At a time when Australia's craft spirits scene was yet to kick into gear, Griffin Blumer and Jesse Kennedy pulled their inspiration from overseas, spurred on by a desire to give locals a taste of something fresh and exciting. And that something was their debut creation, Poor Toms Sydney Dry Gin.
It was back in their Enmore share house that the two mates — already keen gin-thusiasts — started exploring a whole new world of international gins.
We talk to the gin duo about finding a core audience and ultimately staying true to yourself.
"We discovered all these different gins from around the world that were doing new things, and I guess a light bulb went off," Blumer explains. "Each gin was bringing something new to the table based on its geography and the mentality of these small producers, and we were like, 'why isn't anyone doing that here?'" he says.
"There are all these unique ingredients here. Australians have a good attitude towards experimenting with new products and flavours, and it just made sense that someone would be doing this in Sydney. That's when it all kind of clicked."
A little dose of inspiration from sources closer to home helped to seal the deal. "Our house was really close to a couple of new breweries, and seeing how they were experimenting with new styles did inspire us somewhat — that there probably was a market for a smaller, more expressive style of gin that speaks to this city the way these beers were," reveals Kennedy.
Now, with their distillery having cemented its status as one of Sydney's best-loved, the duo's creative process is driven by that same desire to give local gin lovers something great. They've always been big on feedback, their creative direction steered by the people enjoying their gin. It's why Poor Toms' strawberry gin went from an exclusive onsite pour to an upcoming major release.
"We saw how much it's enjoyed at the tasting bar and how well it's sold there," says Kennedy. "That's all the feedback we needed to realise it was something worth making available to everyone. That's pretty much what inspires us anyway as a brand, just making enjoyable spirits."
The boys are quick to tell you they're not out to please everyone, however. "If you're a tiny producer, you can make the product you want to make," explains Blumer. "You can cater to people in a unique way and find your hardcore audience, rather than being mildly pleasing to everybody. Being small is good for that."
You could say it's an attitude that extends to the duo's style, staying true to their own relaxed selves, rather than worrying about what everyone else thinks.
"I pretty much wear the same clothes every day," says Blumer. "Whether I'm doing something sweaty at the distillery, going to a tasting at a bar or even to a corporate event, I'll just wear my jeans. Jeans are a staple."
For him, it's part and parcel of creating something decent. "People take you as you are, if you project that. Being relaxed and not up yourself is an important part of the process — and making good stuff," he muses.
"If your job is to give people enjoyment, then you have to enjoy yourself. You're not enjoying yourself if you're always worrying about what other people think of you."