As the saying goes, a gentleman is simply a patient wolf – and patience is something you need in abundance when it comes to crafting the perfect gin. For Matt Argus and Dave Irwin, it took three years of patience and plenty of trial and error before they distilled their first bottle of Patient Wolf Gin. Despite the slow start, the first batch sold out within days.
Dave and Matt are both country boys at heart. Matt grew up on a farm in New South Wales, while Dave’s parents owned an olive grove in rural New Zealand – it’s easy to see where their desire to create something with their bare hands grew from.
Dave was living the corporate life in the UK when he fell in love with London’s craft spirit scene, most notably Sipsmith. Matt’s own stint in Europe had been peppered with trips to German, Spain and Nordic craft distilleries. When the pair eventually crossed paths at work, it wasn’t long before they discovered their shared backgrounds, ambitions and love of all things craft and local.
Driven by a desire to create a unique gin they could call their own, Matt and Dave started with a two-litre alembic pot still that they used to distill botanicals, one at a time on their stove top, before moving to a gas cooker in the garage. The three years that followed involved a lot of experimentation, a lot of research, a lot of travel and a lot of gin. When you’re trying to create a product that can hold itself on the world stage, you need to surround yourself with the best in the business – which is what Matt and Dave did.
With a bit of help from Sebastian Muller – a fourth generation German still maker – the pair was introduced to Anders Bilgram, master distiller and founder of Nordisk Gin in Denmark.
This partnership also led to a custom-built Muller still being transported across the world to a warehouse in Brunswick. While a standard still uses plates, an Aromat still contains a 10-metre continuous copper spiral column. The effect of a spiral staircase means that the temperature difference between each step in the spiral ‘staircase’ is much lower than found in the plates, allowing for a more aromatic and refined spirit. The still also contains a botanical basket, or ‘carter head’, to vapour infuse some of the fresh botanicals.
Anders stayed in touch over the next few years, testing samples and providing advice on distilling and feedback in the gin. Matt and Dave knew they were close to the final product when Anders started requesting larger than normal samples to be flown across the Atlantic.
After three years of experimentation, the first batch of Patient Wolf was ready to distill. After launching a crowd-funding campaign, the first batch sold out within a week and with good reason. Three years of hard work had paid off as industry experts began to take note.
Trish Brew from Gin Palace describes the gin as having “a palate encapsulating textural marvel. Orris commands whilst coriander seed tingles warmly and finally finishes with hints of peppercorn spice and fresh juniper.” Indeed, Patient Wolf has a distinctive texture and mouthfeel thanks to the use of tonka beans. Although the bean has a distinctive flavour, it doesn’t overpower the other botanicals in Patient Wolf’s gin.
Tonka bean isn’t the only complex botanical within the bottle. The lead citrus is organic Australian ruby grapefruit that is vapour infused into the gin in the botanical basket. Instead of the botanicals sitting in the pot, the gin vapour passes through the fresh grapefruit, along with oranges and native aniseed myrtle, which comes from the rainforests of northern New South Wales.
After three years of hard work and help from local legends in the distilling community including Gin Palace, Bad Frankie and The Ugly Duckling, Patient Wolf now has a home among the creative craft producers of Brunswick. Six months of renovations have transformed the warehouse, with exposed bricks creating the perfect backdrop for the glistening copper and stainless steel still. While Matt and Dave aim to have a cellar door and bar one day, they’ll be opening their doors for a special visit by The Gin Queen and 20 guests in April.
Patience is a virtue, but thankfully it’s a quality Matt and Dave have in spades because there’s no rushing perfection.
Patient Wolf is available at Nicks Wine Merchants, Prince Wine Store, Fitzroy Cellars, Seddon Wine Store and The Public Brewery Croydon. For a taste, head to some of your favourite bars – try the Wolftini at Brunswick Mess Hall, Husband No.9 at Howler or the Indescribable at The Ugly Duckling.
For the trade, Patient Wolf is available for wholesale through Paramount.