In the heart of Mornington Peninsula, where rolling vineyards meet the sea, lies Bass & Flinders Distillery, home to one of Australia’s most innovative and dedicated distillers, Holly Klintworth. As the chief distiller and Managing Director at Bass & Flinders, Holly has been at the forefront of the brandy-making game, constantly pushing the boundaries of tradition while staying true to this age-old spirit’s essence.
Recently, Holly embarked on a transformative educational journey to the historic town of Cognac, France, the mecca of brandy production. The experience left her in awe of the region’s rich history and profound influence on the spirit she holds dearly. Amidst the modest and quiet French countryside, Holly witnessed the magic of distillation season, where distilleries hummed with activity, transforming millions of litres of wine into spirit after the harvest.
The profound sense of camaraderie among the producers captured Holly’s attention the most in Cognac. They understood they were part of a greater story, each with their tricks and tips passed down through generations, resulting in unique and diverse spirits. Holly was humbled by the warm welcome and hospitality from the Cognac producers, emphasizing that anyone in the brandy-making community is an ally, not a competitor.
Drawing inspiration from her Cognac experience, Holly aims to apply the learnings and knowledge from the world leader in brandy production to the Australian landscape. Bass & Flinders, now entering its 14th year, has been a trailblazer in the local brandy scene, constantly innovating to produce a distinctly Australian brandy. Holly understands that innovation is an amalgamation of knowledge, wisdom, and gut instinct, and she embraces a constant learning journey to enhance the quality of their products.
Balancing tradition with innovation is a hallmark of Holly’s work as a distiller. She is excited to apply some of the new techniques she learned in Cognac, such as treating the wine differently, experimenting with distillation approaches, and adopting various barrel maturation methods. These subtle tweaks will not steer Bass & Flinders away from its own unique style of brandy but rather elevate it to new heights. Creating high-quality spirits come with its challenges, and Holly is determined to address misconceptions about brandy.
Despite the excellent work done by Cognac in educating consumers about the spirit’s quality, Holly believes there is still a role to play in promoting artisanal Australian-made brandy. Encouraging people to try local brandies in innovative ways, such as with tonic or in cocktails, are part of her mission to challenge stereotypes and expand the brandy market.
When it comes to flavour profiles, Holly approaches brandy much like she does gin, seeking a harmonious balance between front, mid, and back-palate flavours, texture, and overall balance. Each barrel contributes its unique characteristics, and Holly skilfully blends them to create a brandy that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Every aspect of the brandy-making process influences the final taste and aroma. Each step plays a pivotal role in shaping the spirit’s character – from the grape varieties and the vinification process to the distillation cuts, oak maturation, and aging period. Holly’s dedication to the craft of distilling shines through in her willingness to tweak the recipe for her brandy blends constantly. With each batch, she starts anew, respecting the essence of the previous blend while seeking that elusive balance between fruit, spice, texture, and length.
As the head distiller at Bass & Flinders Distillery, Holly Klintworth stands as a beacon of innovation, drawing inspiration from the legacy of Cognac while carving a distinct path for Australian brandy. Her commitment to the craft, willingness to embrace new techniques, and passion for challenging perceptions make her a true pioneer in the world of spirits. With Holly at the helm, the future of Australian brandy looks exceptionally bright, promising a new era of appreciation and recognition for this exquisite spirit.
Bass and Flinders Distillery
40 Collins Rd, Dromana VIC
(03) 5987 3893