From the footy field to the distillery – a uniquely Australian project

April 21, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

They met on the footy field, but AFL player Daniel Motlop and Mighty Craft CEO Mark Haysman have since re-invented themselves and reconnected to collaborate on a unique and ground-breaking Australian endeavour.

Motlop played AFL for North Melbourne before moving to Port Adelaide (2006-2011) where Haysman was CEO from 2008-2011. Upon retirement, Motlop returned to Darwin and worked as an advisor on Indigenous Affairs to Chief Minister, Adam Giles. In this role, Motlop developed his interest in working with native food production for the benefit of local communities.

In 2016, Motlop and his father Eddie and brothers Steven and Shannon became majority owners of Something Wild, supplier of native Australian ingredients to restaurants and consumers around the country. In 2017 they expanded, branching out into alcohol production with the release of Green Ant Gin.

Motlop now resides in Adelaide which is where Seven Seasons’ spirits are made.

Through Something Wild and Seven Seasons, the Motlops have built strong relationships with Indigenous communities around Australia. Both businesses pride themselves on using ethical and sustainable native Australian ingredients, many of which are hand harvest by Indigenous people in the Northern Territory.

The challenge, says Motlop, has been creating a commercial supply that is big enough to create sustainable jobs. Four years on and today, more than three tonnes of fresh native ingredients – the green ants, bush apples and native yams – are bought direct from communities throughout the Top End.

Mighty Craft joined forces with Motlop in 2020 taking a 65 per cent stake in the business. With a strong, shared vision to build on the success of Green Ant Gin, they created Seven Seasons.

Mighty Craft CEO Mark Haysman sees it as an opportunity to take what is a unique and iconically Australian business to the world.

“With extensive distribution throughout Australia already in place, we have our sights firmly set on taking Daniel’s spirits around the world to shine a light on the incredible Australian native ingredients we’re able to source.

“With more ingredients becoming abundant at different points during the Larrakia seven seasons, the potential is there to formulate a full range of distilled spirits,” he said.

Seven Seasons is focused on sustainability, only harvesting what is bountiful in nature, and supporting local Aboriginal communities through both business opportunities and the Aboriginal Community Harvesters organisation.

The Larrakia people, whose homelands stretch from the Cox Peninsula to Gunn Point, the Adelaide River to Manton Dam, believe there are seven seasons, each one marked by monsoonal rain, the arrival of dragonflies, the fruiting of native cherries or other natural cycles.

“Our Larrakia family started harvesting the green ants three or four years ago and created the gin,” says Motlop, whose brother Shannon runs the harvesting operations throughout the Top End. “By employing local harvesters, we have been able to create sustainable jobs for hundreds of Aboriginal people and their payments flow back into supporting their communities, which is really what is important.

“For instance, people never had a place to sell their bush apples, so we created a market for them with some restaurants, but the volumes have been very small.  Now, with the creation of our new Bush Apple Gin, we’ve been able to include them in a commercial product and commit to buying a substantial amount from them every year.”

Seven Seasons’ is newest expression, Bush Apple Gin has just been released and a limited release of Native Yam Vodka, is planned for May. Additionally, Seven Seasons are laying down whiskies planned for release in a few years’ time.

Bush Apple Gin is a product of Monsoon Season, when the heavy rain starts, crocs lay their eggs and the barramundi are flourishing. It’s also the time the fruit of the bush apple is ready to be picked from the treetops.

In the future, more spirits related to the other four seasons – Speargrass, Goose Egg & Knock ‘Em Down Season, Barramundi & Bush Fruit Time, Heavy Dew Time and Build Up Time – will be released.

Seven Seasons Bush Apple Gin is now available from all major national and independent retailers. RRP $100 (700ml). For more information visit Seven Seasons online.

Pictured L-R: Steve Motlop, Mighty Craft CEO Mark Haysman, Daniel Motlop

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