Butterfly Pea, we did know that it would have that effect. It was just finding the quantity and quality of the colour we wanted to add to get the correct shade. As it is a neutral flavour, any smell of the flower itself is washed out by the distilling process.

So now, you’ve got your flavours sorted, ratios sorted, then came scaling it up to a larger format. What was next in the process?

At the moment we are producing at the rate of 100 – 200 bottles per week; it’s quite limited, as we have to share the resources equipment-wise as well as ingredient-wise amongst such a broad range of products. So, we do have to be conservative in how much we produce; however, at the moment, we are having our products sold out across the region, so we are looking at ways to expand the production line, as well as increasing our yields too. We are hoping to eventually can it and do a pre-mixed version.

What’s next next for Sweet Pea?

It’s currently been entered in the Australian Distilled Spirits Award; while it is a quite competitive competition, we hope it will get a place in that. Also, it’s really nice to get some feedback outside the local community, where everyone is so supportive. It’s also making its way to the San Fransisco World Spirit Competition, which is one of the largest comps in the world.

So, what’s next for your journey as a distiller?

Look, there are always new products and ideas we are working on. I personally really want to capitalise on the popularity of Sweet Pea and see how far we can spread it around. As of right now, at the qualities we are producing we can only really meet the demand to the local area. I would like to see where it could go on a global format.

Thanks Josh.

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