That's the Spirit
The Top End’s hospo scene has gone gangbusters over the past few years, with bespoke bars and restaurants popping up from the CBD to the ‘burbs. And although options to stock venues with locally crafted spirits and beers was once scarce, these days, there’s plenty of local to love. Speargrass Distillery is the latest spirit crafting facility to join the ranks.
By Tierney Seccull
You may know him from Dom’s Bar in Nightcliff, but this new distillery located in Coconut Grove is the true passion and longtime vision of Dom Wundke.
“When I was 18, I was hitchhiking around eastern Europe and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I ended up working in a small village making rakija, which is like the national drink of Serbia, on their copper wood-fired two-hundred-litre still, a beautiful old machine … It was nearly 500-years-old, continuously repaired, so I had the opportunity to learn how to distil on that,” he says.
“I realised what a spirit is, that it has a connection to a place and the flavours that come from that place – what fruits and grain and ingredients are available to make spirits with.”
As well as showcasing native flavours, Darwin’s newest distiller appreciates the ceremony of coming together to share a tipple.
“It’s this whole social system around it, of bringing people together, it’s about community, you know? That's what rakija is for eastern Europe but it’s the same all over the world, like tequila is the spirit of Mexico, the spirit of Jalisco. I was blown away by all of that.”
After his stint in Europe, Dom returned to his then home of Adelaide and his environmental science degree, where he studied botany and geology whilst working in the wine industry. These experiences combined with his time overseas planted the seed for Speargrass, arming him with the know-how and passion required to take the leap.
“What Speargrass is all about is what the plant is all about. It’s integral to all the seasons up here. It dries out at the end of the Wet, through the Dry it burns and, at various stages, spear grass controls the temperature and the speed in which fire moves through the landscape,” Dom says.
The Darwin-based distillery celebrates the region of northern Australia, from Queensland to Western Australia, featuring botanicals found in this area.
“There are so many native flavours to explore, and then we have this proximity to Asia. At the Rapid Creek Markets, we’ve got all these amazing flavours – we’ve got dragonfruit, lemongrass – we want to use all of that.”
With plans to launch an online shop for retail sales very soon, you can sample first cab off the rank, Speargrass Vodka, at plenty of hot spots around town. You can even find it at Dom’s Bar throughout December in a special Off The Leash cocktail called the Tropical Desert. Cin-cin!