Remember when beer was beer and whisky was just something you poured coke into?
Well, the alcohol industry (and my palate) have moved on since then.
Like the explosion of craft beer — IPA, XPA, NEIPA, the list goes on — which can be complicated for even the most seasoned drinker, craft spirits have matured in Australia.
Enter Limeburners whisky and University gin.
Camera IconThe labels are the creation of West Aussie master distiller Cameron Syme (pictured), who would be the first to admit choices among craft spirits can be overwhelming. Credit: David Biesse
The labels are the creation of West Aussie master distiller Cameron Syme, who would be the first to admit choices among craft spirits can be overwhelming.
But Syme wants quality spirits to be accessible, both for fans and those who have never had gin or whisky before, and everyone in between.
His latest venue, Limeburners & University in the Valley, will bring his award-winning spirits within a stone’s throw of Perth and give visitors a chance to learn about the product and distilling process through the gin and whisky blending classes — where there is much to take in (especially for an Export and cheap red wine drinker).
Camera IconGin blending at University in Margaret River. Credit: Supplied
During a tasting, worried I’d be ruining a $300 bottle of whisky by topping up my glass with water, Syme put me at ease.
“You can think of whisky like cordial… you can have it to your taste,” he said.
“There is no harm in adding water… in fact, I encourage you to… it helps bring out flavor.”
Camera IconThe venue is slated to open on Friday, June 10 — ambitious considering it was largely a construction site when we visited in late May. View from the restaurant pictured. Credit: Supplied
The new site at Carilley Estate in Herne Hill, which Syme bought in December, is being refurbished into a 200-seat venue boasting a restaurant, bar, cellar door, and function space. Its opening will mark the first whisky on show in the region.
Syme has repurposed wine barrels from his new neighbors at John Kosovich, Talijancich, and Olive Farm Wines, which he says will add unique flavors to his whisky and gin.
Although distilling will still be based in Albany for Limeburners and Margaret River for Giniversity, the new spot will have them on the menu.
Camera IconBar Manager Sean Walker and his Outer Reef cocktail. Credit: Supplied
The venue is slated to open on Friday, June 10 — ambitious considering it was largely a construction site when we visited in late May — but the ‘open plan’ concept was clear.
Most importantly, the bar has undergone a modern makeover, featuring ‘Kit Kat’ tiles and a slick timber benchtop incorporating parts of the old ceiling. It’s the perfect space for bar manager Sean Walker (formerly of Coogee Common and Santini Bar and Grill) to showcase the cocktail list with creations such as the experimental Outer Reef — made with Giniversity’s Indian Ocean Gin, orange and sage verjus, plum and ginger beer.
The restaurant space features new parquet flooring, a freshly painted ceiling, and large French doors designed to draw the eye out to the garden, which will grow botanicals used in University gin.
“I have wanted to share my products in the city for a while, but we had to find the right space. Carilley Estate had the perfect location and structure to work with,” Syme said.
The food menu, spearheaded by head chef Trevor McGill (formerly of Murin Murin and the Swan Yacht Club), and designed by consultant and renowned chef Stuart Laws, is completely gluten-free.
Syme played down the concept as a talking point, stressing it wasn’t hard to create a full menu without gluten (except bread!).
“We all know someone who’s gluten intolerant,” he said,
“We didn’t go out of our way to create a gluten-free menu.”
It features classic shared dishes such as croquettes, meatballs, chicken wings, and pizza, and more filling options like the pulled pork burger with a pickled slaw or the veggie burger.
And no trip to the Swan Valley is complete without a charcuterie board. Gourmet grazing platters showcasing local seafood and cheeses will be available.
Camera IconMost importantly, the bar has undergone a modern makeover, featuring ‘Kit Kat’ tiles and a slick timber benchtop incorporating parts of the old ceiling. Credit: Supplied
The dessert menu will boast treats from Champagne and Gumboots — an exclusively gluten-free patisserie owned by baker Stacey Dadd just 800 meters down the road.
Save room for the lemon cheesecake with Botanical Gin, tonic gel, or a Limeburners Whisky Pecan Pie.
The venue said the menu will start with shared plates in the first few weeks but will soon build into full service.
It will open seven days a week until 6 pm, with plans to open until midnight on Friday and Saturday shortly.
Camera IconThe lemon cheesecake with Botanical Gin and tonic gel. Credit: Supplied
Despite over 180 awards and his recent induction into the Australian Whisky Hall of Fame, Syme’s approach to business remains unpretentious and inclusive.
It shines through in the coeliac-friendly food menu and spirit blending classes and Syme’s intent to source local produce and collaborate with nearby businesses. It truly is a venue for everyone.
Limeburners & University in the Valley at 45 Hyem Road, Herne Hill, opens on Friday, June 10.
Peter Devlin was a guest of Limeburners & University in the Valley. They did not see or approve this article before it was published.