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Interview with Distiller Jen: Women of Australian Distilling

Updated: Jan 7



Interview of Jennifer Hunt with Women of Australian Distilling

So proud to have this feature and contribute to the amazing women that the rock the Australian Gins and Spirits world!



Jennifer Hunt

Director and Head Distiller at Lily Fields Distilling Co, NSW


HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE INDUSTRY? 


Less than 1 year


WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN THE INDUSTRY?


"I've been a Drug Development Chemist in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years and about 3 years ago I started to feel I wanted to do something (really) different. The idea or dream of opening my own distillery came about because I felt that I could use my chemistry and scientific experience to develop, distill and manufacture some pretty special spirits. There was 2-3 years of research, planning, product development, obtaining licensing, finding a suitable venue for the distillery before launching in November 2022.

I quit my pharma job at the same time which was a huge risk financially, but sometimes you just have to go for it and back yourself and your capability. I've never worked so hard, but I've also never had so much fun and the reward you get from that is something truly special. I still to this day can't believe how much I've been able to use my chemistry background at the distillery - the chemistry of what's actually happening at a molecular level in the still, new product development methodology, obtaining consistency, the analytical mind, the list goes on and on. Every day I learn or relate something new and that is super exciting."


YOUR MOST PROUD MOMENTS IN THE INDUSTRY? 


"The recent Trophy, Best in Class Award in the 2023 Australian Gin Awards for our Juniper Dry Gin in the Classic Dry Gin Class.

There was so much risk in starting this new business - quitting a successful career and changing to a new industry, it took a lot of guts and I'm super proud. This trophy confirmed I have made the right decision, and I couldn't be prouder to achieve such a prestigious trophy so soon."


WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN THE INDUSTRY?


"At the same time as launching the distillery we launched a garden bar in the middle of the beer garden at the Leichhardt Bowling Club. Reflecting, this was like launching two businesses at the same time. We had zero hospitality experience, and you can imagine its rather different to doing research at a computer or running tests or trials in a laboratory! It's one of the best decisions we have made though, it's been such a great way to let people trial our products, hear our story and the directors and staff at the bowlo are all legends and super supportive. The R&D of making new drinks is pretty fun too."


WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE THAT KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT AUSSIE CRAFT SPIRITS? 


"Support Australian Distillers and Spirits. So many people don't realize that as Australians we import the majority of spirits from overseas. Buy Australian! And the tax! Australian spirits are one of the highest taxed spirits in the world. On a $78 bottle of gin they take 10% GST in addition to about $30 per bottle in excise. This needs to change."


WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?


"You should have started this journey earlier. Its honestly like it was meant to be. But go back 5 years ago and I don't think I had even remotely considered doing something like this. There was multiple things that happened, including COVID lockdown and spending so much time at home that meant I had time to reassess how I wanted to spend the rest of my career - I still have to sort of kick myself to realize what we have done.

Sometimes you just believe in yourself (and worry about the finances later)."


WHAT IS YOUR PARTY TRICK?

"I can make Gin disappear!"


WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?


"The distillery literally started as a dream, and I sat on the idea in my head for a while before telling my husband Shannon.

I thought he would just laugh at me, but the first response was "Do it".

It was his trust and believe that I could do it is what inspired me to do this and I'll never forget that.

I was also super proud when Holly Klintworth became the first female president for the Australian Distillers association. I've never met her but I hope to one day."


ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU WANT US TO KNOW?


"You be hard pressed to find someone more passionate in what they do - I'm not at all scared of hard work and I have so many ideas - watch this space!"


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