Everything We Know

Everything We Know… about Hickson House Distilling Co

Hickson House Distilling Co is set to open in the middle of 2021 — we asked co-owner Mike Enright to tell us all about it. Here's everything we know.

As we all eagerly await a working Covid vaccine, and the world begins to look at the possibility of a semblance of normality on the horizon, Sydney-based bar owners Mike Enright and Julian Train are looking to open a distillery: Hickson House Distilling Co.

The distillery and bar is set to open in June this year — here’s everything we know.

What is it?

Hickson House Distilling Co is part working distillery, and part destination cocktail bar.

Where is it?

“It’s in The Rocks,” says Enright. “It’s the old garage for Saatchi & Saatchi, they were there for 35 years.”

Located in the Metcalfe Bond Stores building, the site is heritage listed at 68-84 George Street, The Rocks.

“We looked at the site, and just couldn’t believe they were parking their cars there,” he says.

Who is behind it?

Hickson House Distilling Co is the work of partners Mike Enright and Julian Train and a silent investor. They’ve brought on Tim Stones as their distiller.

Enright and Train are the owners of Barrelhouse Group, which owns Sydney bars The Barber Shop and The Duke of Clarence. Enright has more than two decades of experience in the Sydney bar scene and is one if its leading lights, with a hand in opening Merivale’s Ivy complex and numerous other bar projects.

Train’s background is in liquor sales and development. “Julian worked for Beam Suntory, Maxxium, he worked in brands and brand development, sales and supply chain and everything else,” says Enright.

Stones held the global ambassador role for Beefeater gin for eight years, before moving to Sydney and working at Manly Spirits Co as their distiller in 2017.

When does it open?

“We’re scheduled to open June 1st,” says Enright.

So it’s a bar?

Yes. Enright wants the bar to be a destination in its own right.

“We’ll probably only have our gin, sorry, but we’ve got a big bloody distillery that you’re going to look at while you’re drinking,” he says.

Expect the bar to be fully stocked with whiskies from around the world, tequilas, rums — you name it. The idea is that the bar isn’t just a showroom for their products, but somewhere you’d like to actually go and drink.

It is in a beautiful spot down in The Rocks, after all.

The bar will also feature a kitchen.

Sydney design firm Steel & Stitch and UK-based interior designer Sara Mathers will take care of the look and feel of the site.

But it’s also a distillery? What are they making?

You bet. You’ll be able to see the stills — which they’re having made specifically for them in Griffith, NSW, at the moment — and they’re focusing on gin and whisky to begin with.

Enright says that Stones has been tinkering for a year on the recipes for their gins, of which they plan to release four.

“We’ve done god knows how many tastings,” he says. “We’ve tweaked, we’ve changed, and amended and then gone back to — if anything we’ve had too much time. But we’re really happy with the recipes.

“We’re going to launch with a London dry gin, and an Australian dry gin, and then we’ll bring the others out down the track.”

But it’s not just gin they’ll be making.

“We’re essentially seeing ourselves as more of a house of spirits,” Enright says.

“We’re definitely making whisky, we’re going to have our own beer equipment in there as well so we’re literally grain to glass.

For their gin, “most of the botanicals will be coming from the Southern Highlands, from a small farmer down there,” Enright says.

“From the whisky point of view, our investor has a barley farm.”

Aperitifs and other spirits are also on the cards for release further down the track, but expect Hickson House Distilling Co to launch the distillery and bar with the London dry and Australian dry gins.

But why are they opening a distillery?

“It was always on the cards,” says Enright. ”Me and Julian have always diversified our business, you know — we’ve always pushed ourselves to do something a little bit different.

“We know a lot about the gin category and spirits in general, and also we wanted to do a distillery with a fully fledged, fully stocked bar as opposed to just our brands,” he says.

What’s the story behind it?

“We set out on the journey about five years ago,” says Enright.

They first made contact with Stones at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. “[Tim] was the global ambassador for Beefeater for eight years, and he’s worked alongside Desmond Payne who probably is the godfather of gin,” Enright says. “[Payne] has trained a lot of very respected gin distillers in the UK and beyond.”

Stones mentioned he was moving to Australia, and Enright said that he and Train were looking to open a distillery. But their distillery plans were delayed, and Stones began working at Manly Spirits Co when he arrived.

Eventually, though, Train and Enright began looking at spaces. “We’ve looked around at some horrible warehouses — one was a plastic coat hanger factory at one point,” says Enright.

They found the Hickson House site and began the negotiations during the the outbreak of Covid in 2020.