While gin and whiskey distilleries continue to pop up with almost obscene regularity, Melbourne in 2015 wasn’t too familiar with moonshine. Enter Ben Bowles and Andrew Fitzgerald, who created Melbourne Moonshine in South Melbourne.
Made from 100 per cent corn, this isn’t the loose description of homemade alcohol – Ben and Andrew have a serious distilling process that results in a range of delicious spirits.
We spoke to Ben about the decision to go into the moonshine business, Melbourne Moonshine’s journey, and their part in the South Melbourne community.
Hi Ben! Can you describe your background and how your journey led to opening Melbourne Moonshine in 2015?
“Andrew Fitzgerald and I started the Melbourne Moonshine journey in 2014. We are both engineers and met through work. At after-work drinks one evening over a glass of whiskey, Andrew mentioned he really wished he knew how to make it. I chimed in that I did know how to make whiskey and may have showed him a photo or two of my still that I had growing up in the US.
I started teaching him the basics and eventually we decided to launch our own brand. We decided on the South Melbourne distillery in late 2014, spent six months fitting it out and installing the stills and equipment, and in mid-2015 launched Melbourne Moonshine in George Street.”
While people are opening up gin distilleries and craft breweries all over the city – why did you choose to go with moonshine?
“Moonshine is what we knew. I was born and raised in the South of the US and was exposed to moonshine distilling from a young age. Also, it was something different that let us stand out a bit more.
Plus, we were planning on eventually putting out whiskey as well and moonshine is just an unaged or lightly aged version of whiskey, so moonshine aligned with our long-term goals.
The other great thing, it's delicious. Especially our Apple Pie Shine, which is probably the crowd favourite and loved by everyone, even those that don't drink a lot of spirits.”
How has Moonshine developed since you opened in 2015?
“Moonshine as a spirit category has grown since our launch in 2015. There are a number of new brands on the market, both locally produced and imported from the US. We're proud to say we're the most prominent of those brands in the market. Melbourne Moonshine is distributed throughout Australia.”
You have an interesting and delicious range of products. Can you talk about how that range has changed, and what you love about the drinks you make?
“We originally launched with our classic Moonshine – Sour Mash Shine. It's the traditional moonshine you'll get if you visit the southern part of the US. Next came our Apple Pie Shine, followed by Sweet Tea Shine, and finally Barrel Aged Shine. In that time, we also launched our MeMo Gin.
Over the journey, we've consolidated the range back to Apple Pie Shine, MeMo Gin, and Barrel Aged Shine. What I love the most about making moonshine is it reminds me of growing up in the South and I'm able to continue the family tradition and share that here in Australia.”
How has your experience been in the South Melbourne area engaging with this community?
“South Melbourne has been such a great location to us. We looked around Melbourne for at least six months before settling on the George Street facility.
We opened a coffee shop/cafe in the front of the distillery, which brought in a lot of folks from the surrounding area on a daily basis, and we made a lot of friends that way. We were also able to host two of the Live and Local music events held by the City of Port Phillip, which was amazing.”
What are some of your favourite spots in your South Melbourne area?
“Honestly, I'd have to say George Street is probably one of the coolest places in South Melbourne. A little cobblestone laneway where you can find a hip barber shop (Uncle Rocco’s), a delicious burger joint (Burger Love) and our craft distillery! Plus, there’s a CrossFit gym called FITLAB - CrossFit 3000 that’s just opened up there too. It really embodies that cool laneway vibe that Melbourne is famous for.”
What hopes do you have for future of the area?
“There is so much happening in our immediate area. There are lots of new shops that seem to be popping up, and there is a ton of construction work happening with multistory apartment buildings being created. The area is currently made up of mostly warehouses so the influx of residential buildings and people should see the area continue to grow.”
While Melbourne Moonshine isn’t open to the public, their expertly crafted range can be found in some great City of Port Phillip bars and bottle shops including:
• Freddie Wimpoles
• Hats and Tatts
• Casa De Vinos
• Decanters by the Bay
• Acland Cellars
Keep up to date with our latest blog posts for more Local Heroes championing the City of Port Phillip.