Published on 18 June 2021
Elise West and Josh Stilwell would like you to drink more vermouth. West is a long-standing Melbourne hospitality pro with the likes of Bar Liberty and Supernormal on her CV. Stilwell splits his time working the floor at Pt Leo Estate’s restaurant Laura and working the vines with Luke Curry at Taturry Winery on the Mornington Peninsula. Their new project, Madlore, was born from their fanatical obsession with vermouth. Using chardonnay grown in the Whitands region as a base, each batch is then infused with produce at the height of its season. We talk to Josh Stilwell about Madlore and why you might like to try it.
Who are you and what are you all about?
Madlore is all about savouring flavours and moments, unique ingredients, and elevating vermouth to more than a cocktail additive.
Give us the elevator pitch, what is Madlore?
It’s small-batch, aromatised and fortified wines that we’ve designed to spark imagination, conversation, memory and a good time.
What excites you about this project?
There’s a lot happening with regards to vermouth and fortified wine at the moment. That’s exciting in itself. Madlore is a unique offering to the market, though - we don’t fit neatly into a single beverage classification. Some of our products can be enjoyed like vermouth, some like bitters, or simply as they are, without categorising them. Versatility is exciting.
We’re really excited to release a range of drinks which incorporate flavours not typically found in vermouth - like apricot and white pepper in an Ode to Loki or blood plum and blue lotus in an Ode to Death. We’re equally thrilled to feature label artwork by Melbourne artist Rami depicting the character of each vermouth. The labels also include our own poems, designed to invite the imbiber to simply enjoy, to inspire self-enquiry, or both.
Explain like I’m five, how do you make it?
To make our products, first we make a wine (in this instance a skin-contact chardonnay - mainly for texture). We then infuse a flavourless spirit with fruit, herbs and spices. We fortify the base wine with this "aromatised" spirit and add a sweetener to the mix.
One of the ways we draw out flavour from fruit and herbs is by using shrubs. This is an ancient way of using sugar and vinegar to extract flavours. The resulting juice is intensely flavoured with the character of the fruit or herb and has the benefit of containing balancing acidity from the vinegar. We think that each of our offerings tastes just like the ingredients noted on the bottle - for example, the Ode to Loki has aromas and flavours of apricot, basil, lavender, mullein and white pepper.
What are the perfect conditions to enjoy Madlore?
The perfect conditions, in our opinion, are to enjoy Madlore neat or served over ice surrounded by good company. We'd suggest serving it in a wine glass to be able to enjoy and appreciate the aromas to their fullest.
Is it here for a good time or a long time?
We’re hoping for both.
Who's pouring it?
Bar Liberty, Trouble in Dreams, Bad Frankie, Zymurgy and Pt Leo Estate.
Where can I buy it?
Online at madlore.com.au
Madlore Vermouth, $44, available at madlore.com.au
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