Australian craft spirits distiller 78° wins top global awards

3 June 2022

Adelaide Hills craft distillery 78° couldn’t be happier. As ‘Distillers of the Year’ at the London 2020 Icons of Gin awards, the seven-year-old distillery beat a 500-year-old London Dry Gin recipe.

Competing in a country that is the home of gin drinkers would never be easy. As 78° founder and head distiller Sacha La Forgia says: ‘We offer something based on the London Dry but different. There’s an exceptional history for gin in the UK. But there’s not a lot of variability.’

The Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UK FTA) will bring the distillery’s award-winning gin to more UK drinkers. Due to enter into force later this year, the FTA will lower the current duty on importing spirits into the UK by around £8 per bottle.

‘The A-UK FTA will be great for us. It will make us more competitive,’ says La Forgia.

Austrade has been a constant companion on the distillery’s export journey. ‘Austrade really helps us with our exports,’ says La Forgia. ‘We now operate in a lot of markets. My knowledge comes into play once we are in market. What Austrade does is help us get there. It demystifies the legal stuff, which in the US, for instance, was extremely helpful.’

Focus on quality and experimentation bring awards

78° brings the distinctive and unique Australian native fruit and plant flavours to the distilling process. These include the strawberry gum, lemon myrtle, quandongs, rye berries, rosella flower and wattleseed.

‘These highly flavoured indigenous plants, which are ancient super foods, have evolved naturally to flourish in what is the oldest continent on earth,’ explains La Forgia. ‘Unlike almost all botanicals that are used as “foods”, they have not been manipulated by people.’

It is because of La Forgia’s commitment to experimentation and research, and focus on quality, that the craft distillery is winning world awards. ‘We are always looking to get better and better, hence our 78˚ Better Ginand our Purveyor of Better initiatives,’ Forgia explains.

‘Crafted for better’ – sustainability is the key

‘Crafted for Better’ reflects everything 78° believes in. It rallies around quality hand-crafted spirits, sustainable production, the use of mindfully gathered Australian botanicals, and the connection to local community.

‘Crafted for Better’ is something we firmly believe will make for a better, more enjoyable and sustainable world,’ says La Forgia. A portion of sales from the 78˚ Better Gin goes directly back to the local community and charity. ‘This is what better looks like to us,’ he explains. ‘It’s not just about the phenomenal liquid in the glass.’

78°does its best not to waste anything. In a world-renowned winegrowing region, it uses alcohol that is repurposed from the waste of the wine industry. This is contrary to most gins in the world, which are made from grain.

‘We take something that is repurposed for the bin, which I think is better than the alternatives. All the botanicals we use for flavouring are fed to the animals on the property,’ La Forgia explains.

For its whisky, 78° uses grain from South Australia, which in turn feeds the cows on the property. Its one skip bin with waste material from packaging is emptied weekly. All its water comes from waste material. It is put through reverse osmosis to be cleaned for use, with the residue returned to the crops.

Attention to detail boosts growth

It is this attention to detail that caught the eye of seasoned distillers globally. After working on 13 vintages in famed winemaking regions across the globe, La Forgia graduated to a Grappa distillery. Here, the head distiller recognised La Forgia’s ability and passion, and encouraged him to start his own distillery. 

In 2014, La Forgia founded the 78° Distillery. ‘Water boils at 100°, and alcohol at 78°, so that is the magic number that lets us distil,’ explains La Forgia. ‘For our gin, all our botanicals are extracted at 78°, which is much lower than other distilleries.’ This means their inherent goodness and specialist flavours remain. 

In 2016, Steve Dorman and Toby Kline of The Hills Cider Company joined La Forgia. Together they embarked on expanding the product range and increasing production capabilities. 

Two years later, 78° moved into a new home, shared with The Hills Cider Company, Mismatch Brewing Co, Vinteloper and Ashton Valley Fresh. As a collective of state-of-the-art distilleries with a restaurant, their Lot 100 site now comes under the umbrella of Mighty Craft. Mighty Craft is an Australian premium craft drinks company, listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. Its purpose is to help its craft companies scale production, distribution and sales.

By combining La Forgia’s family motto – ‘The best drink is the one you like’ – with the muscle of Mighty Craft and Austrade, 78° is poised to take on the world. 

Last year, at the 2021 American Distilling Institute (ADI) Craft Spirit Awards, 78° received top accolades for its whiskey and gin. Along with ADI’s recognition and success in the UK and Japan, 78° is solidifying its position as one of the world’s most highly regarded craft distilleries. 

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