The reason for my visit was to partake in the Mr Black Distillery Experience, an event all about coffee. On the agenda - a distillery tour, coffee education, an espresso martini masterclass and a guided tasting of Mr Black coffee spirits.
Beginning in the gazebo in the main garden, we were taken on a journey back through history to the origins of Distillery Botanica, it's owner Philip Moore (a herbalist and distiller of gin & botanical liqueurs) and his partnership with Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, before heading to the airstream bus (aka caravan) for the espresso martini masterclass.
We were shaking our own espresso martini brew in no time after our expert host gave us the know-how with a comical demonstration. Consisting of 2 parts of the Mr Black Coffee Liqueur (which has the inclusions of vodka and sugar), 1 part espresso coffee (you can use your own favourite coffee at home) and ice, it's a cold brew with a kick in it that's a nice alternative to a true espresso martini made with gin. You can buy the Mr Black liqueur separately or purchase the cocktail kit that includes the liqueur, a first press Black cocktail mixer, a shaker tin set, a 4-prong strainer and a Japanese-style jigger (for measuring your ingredients).
Next, it was down to the herb garden and its coffee tree, an Arabica Bourbon plant with glossy leaves, that yields a high-quality specialty coffee. To be a specialty coffee, it has to score 80 points or over on the 100 point Coffee Review scale. The education here further taught us that coffee beans (the seeds) are part of a fruit (red coffee cherries) in which the two seeds in each cherry are extracted for roasting, whilst the fleshy fruit remains are used as fertiliser.
Arabica Bourbon - known for its excellent quality in the cup
From here, it was off to the distillery for talks on the purpose of roasting, the brewing methods and bottling. The latter is done by hand at this distillery, mostly by women, and their hard work of getting out 6,000 bottles a week is honoured on the bottle design that shows a lady holding an owl (there's a resident one out the back). You'll see it clearly when your bottle is empty.
From roasting to bottling, you'll learn the art and skill that goes into making Mr Black coffee liqueurs
Last but not least, the experience had us back in the garden to taste more of the range of Mr Black's crafted coffee liqueurs. First up was the Ethiopia, a light and zesty liqueur with hints of orange marmalade, roasted hazelnut and bergamot (a hybrid of lemon and sour orange). Next was the Columbia with its chocolate flavours, followed by the Amaro and its combination of Ethiopia and Columbia cold brews paired with 14 distilled and macerated botanicals. It's a modern take on the Italian liqueur with Mr Black's version including grapefruit and orange flavours. This sweet liqueur has a powerful kick and smells like a jaffa.
Mr Black liqueurs can be purchased at the cellar door with prices from $55 and up, for a 700ml bottle. You can also buy them online via both the Distillery Botanica and Mr Black websites or through Dan Murphy's retail stores.
Whilst at the cellar door, be sure to taste some of the owner's gin products, along with his vodka and botanical liqueurs. With Christmas coming, these products (along with Mr Black coffee liqueurs) are ideal for after your festive feasting or as a gift for that someone special.
Tis the season to be merry when receiving one of these bottles as a gift
The 1hr coffee experience will only set you back $25 per person. If you want to add lunch and a cocktail to it, then you're looking at $55 per person. It runs on most Saturdays, with the occasional Sunday in the mix, at 12pm or 2pm (depending on the date). Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite.
But that's not all. Bar Botanica is the on-site cafe serving up garden-inspired dishes for breakfast and lunch, as well as pastries and cakes, freshly-roasted coffee, refreshing gin cocktails and Mr Goaty gelato. My scoops of wild lime sorbet and vanilla bean gelato were just what I needed to cool down with at the end of this interesting coffee event.
The cafe is mostly alfresco dining with the exception of one pretty indoor lounge area where plants and a couple of statues reside. The glass wall looking out to the garden is interesting in itself with water outside streaming down it into a small pond. It's a lovely place to chill out and reflect.
Distillery Botanica is tucked away in Erina on the Central Coast, an easy drive from Sydney and the surrounding destinations of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. Parking is available at the entrance and on the street. The address, contact details and opening hours, etc. can be found below.
So take the leap and head to this hidden gem that's close to beautiful beaches and a myriad of things to do and see on the Coast. You can even bring your dog (on a lead) to Distillery Botanica.