In Food + Drink

The Carpenter Who Moonlights As A Boutique Gin Distiller

At Ambleside Distillery, all the spices are local - including the jalapeno.

There comes a time for everyone where you sit back and question whether life is how you expected it to be. For carpenter Matthew Dickson, of Ambleside Distillery, this moment catapulted at him. He always loved working with his hands, which is what drew him to the building industry. But the reality didn’t match his dream life.

Matthew Dickson with his partners Trudy and Steve. Photo: SuppliedDuring those long days working out in the hot South Australian sun, his mind would wander back to his time working in hospitality in London. This is where his keen taste in the distillery scene emerged. During his time on our English sister’s shores, Dickson was lucky enough to have Sipsmith Gin and Fever tree tonic delivered to the pub he was working.

This new style of boutique gin opened his eyes to how adventurous and delicious a G&T could be.In 2016, Dickson returned home and, after two years of research and development (plus a whole lot of gin tastings), he launched the Ambleside Distillery. While he didn’t completely give up his tools – he still works as site manager for a commercial builder – he sure doesn’t go thirsty after a hard day’s work.

Specialising in handcrafted, locally batched gin, Dickson and his parents, Trudy and Steve, offer gin lovers an experience similar to cellar doors and breweries. Set in a scenic acreage property in the charming town of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, Ambleside Distillery is for kicking back, sipping handcrafted signature gin, paired with locally-sourced eats.

“We have lived in the Adelaide hills for nearly 30 years and in Hahndorf for 15 years. We love the region and the sense of community you get up here. We wanted to have a physical premises where we could interact with our customers and give them a memorable experience. There really was no question when deciding where to set up,” Dickson says.

The secret recipe

“We have access to some amazing produce and the distillery incorporates locally-grown and sourced products where possible. Our three signature gins – Big Dry Gin, No. 8 Botanical Gin and Small Acre Gin – that have been crafted from each of our own personal tastes, use some of our home-grown botanicals from the distillery garden,” Dickson says.

Using a handcrafted copper still, the trio produce sensational batches of gin that showcase their individual tastes and favourable botanicals. For summer in a glass, go the No. 8 with its local citrus and classic botanicals. Or heat up in winter with the Big Dry, thanks to the secret ingredient, jalapeno.

Even the bottles are designed by hand, with an artisan appeal. If your love for gin is bordering on obsession, Ambleside have an online marketplace for cool gear like caps, tees and hoodies.

When asked ‘why Adelaide’ to launch his distillery, Dickson believes it’s because Adelaide is supports niche products, especially in the food and wine scene.

“It’s easy to get get around and there’s plenty of places to keep you busy. I’m a firm believer that Adelaide has some of the best food and drink in the world, so experiencing that is what I enjoy most,” he says.

“We’ve had great responses from the gin industry in Adelaide. I think everyone here is trying to push the boundaries and were starting to lead the way for boutique distilleries in Australia. We already have a strong food and wine identity, so adding this is like adding another string to Adelaide’s bow.”


Published 21 February, 2018