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Published December 11th 2013
Do you like your hard liquor with a dash of fairytale?
Driving past Tamborine Mountain College, up pleasantly shaded Beacon Rd, it is hard to guess there is a vodka-filled Fairyland right at your fingertips. Turning down the gravel road, you may not know it, but you are entering an enchanted zone.
What happens next will be an adventure your tastebuds will never forget.
The Guardians of this pocket of mystery do not want loads of khaki-shorted day-trippers rocking up and over-running the place, because this is not conducive to the intimate experience they want their guests to have.
They even made their driveway deliberately narrow. It's not hard to imagine a pointy-hatted grey wizard bursting forth from the bushes, booming "you shall not pass!" at a busload of flashing cameras. Anyway, whoever heard of a bus tour to Fairyland? It's something you have to sneak up on.
You will be instantly enchanted by the bubbling fountain, the rustic cottage, and, in season, the dreamy cascade of jacaranda which froths a purple halo over the courtyard.
Is that Cinderella over there, scrubbing away wistfully? Do you hear an echo of Seven Dwarves, whistling as they work? Is The Prince about to turn up, looking for Sleeping Beauty? Slightly more tangible than these wispy presences is the stolid bulldog, wandering about in a proprietary manner.
If Cinderella and the Dwarves are, indeed, working away back there, they're doing an amazing job. Despite being Australia's smallest Pot Still distillery (a method in which heat is applied directly to a pot containing the mash, or wash), this booze is world famous, and the list of awards it has won is longer than Rapunzel's hair.
Sleeping Beauty, meanwhile, has shotted too much lavender liqueur, and the only kiss that will wake her up is one from a bucket of cold water.
In real life, the distillery was brought into creation in 1998, by distillation geniuses and builders of narrow driveways, Michael and Alla Ward. Michael's bearded, jovial visage is often to be found in the shop, weaving charismatic magic over his guests as they sample his delights.
There is an epic range of liqueurs, vodkas and schnapps, as well as gin, brandy, grappa, eaux de vie, absinthe and aquavit. For a small fee, you can sample a selection of the goods, and enjoy deliberating, in an increasingly blurry fashion, over which ones you will buy.
There are about thirty, highly diverse, flavours of liqueur - Turkish delight, hibiscus, macadamia, wattle toffee (a favourite of mine), musk, violetta, choc n chilli (another favourite). Then there's old stalwarts like vanilla, blackcurrant, chocolate, banana, strawberry and mint. Different flavours of vodka and schnapps are also on offer.
Even the bottles are special – some are brightly painted like genie lamps, and some concoctions, such as the vodka, come in tall and graceful glass creations. They make wonderful presents (hello, Christmas!), and can be ordered online if you get home and regret not buying the apricot as well as the apple schnapps. I bought my friend with red hair a bottle of Ginger Vodka (hehe) for his birthday. The shop also offers a host of quirky artefacts to poke around in between samples.
The fairytale haze will begin to lift as you head back out onto the road, and you may need to take a peek at the shiny bottles glinting away in the back seat to reassure yourself it wasn't all a dream. And if, perchance, you should come upon a bus tour, keep your secrets to yourself.