Jane Baker describes the moment of launching Mrs Baker’s Still House as “less of a light-bulb moment and more like someone slowly drawing the curtains back”.
In 2015, Jane and her husband Benjamin were running their vineyard, winery and cottage accommodation in Glenpatrick, Victoria.
“At the time I was also working in Melbourne, in part, to fund the ‘dream’ of living at our home in the country, growing and making wine,” says Jane.
“I would commute from our beautiful valley in Glenpatrick to Fitzroy each week for work, it was often on these long drives or around the family dinner table that new product ideas or improvements would start to form.
“The idea at the time was to keep diversifying our shiraz wine range. We bought a still and got ourselves licensed to produce high-percentage alcohol to be able to make fortified wine.”
One day, with a handful of freshly picked herbs from the kitchen garden and experimenting with their “shiny new toy”, Benjamin and his father made their first gin which would become known as the ‘Sensual & Intellectual’ dry gin.
“I don’t remember the exact decision making moment when we decided to make gin on a business scale but I do remember it being a rather natural addition for us. We were already in the liquor industry making and selling a product, so it wasn’t a big step for us to start selling gin as well," says Jane.
In 2016, the curtains were fully drawn back and Mrs Baker’s Still House was officially established. Tucked away in the quiet Glenpatrick valley of the Pyrenees Ranges, Mrs Baker's Still House is a female lead micro-distillery making award winning gins and liqueurs. It’s a family affair with Jane working alongside her two daughters, Elizabeth the distiller and Georgette the designer.
The tight knit team share a passion for low-impact production methods, sourcing locally grown botanicals and using an award winning 100 per cent solar-powered distillation process.
“At our distillery we have a wonderful worm farm that munches its way through garden waste, distillery waste and cardboard. We have a water treatment pond that is teaming with frogs, and then the water moves into the orchard. We have a system where locals return their empty gin bottles to be re-sterilized and re-used,” says Jane.
“Mrs Baker’s Still House is not perfect; we still generate waste, we still have to use plastic. But we are mindful about each input, and how it will be in the end. We produce our own water and we produce our own electricity.”
Although the spirits industry often appears maledominated, Jane says women have played a significant role in the history of distillation.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged in the wine industry, that a young female has the most discerning palette for identifying and blending flavours. There are a number of great Australian female winemakers, but the majority (of the workforce) are middle to late aged males.
“The spirits industry is somewhat different, we have just elected our first female president for our professional association, the Australian Distillers Association, and there are a number of great organisations like Women of Australian Distilling.
“One of the challenges for a young female in the distillery industry is how to balance pregnancy and breast feeding while being in a workplace where sensory analysis (smell, taste) is an important part of distilling, to determine when to make the cuts from heads to hearts to tails.”
Jane acknowledges that the distillery industry faces other challenges such as the movement toward non and low-alcoholic beverages, cost of electricity and other fuel sources, sustainability, and knowing what your customers want before they do.
“Consumers are always looking for the next big thing. Over the last six years, gin has been a great vehicle for providing an ongoing, wide range of new flavours. As with any business, being one idea ahead of your customers is vital so you can skill up, manufacture and package, and get to market just as the customer starts to purchase,” says Jane.
“My tips for the future – gin will continue but there will be less variety and Australian grown mezcal will be the next focus, but it won't boom because it takes a while to grow agave. Whisky is slowly and quietly sneaking up, but the whisky distilleries have to play the slow and steady race.”
Mrs Baker’s Still House is working on its own single malt whisky, to be released in 2023.
“My daughter’s are keen to be a part of the movement to make whisky that women like; richer, smoother flavours with less overt smokey-ness,” says Jane.
Jane is now living her dream of residing in the country, growing and making wine with just one mission in mind.
“I have a little secret mission: to succeed. To prove the doubters wrong. I want to create a successful, family-centered, environmentally sustainable business which creates delish and provenance appropriate spirits that show regional distinction, and eventually make people sit up and notice what we have done.”
Mrs Baker’s Still House is located at 606 Elmhurst-Glenparick Road, Elmhurst, Victoria. Book a gin blending masterclass, cellar door tour, or shop the award winning range of gin online.