STORY BY SARAH LANG
We erroneously referred to the founder of Herbal Lore as John McLean and not Roger McLean.
We apologise so much to Roger and have corrected the online version.
Drive to the eastern edge of Daylesford, where the elms begin to give way to farmland. Turn at the Farmers Arms and just before you get to the old railway bridge, take a left and follow the road for a few hundred metres to the old butter factory on your left. What you’re confronted with is a building that is distinctly Ye Olde Worldly, even King Arthur. The air filled with the aromas of herbs brewing away. The greeting is positively old fashioned and charming.
This is Herbal Lore. A distillery that, despite the Olde World artifice, is only celebrating their 10th birthday this month. And despite the bygone days theme, the team here are up to date and on trend with award-winning gin along with some very contemporary sounding coffee vodka. The gin and vodka are produced under Terra Australis, the fortified liqueurs are Herbal Lore. The tall elegant liqueur bottles are adorned with beautiful ornate labels reminiscent of medieval times. Each liqueur is distilled with a unique blend of herbs – all lending their alleged medicinal properties to the beverage. “Alcohol assists the herbs to get into your system quickly,” says master distiller and founder, Roger McLean. “You will be drawn to the liqueur with the healing properties you need the most,” he says. I really enjoyed tasting all of them, so I am left wondering whether I’m either a complete lush or in need of a lot of healing!
The two standouts for me are the Ginseng and the Midnight Desire. The first is distilled using Siberian Ginseng. It’s a deep burgundy in colour but not as thick as a traditional tokay or fortified. It has an almost berry flavour and whilst you can taste the ginseng, it is a really pleasant flavour which is a welcome surprise from someone who used drink the tiny vile vials prescribed by a Chinese doctor back in the 90s. An enormous glass jar with a bizarre looking tuber sits on the back shelf. “That incredible thing is Tasmanian ginseng,” boasts Roger proudly. “It is gigantic compared to Siberian and I believe it to be far superior.” It all adds to the ambience and vibe of the room - this is not only a place for enjoying a tipple or three, but a place of healing and medicine. The second of the liqueurs that I am drawn to is called “Midnight Desire”. I wince slightly at what this implies but curious nonetheless. It is a deep golden colour with flavours of honey and ginger. “This,” Roger leans in almost whispering, “is distilled with Damiana.” Pretty sure I stared blankly back at him so he graciously explained. “Damiana is an ancient herb from Mayan times that is a powerful aphrodisiac. But it also has many other healing properties. For women need to be happy in their heart before they can be happy ‘down there’.” I laugh nervously, before asking if I can take the bottle home.
Whether or not these herbal liqueurs can cure you of all your ails is something I am not qualified to say, but a visit to Herbal Lore with generous free tastings is incredibly enjoyable and I felt rather exhilarated upon my departure. With my Midnight Desire tucked firmly under my arm.
Herbal Lore and Terra Australis, 2 Railway Crescent Daylesford. Open Friday – Monday 10am-5pm or by appointment. herballoreliqueurs.com