Australian distilleries turning over new leaf with foray into cannabis-infused liquor – ABC News

Australian distilleries turning over new leaf with foray into cannabis-infused liquor
Denmark, on WA's south coast, has a reputation as a haven for hippies and artists in a region dominated by commercial agriculture and forestry.  
Now, a nearby distillery has brought the two worlds together by flavouring its gin with locally grown sativa cannabis.
"All of our plants are grown and harvested on site," owner Matthew Beaton said.
The Cannabis Botanical Distillery started operating last year, selling its drinks at an on-site farm restaurant and through local bottle shops.
It is not alone. Over the past few years, multiple Australian distilleries and breweries have started flavouring their drinks with non-psychoactive cannabis, predominantly using hemp seed.
Mr Beaton said he believed the Cannabis Botanical Distillery in Denmark was the first in Australia to use the entire plant including the flower or "bud".
"The hemp seed has quite a nutty flavour. It works really well with beer … but there are more experiments to be done."
In countries that have legalised recreational cannabis, alcohol containing THC is already being sold.
"Companies are already doing this," wine writer Philip White told ABC Adelaide's Peter Goer in April.
"It's not too hard to get the major compounds of marijuana [in a drink]. CBD, THC … they both readily dissolve in alcohol.
"Billions of dollars of tax are being made from alcoholic cannabis drinks in America and Canada."
Like alcohol, THC has a sedative effect on the brain. Intoxication with either substance can affect balance, reflexes, or memory.
"They are both very serious and dangerous drugs," Mr White said.
He stressed that combining substances with physiological effects, even legal substances such as alcohol and caffeine, can be dangerous.
"I've seen pubs fill up with blokes drinking double vodkas with Red Bull. They're crazy," he said.
Nonetheless, Matthew Beaton said if psychoactive cannabis was made legal in Australia, he would "definitely" be looking at selling it in his drinks.
"If the day does come, we'll probably start out without alcohol. We'll probably make a non-alcoholic beverage first."
"There might be a nice little point there where it's just right to have this amount of alcohol versus THC.
"But at this stage it's illegal, so we can't do anything like that."
Unlike industrial hemp farms that collect the plant's seed, Matthew Beaton harvests his sativa plants progressively throughout the year to use fresh in the distillery.
This makes it challenging to produce a consistent spirit.
"The plants change from week to week through the growing cycle," he said.
Australia is on the cusp of a gin rebellion, taking on London's famous distillers at their own game and winning with a unique blend of local flavours and precocious confidence.
"It might be quite grassy at the start of the cycle and by the end it can have lots of pineapple, mango, passionfruit notes coming through [in the liquor].
"It's like a vintage of a wine."
Mr White said some local winemakers in California's Napa Valley had come into conflict with cannabis growers.
"It's interesting watching in California, the wine companies are starting to say they don't like the smell coming into their vineyard," he said.
"But I'm sure it will all work out because there's so much money involved."
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