ANN HOULIHAN | GREAT OCEAN ROAD GIN
How did you end up becoming a Distiller?
I consider myself a producer or a maker, not a distiller just yet. Our base gin is still made in collaboration with another distillery, but Great Ocean Road Gin; the company and concept are my business. With a sea change in 2017 also came a career change. A love of quality gin and having been exposed to Australian spirits as the industry was first emerging in Australia provided an opportunity, I would later explore in developing my own gin company. I was responsible for the development of Australia’s first spirit competition in my role at the Royal Agricultural Association of Victoria. When I left my position in 2017, I wanted to create a gin that was of its place, and so I set about to develop a coastal gin that was unique to the Great Ocean Road.
Why does distilling fill your cup?
Producing a quality premium gin and offering a fabulous customer experience are what inspire me in our business. Having award winning gins and our unique tasting room and gin garden on the coast at Aireys Inlet where people can enjoy the gin are what I enjoy most about being in this business. Our next exciting stage will be the development of our distillery in Torquay; so, work on that project and new gins to be released on our new still also ‘fill my cup’!
How are women impacting the distilling industry in Australia?
There are lots of women entering in the industry in Australia – not only as distillers, or producers, but in many supporting roles, all of which are adding to the growth, profile and promotion of Australian spirits locally and internationally. There are some fabulous high-quality gins, whisky, brandy, liqueurs etc being made by women and we should continue to support, celebrate and consume them?
Describe yourself in four words.
Creative, committed, honest (sometimes too honest), beach bum!
If you were a cocktail what would you be?
COASTAL MARAGRITE (classic & coastal with a twist!)
47.5ml Great Ocean Road Gin Guvvos (contemporary dry gin)
12.5ml Maidenii Dry Vermouth (our favourite vermouth to pair w our gins)
2 drops of Honest John Orange Bitters
Stir down the gin, vermouth and bitters w ice, pour into a chilled retro Martini or Coupe glass, add an Absinthe spray and garnish w a lemon twist.
What’s your favourite Great Ocean Road Gin & what is the best way to enjoy it?
Depends on the day and my mood, but I am enjoying our small batch Grapefruit-cello gin served short with Capi Dry Tonic, lots of ice and an orange twist or when in season a slice of blood orange.
What would you say to women wanting to pursue a career in the Australian spirits industry?
Go for it!
Who has had the biggest impact on your career?
In terms of women there have been two – early in my F&B career Natalie O’Brien who was the CEO of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival for 17 years. She was an inspiring leader, incredibly hard working and devoted to her role and very supportive of our team. The second is one of my besties Pearls, owner operator at Madam Brussels; for her strong business acumen in running a very successful Melbourne rooftop bar while having lots of fun doing it!
More recently the person who has had the biggest impact would be Sebastian Raeburn from Anther Spirits who helped me develop my gin recipe and got me on the road with the first production of my gin. He has been an amazing and generous mentor who I respect enormously.
Favourite botanical to work with and why?
Local native botanicals – there are 9 and all make my gin unique to this location – kelp, saltbush, eucalyptus, coast daisy, hop wattle, pig face to name a few
The global theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is ‘women in leadership’. What attributes do you feel make a good female leader?
Honesty, trust, mutual respect and leading by example are all important attributes that I look for in a leader, be it a man, or a woman. These traits are important to me and have been key to how I lead in management positions I have had in other organisations and now with my own small business. I also think it’s a really important trait to admit failure and learn from our mistakes.
GREAT OCEAN ROAD GIN