Bush booze: Indigenous Australian botanicals make a splash in Italy

Lemon myrtle, wattle seed, sea parsley, bush mint: they’re not the usual ingredients you’d expect to find listed on the back of a bottle of rum, gin or an Italian-made Indian Pale Lager. But this is some of the uniquely Australian produce that will be served up to eager throngs of food-savvy visitors attending the holy grail of global food festivals, Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, in Italy next week.

Expected to attract a million people to the historic Italian city of Turin, Terra Madre is the Slow Food movement’s flagship event and an unparalleled biennial gathering of producers, chefs, educators, activists and foodies from 140 countries across the globe.

This intoxicating offering of Australian “bush booze” is the product of two award-winning West Australian distillers and a collaboration between Italian craft brewery, Lirenas Birrificio, and the Slow Food Swan Valley and Eastern Regions convivium.

Kimberley Rum Company jumped at the chance to have its Maiden Voyage Spiced Rum join other artisanal WA products including Old Young’s Six Seasons gin on the tasting table at Slow Food SV’s Terra Madre stall.

“We would like to expose the world to a whole new shopping list of ingredients that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in Australia away from the interference of other native varieties,” said Kimberley Rum Company Managing Director, Ryan Passmore.


MV rum

“Subtle citrus and earthy notes cleanse the palette.” (Maiden Voyage Spiced rum)

Starting life as barrel strength Canefire Rum, Maiden Voyage Spiced Rum is then cut with Swan Valley water and spiced with Australian wattle seed and lemon myrtle as well as a select combination of traditional vanilla, cinnamon and clove.

“We trialled some 30 different spices in combination with one another and the lemon myrtle and wattle seed combination with creamy vanilla was a clear winner,” explained Mr Passmore.

Award-winning Swan Valley gin and vodka distiller, James Young, originally developed his Six Seasons gin in consultation with Fervor’s Head Chef Paul Iskov and Wardandi Bibbulmun elder Dale Tilbrook for a collaborative degustation dinner at Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery in February 2016.

Mr Young wanted the premium Six Seasons gin to tell an authentic story of the Noongyar seasonal calendar and chose six native botanicals including bush mint, juniper and lemon myrtles, desert lime, sea parsley and Thryptomene flowers to evoke this spirit. The result is an overwhelmingly savoury, herbal and earthy palette with a citrus base that has resonated strongly with gin aficionados and casual drinkers alike.

“Our aim at Terra Madre is to celebrate our world-class WA producers who subscribe to the good clean and fair ethos of Slow Food and to showcase Australian indigenous ingredients to the world,” said Slow Food SV convivium leader and chef Vincenzo Velletri.

Terra Madre presents a phenomenal opportunity for WA producers to connect with international importers, chefs and other food industry influencers from all over the world to promote their products, share their traditional knowledge and develop pathways into new markets.

Unable to find a willing WA brewer to participate in the creation of a lemon myrtle-infused beer for Terra Madre, Mr Velletri drew on his vast Italian networks to realise his plan. Master brewer Massimiliano Marino from craft brewery Lirenas Birrificio in central Italy answered the call and together they created Mirtèa.


“Slow Food Swan Valley appreciated our company, our production method, which is traditional and rigorously artisanal, and the fact that we produce and use our own raw materials,” explained Mr Marino.

Made with lemon myrtle sourced from regional Western Australia, Mirtèa pours with a deep, golden hue. The slow maturing beer is unfiltered and unpasteurised, preserving its natural flavours and aromas, which hint at rosewater and honey with spicy overtones of lemon myrtle and delicate lime notes.

“Before even producing Mirtèa, the unique, refreshing aroma of lemon myrtle hit us straight away and we knew it would be appreciated by the numerous visitors to Terra Madre,” said Mr Marino.

Lirenas Birrificio has produced a “notable quantity” of Mirtèa bottles ready to satisfy the crowds at the Swan Valley tasting table and plans to produce and sell the beer commercially at its brewery after the event.

Three respected Aboriginal elders will accompany the WA delegation this year including Dale Tilbrook who has sourced and supplied many of the indigenous herbs, condiments, dukkah, olive oils and nuts that will also be available for tasting and sale at the only Australian stall in the international market.

“Food tourism is the fastest growing sector and we’re perfectly placed in Australia and WA, in particular, to take advantage of this. We’ve got great local produce and bush food with a contemporary twist,” Ms Tilbrook said.


For more information contact:

Jo Thierfelder
Freelance journalist // communications consultant
(+61) 421 589 548