Luke Ridden is a bright star in the world of spirits. Australia’s youngest commercial distiller, co-owning Granddad Jack’s with his father David, Luke is the youngest person in the world to win a gold medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Not only was Granddad Jack’s Barbershop Coffee Liqueur awarded World’s Best Coffee Liqueur, what was doubly impressive was its esteemed Double Gold Medal win, only awarded to entries that receive a Gold Medal rating by all 40 members of the expert judging panel, Granddad Jack’s the only craft distillery in Queensland to have ever been awarded this honour.
The distillery also took out a Silver Medal with its 65 Miles (a Navy-strength gin) and Bronze for their Greenhouse Gin, bringing home three medals from the one competition.
It’s a long way to have come in just two and a half years, from when the Gold Coast’s first distillery was first conceived as a tribute to Granddad Jack, begun in a derelict surfboard warehouse in December 2017, through development (testing samples from over 170 recipes) and navigation of Queensland’s liquor licensing laws, to exponential growth supplying spirits Australia-wide (and online since Covid), exporting to the United States, South Africa and the Netherlands, now achieving international recognition.
Stepping into Granddad Jack’s it’s impossible not to feel the tug of history. And it’s not long before Luke and I find an unlikely connection. Just two weeks before my father was born in June 1919, Luke’s great-grandfather David Goulding entered the world. Both lived in Christchurch, survived wars, hardship and the Great Depression, but there the similarity ends. My father was a religious teetotaller. David Goulding AKA ‘Granddad Jack’ enjoyed a tipple, and although they lived in the same small city, they are unlikely to have met unless it was at the barber’s shop ‘Granddad Jack’ owned for forty years.
References to history are everywhere in the distillery founded in Granddad Jack’s honour, from the recycled I-beams and timber to the recreated barber shop in one corner with its original red and white striped pole. The distillery tanks may be new, but it’s 90-year-old family recipes used to make the gin. Bottles reference vintage pottery in their colour and shape. Even the brews are named after aspects of past family life: ‘65 Miles’ for the distance Jack rode through the hills to work on a sheep station, ‘Greenhouse’ for the shed where 15-year-old Luke, like all males in his family, took part in the rite of passage of his first drink.
“There’s a lot of heart on this building,” Luke tells me, an understatement considering the love and thought that’s gone into the venture.
“Every time I step in the door I think, ‘This is my place,’” Luke says, “my family, my business. But I would not have achieved all this without community support.”
From the wall behind the bar, looking over his tribute with a coy smile of satisfaction, is Granddad Jack.
Jack’s watching as the team hand craft their spirits in small batches, gin, rum, whiskey, coffee liqueur and petite vodka with a new limited release every month. He’s watching as a truckload of hand-crafted coopered barrels arrive from New Zealand to age whiskey in the barrel room, their haul of single malt and bourbon style soon to be poured. He sees the enthusiasts, members of Club 54 whose specialty bottles await their visits to the distillery. Visitors line up for tours and punters attempt to make their own gin at masterclasses, all under Jack’s watchful eye.
But it’s his boys that bring a smile to his face. He sees their battles and celebrates their wins in silence.
“Luke,” I can hear him saying, “I’m really proud of you, son.”
Granddad Jack’s Distillery, 45 Lemana Lane, Miami Ph: 0426 968 173
Open: Fri – Sat 3pm – 9.30pm; Sun 2pm – 6.15pm
NOTE: Contact the brewery or book online for tours or the weekly distillery experience.