Engineer dropout finds spirit calling by crafting the ‘world’s best’ vodka

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

An Aussie engineer who dropped out of the industry to take a shot at his dream career has gone on to create the world’s best vodka. 

Melbourne’s Dom Evan was in his early 20s studying civil engineering at RMIT University alongside his best mate Jake Gautreaux when the pair decided to shake things up by creating their very own spirit, Baxter Vodka. 

The cash-strapped uni students quickly fell in love with making their liquor, pouring their heart, soul and most of their savings into their own unique take on the bar favourite. 

The pair’s alcoholic concoction quickly downed some local awards, with its impressive feedback seeing it filter into drinking establishments around Melbourne’s CBD. 

But that early doors success was just a tiny taste of what would come…

The brand has gone on to now become the world’s most awarded Vodka, having won the prestigious ‘Triple Still’ Award last year, the highest accolade in the global industry, while also picking up first place at the 2024 London Spirits Competition.  

The vodka’s success helped provide the foundations for the pair to build their alcohol empire, Thirsty Group, producing over a million bottles annually and amassing over $10 million in sales.

vodka bottles
Baxter is now the world’s most-awarded vodka

The brand now has shelves stocked full of award-winning tequila, gin, spiced rum and liquours, winning 28 international competitions over the last three years alone.

And while hindsight is a fine thing, Dom says it took a lot of Dutch courage to ditch his engineering career in favour of, quite literally, drinking on the job. 

“Towards the later part of my studies, I found mechanical engineering to be very HVAC specific; by the end, I had become disenfranchised and wanted to do something fun and cool,” Dom told Build-it. 

I have always liked designing and creating products, so my friend Jake and I decided to do our own,” he told Build-it.

“We threw all our money into designing the vodka, made a few hundred bottles and started cold calling bars to sell it.”

“All of a sudden, we were in 50 bars around Melbourne and realised it could be a full-time gig.” 

The realisation was enough for Dom to announce the last call on his engineering career, having just recently graduated and begun his engineering internship placement with gas and electricity provider AGL Energy. 

That decision nearly left him with a bitter aftertaste when a pandemic hangover saw his fledgling booze business lose most of its clients in the space of a week. 

But, as the sounds of bar favourite song ‘Closing Time’ began to play out internally, a contract to supply Cole’s Liquorland nationally was served up to save the day, leading the pair to now have 5,000 distributors nationwide.

“We went from selling to bars to nobody,” Dom told Build-it.

“There was about a week where things got pretty stressful, and I could have done with a drink,” he joked. 

baxter vodka
Dom and Jake have gone on to launch one of the world’s fastest-growing alcohol brands.

Engineering skills still paying the bar tab

Unlike his drinking years, most of Dom’s engineering days are now behind him, but his previous job skills still come in handy when maintaining machinery at the distillery. 

“I didn’t think I would ever use engineering again, to tell you the truth,” he said. 

“Only now the engineering side of it is coming into my work more. We have a massive still that uses steam power, and it comes in handy to know what’s going on and problem-solve immediately whenever there’s an issue with that.”

His scientific expertise also played a role in the brand’s manufacturing, ensuring that Thirsty Group spirits are all carbon neutral. 

“It’s important for any future business to think about becoming neutral or carbon-positive going forward,” Dom said. 

“It helps increase efficiency and reduce waste and all the things the younger generations look for when choosing a brand.”

Co-founder Jake Gautreaux says going from distilling in a garage to being announced as the world’s best spirit in just a few years showcased the pair’s passion for their creation.

“While it hasn’t been all smooth sailing, navigating through challenges and uncertainties has been instrumental in refining our products and propelling us to our current position,” he said.

“Receiving the industry’s most prestigious award is a true honour.” 

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.