Interview: Co-Founder and Head Distiller discusses Four Pillars’ current positioning

June 13, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Since being founded in 2013, Australia’s leading craft gin brand Four Pillars has firmly established itself as a worldwide industry benchmark. It’s accolades, now numerous, include being named the IWSC’s Gin Producer of the Year in 2019, 2020, and 2023 respectively, along with receiving the top score of any gin in the world at the IWSC 2024 for its Barrel Aged Bloody Underhill Shiraz Gin earlier this month. 

Four Pillars has recently been leaning into this growth through various structural changes, including the installment of a new international team and through becoming fully owned by Lion as part of its new Four Corners spirits arm.

Drinks Trade recently reached out to Co-Founder and Head Distiller Cameron Mackenzie, who was recently inducted into both the Australian Distillers’ Hall of Fame and Gin Magazine’s Hall of Fame, to discuss Four Pillars’ current positioning.

Drinks Trade: How important are the recent accolades for both Four Pillars and yourself?

Cameron Mackenzie: These awards are humbling to say the least.  We are such a young business but it sometimes surprises us just how far we’ve come in the last 10 years. The same can be said for Australian distilling – we are making world class spirits in pretty much every category.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people who constantly make me look good! I’d be the first to say that our whole team is embedded in these awards, so whilst they are a nice personal accolade I really believe they are for the team.

DT: As Head Distiller, what do you feel Four Pillars is doing differently now compared to in the past?

CM: To start with I think the gins are better! In the early days we struggled to keep up so we had to rush the gin into bottle. I liked the gins but they are significantly better now. Now that we have space and loads of tanks we can slow down the movement of gin from distilling to bottle. Our solera of Rare Dry Gin is around 40,000 litres which means the gin fleshes out better and has brilliant consistency whether it’s bottled in January or December.

DT: Any insight into future plans?

CM: Innovation remains on our radar. The focus will always be Rare Dry and Bloody Shiraz, but we have some wonderful small batch projects that will keep things interesting. The most recent release was a barrel aged gin that was finished in Lark barrels. That’s the first in a series of whisky barrel finished gin.

DT: How has the process of becoming integrated into Lion been and what does the new Four Corners spirits arm mean for the future of Four Pillars?

CM: Truthfully, it was always going to be a challenge because combining platforms and systems and processes is rarely easy. We are trying to find the balance between what Lion can bring to our business and what we can bring to Lion but it’s not a race so we need to be mindful not to disrupt momentum and creativity. And at the end of the day, our focus remains on producing top quality gin. 

DT: Any thoughts/feelings about Asahi buying Never Never, and/or about how this might impact Australia’s craft gin industry?

CM: I’m thrilled for the Never Never team! They thoroughly deserve every success – a great team making world class gin.

It’s a great sign that Australian distilling, and indeed gin, is still worth investing in. We need more investment in the industry so we can grow beyond a cottage industry and into a respected global player. I am hoping more smaller distilleries take the ambitious step to grow and attract investment.

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