How We Make Our Spirits: Botanical Selection

How We Make Our Spirits: Botanical Selection

by Vanessa Wilton, Co-founder and Marketing Manager of Manly Spirits

The inspiration for our first gin came from food – we were inspired by Australia’s innovative chefs and the way they used foraged native Australian botanicals. We thought – if it works in food, why wouldn’t it work in spirits? We drew inspiration from what surrounds us – what grows around the sea or along the coast, and what Indigenous Australians have been using for many years already – it’s really about celebrating Australian native produce.

The essence of Manly Spirits is all about innovation and pushing the boundaries of what’s been done before to create distinctive spirits that celebrate the richness of the Australian coast and marine life. Our spirits take their heritage from traditional gin makers, then we experiment with Australian native and marine botanicals, foraging what we can from local beaches and the coastline. Our Australian Dry Gin uses foraged sea lettuce found a few minutes away from the distillery. Our Lilly Pilly Pink Gin uses foraged flowers found seasonally on the sand dunes of the beach – the plants stabilize the dunes and stop erosion. Our Marine Botanical Vodka uses beach cast kelp washed in from storms to give the vodka a umami flavor. We’ve deliberately created strong and distinctive flavor profiles to capture the essence of the rich botanical pantry that Australia has to offer – what we call ‘nature in a bottle.’

Our recipes are perfected through a long process of recipe development, choosing botanicals, distilling methods to fit botanicals, blending and balancing flavors. Tasting panels are an important part of our recipe development and involve quite a scientific process when evaluating nose, taste, mouth feel and finish. It’s quite an enjoyable part of the job: learning how to calibrate your taste and use descriptive language to explain what you are tasting. Our Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur uses skills of coffee roasting, cold brewing, distilling and blending.

Some botanicals distill beautifully while others are just plain dull. Once we have the right aroma, taste on the palate and a lingering finish we go about perfecting the distilling process to achieve this result. This may involve maceration process where all ingredients go into the copper pots stills together or vapor infusion where delicate botanicals are placed in a vapor basket for distilling. Sometimes due to seasonality of plants and fruit we will distil botanicals individually and then add in post distillation of the main recipe. Our Zesty Limoncello has a unique complexity from the Australian native botanicals that sets it apart from traditional limoncellos.

Here follows some descriptions of the weird and wonderful Australian Native botanicals we use in our products.

Foraged Botanicals

Location: Freshwater Beach, Sydney

Just like cooking we know that salt enhances flavor, so what better way to replicate this by using distilled sea water.  The fresh saltiness enhances the flavors in our Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, and balances the bitterness of the coffee. We reverse-distil fresh sea water into a brine or concentrate which adds a subtle freshness to our coffee liqueur.

Sea Lettuce

Location: Foraged from Curl Curl Beach, Sydney

Sea Lettuce is an algae that grows on the rock shelves, which makes it an incredibly dangerous botanical to forage (our team have the scars to prove it!).  We only collect what we need, and a little bit goes a long way as it’s important to balance the beautiful umami, oceanic character that sea lettuce brings to our spirits.

Sea Fig

Location: Foraged from Freshwater Beach, Sydney

If you’ve ever wandered around the dunes by our beautiful Australian beaches, you’ll know these beautiful, bright purple flowers well.  They can be found scattered amongst the karkalla succulents that grow on coastal dunes.  Sea fig flowers taste a little bit like salty strawberries, and give a very subtle sweet, salty taste to our Lilly Pilly Pink Gin

Location: Foraged from Whale Beach, Sydney

Sea parsley can be found growing around the sea cliffs by the beach, particularly around Whale Beach (if you’re on the Northern Beaches of Sydney).  We also get sea parsley from the coast of Western Australia depending availability and season.  As you can imagine, sea parsley has a slight saltiness to its flavor profile from the sea spray and incoming tides, combined with a fresh continental parsley character.

Australian Native Botanicals

Aniseed Myrtle

Northern Rivers, New South Wales - Organically Harvested

Aniseed myrtle is an Australian native botanical, with a menthol and herbal flavor profile, just like licorice. 



Northern Rivers, New South Wales - Organically Harvested

We use the leaves of cinnamon myrtle, which give a mild cinnamon and earthy character to our spirits.


Finger Limes

Location: Northern Rivers, New South Wales - Cultivated

Finger Lime is a rainforest fruit grown in the hinterland of the northern rivers of New South Wales and Queensland.  The lime crystals are packed with a highly concentrated lime flavor that explodes in your mouth.


Lemon Aspen

Location: Queensland

Lemon aspen can be found in tropical climates like Queensland, and has a tart lemon and grapefruit flavor profile, yet a little earthy. 



Location: Northern Rivers, New South Wales - Harvested

Lemon myrtle has a fresh aroma of citrus and a delicate menthol and eucalyptus essence, with a sweet and refreshing lemon flavor.


Lilly Pilly

Location: Northern Rivers, New South Wales & Queensland Cultivated

Lilly Pilly is a type of Riberry, which is a popular berry that grows on hedges around New South Wales and brings a tart, cranberry like flavor to our Lilly Pilly Pink Gin.


Location: Tasmania Wild Harvested & Cultivated

We use the leaf of the Mountain Pepper plant, harvested from Tasmania, which adds a mild chile and peppery character to our gin.



Location: Queensland

We use a few types of unique native limes in our Lilly Pilly Pink Gin, including Desert Lime, Rainforest Lime and Finger Lime. Desert lime has a distinctive sharp lime flavor, and rainforest lime have  



This letter was sent from the Fellows at Manly Spirits

Driven by an infectious passion to produce distinctive Australian spirits, Founders and Manly Beach locals, David and Vanessa, bring an amazing synergy to Manly Spirits Co by combining chemical engineering and creative design. Opening Sydney’s Northern Beaches’ first artisan distillery in April 2017 has seen their dream come true.

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