Nestled in-between the mountains and beaches of the northern suburbs, is Illawarra’s newest distillery and bar – Wolf and Woman Distillery
Words Penny Keogh Images Sea People Photography
Husband and wife team, Mark and April have meticulously transformed their commercial space through lockdown into a hidden boutique warehouse distillery and bar, producing gins and liqueurs.
Their eye for style and craftsmanship is next level and not only shows in the space but in their products as well. Nothing is ever done by halves. Through three children together and plenty of home renovations, which inspired the pair to open the distillery in Bellambi and move their home to Woonona, created the perfect work life balance. “The scariest decision in all this was leaving a stable job to open up this distillery,” said Mark. “Luckily April is the risk taker and with her behind me everything is doable.”
For those enthusiasts of whisky and gin who consider it an art form know that years of trial, error and patience is what you need. It was 10 years ago that Mark began home distilling on a little 30L still and today that still sits proudly in their distillery on show as a reminder of where it all started.
Creating gin is a balancing act. Finding and using the right botanicals that complement each other is paramount. As in life, there has to be balance. It was our local coal coast that inspired their unique ingredient that is in all their gins.
“Sea lettuce is high in vitamins and essential minerals, and brings across an umami like flavour,” said April. “We enjoy foraging with our kids on the rocks along our coastline.”
With extensive R&D around this marine botanical and how to make it work was a must, as they quickly fell in love with the idea of having a little piece of Wollongong in their gins.
Mark and April’s passion and pride for Wolf and Woman’s now three perfected gins, its easy to see and share in their excitement as they explain the nuanced delicacies of the gin drinking experience. “Our Signature Gin is very popular, which has more complexity and a longer finish,” said Mark. “It works well across many different cocktails, like an Eastside, which is my favourite.”
“In Autumn we’re pumped to launch our pink gin, which we have been developing behind the scenes and are very excited about,” continued April. “It will consist of the use of our native pantry, our signature sea lettuce and something a little different.”
For those who share the pairs passion for gin, you can now join in at Wolf and Woman’s Gin School, where you can be your own distiller for a day. You can learn, explore, create, distil, and enjoy your creation you take home.
Mark and April’s curiosity in distilling doesn’t stop at gin either. Their Limoncello is as popular as the story and their traditional ways of making it.
“Once a year we dedicate two months to craft our Limoncello,” said April. “Painstakingly, we hand peel 400 kilos of organic lemons, using only the perfect fleshy skins.
“Combined with our hand-crafted spirit we leave it to macerate for around 6 weeks.
“Nothing gets wasted; we use the by-product to create a lemon syrup that we use in cocktails and the remainder gets dehydrated into garnishes we use at the bar,” continued April. “We pride ourselves in minimal wastage.”
Like everything in Wolf and Woman’s impressive new distillery, you can see the fruits of April and Mark’s hard yakka and creative mindset that also respects the community.
“Where we can we’ve used Australian and locally made,” said April. “We source our coffee beans from Nowra, our grain from NSW, and the copper stills were made right here in NSW.”
Whisky is where their passion for distilling started, although you will have to wait till 2026 or later to try theirs, as whiskey takes years to age properly before its ready to drink. In the meantime, April and Mark share their love of Australian whisky with the launch of their hand selected range of 20 Australian whiskies from distilleries like themselves.
The bar is busy Friday and Saturdays, which is a tribute to the local interest to seek out the new distillery, tucked away in an unsuspecting industrial area of Bellambi.
“It’s all been worth it,” said April, of all the hard work that’s gone into the project so far. “It’s rewarding see people’s first impressions when they step foot into the distillery and share their excitement and appreciation not only for the products but for the experience as well.
“Mark and I are blown away with the acceptance and support from the Illawarra and we cannot wait to share the next chapter with you all.”
6 Bellambi Lane, Bellambi