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Lack of Indigenous-owned gin brands inspires Wiradjuri social worker to create On Country Craft Distillery

Joseph Guenzler -

On Country Craft Distillery, an Indigenous-owned distillery, has recently introduced their new line of gin comprised of native ingredients.

Wiradjuri woman, Claire Ryder, while shopping for her gin enthusiast mother during Christmas, made a surprising discovery as she noticed none of the gin brands were Indigenous owned, despite being decorated with Indigenous artwork.

Sparking an idea, she approached her local Elders with her vision to start Australia's first distillery owned solely by Indigenous women, according to the Townsville Bulletin.

"For me that was a bit of a hit. I thought we were better represented than that," she said.

"When I opted to switch from a stable career into the risky world of distillation they were very supportive and understanding.

"I am so grateful they renovated space in their home into a distillery."

Ms Ryder is a social worker who also studied distillation at Adelaide University and decided to commit a portion of the profits from On Country Craft Distillery to local community projects with a focus on empowering women.

This also includes a partnership with local pastor Lyn Munns, who runs a ministry for Indigenous women teaching them life skills like sewing and giving them a safe cultural space to sit and talk.

On Country Craft Distillery's gin showcases native botanicals, locally sourced whenever possible.

The range includes three gins, each named after a local native bird: Budgerigar Dry Gin, Peppermint Parrot Gin, and Ms. Ryder's preferred choice, 'Bin Chicken' Gin, named after the Ibis.

She told the Townsville Bulletin that "with the Bin Chicken gin we use ingredients that would otherwise go to waste".

"Lots of people have lemon myrtle trees in their yard and when they get gangly they chop off the branches and they go straight to the tip," she said.

"We offer to do the trimming, collect the green waste and turn those eaves into gin."

Ms Ryder ingeniously combines lemon myrtle with mandarin, utilising only the skins.

The leftover fruit is generously donated to a First Nations women's group, where it is transformed into jam for fundraising initiatives supporting local women's empowerment projects.

Where a lot of distilleries use essences and artificial colours and flavours, Ms Ryder says she has been "unnecessarily stubborn" and only uses whole ingredients, with no sugars or sweeteners.

"We only use bush tucker to colour it," she said, via the Townsville Bulletin.

"Each batch will vary from season to season, but it's all part of the authenticity."

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