December 18, 2020

10 boutique SA distilleries to visit

Wherever you travel in South Australia these days, you can be sure of a perfectly made gin and tonic featuring a locally-distilled artisan spirit.

Adelaide: Prohibition Liquor Co.
Founded by Adam Carpenter more than five years ago, multi-award-winning craft gin distillery Prohibition Liquor Co. has become a fixture of the local booze scene. Last year, Adam launched a cellar door and tasting room on Gilbert Street, which also operates as a distillery, cocktail bar and coffee shop. Prohibition Liquor was one of the first distilleries to pivot towards producing bulk hand-sanitiser earlier on in the year, but people have long flocked to the brand for its noble nod to the past, and because of its firm view to the future.

Adelaide Hills: Ambleside Distillers
Four years ago, Adelaide Hills welcomed a new player to the gin scene, Ambleside Distillers, run by the Dickinson family. When son, Matt, lived in London, he witnessed the European gin boom, and brought that experience home as inspiration. Running the business alongside his parents, Ambleside specialises in small-batch gin, ranging from a classic dry accentuated by jalapeno pepper flavour, to botanicals made from local ingredients. Connected to Ambleside’s copper distillery, located on their Hahndorf property, is a picturesque tasting room. Sip with a view on the deck looking out over the undulating landscape.

Adelaide Hills: Applewood Distillery
Applewood Distillery boasts the title of the first distillery in the Adelaide Hills region of Applewood. Headed-up by husband and wife team Brendan and Laura Carter – who are behind other local boozy entities Unico Zelo and Harvest – the distillery focuses on gins, and has won international plaudits for its product. Applewood Distillery aims to support farmers utilising sustainable farming, crop and orchard methods, and each gin is made with 20 different botanical ingredients. Half are experimental and are native to Australia, and the remainder are classics. 

Adelaide Hills: Adelaide Hills Distillery
When Sacha La Forgia noticed a hole in the Adelaide small-batch gin market more than seven years ago, he quickly moved to fill it. The educated and experienced winemaker constructed a copper still and, a year later, launched Adelaide Hills Distillery’s first product: the 78˚ Classic Gin. Now, Adelaide Hills Distillery has expanded its portfolio to include whiskeys, vermouths and aperitifs, and is located on the 84-hectare Adelaide Hills property, Lot 100. Sacha has won numerous awards for his drops, which are all infused in native Australian botanicals.

Fleurieu: Never Never Distilling Co.
A common passion for spirits drew George Georgiadis, Sean Baxter and Tim Boast together. They launched gin brand Never Never Distilling Co. in 2017 as a result of this shared love and experience, which spans home brewing to bar service. They didn’t want to stray too far from the classics, Never Never hones in on gin’s juniper base ingredient. They distil their berries over a series of three processes, and blend them with nine other botanicals such as Australian pepper berry, to create complex yet classic taste. You can visit their McLaren Vale cellar door and tasting room, and enjoy flights of three core gins, plus a newly developed range of cocktails.

Barossa: Seppeltsfield Road Distillers
Nicole Durdin took a detour from her career as a classically-trained musician when she and husband Jon launched small-batch gin brand Seppeltsfield Road Distillers. Two years and multiple awards later, Seppeltsfield Road Distillers prides itself on producing fresh yet sophisticated spirits from their Barossa Valley property, which also doubles as a tasting room. Highlights include the Savoury Allsorts gin, which puts star anise front and centre, and the 2020 Semi-Gin, which includes notes of coconut, burnt coffee and toffee.

Riverland: 23rd Street Distillery Gin 
Twenty Third Street Distillery at Renmark produces quality craft spirits in its historic distillery, formerly the Renmano Winery, built in 1914. The distillery produces gin, brandies, whisky, vodka and rum, with each product’s label designed and illustrated by an artist drawing inspiration from the spirit, distillery and Riverland region. Twenty Third Street’s Signature Gin features ten botanicals including traditional juniper and coriander, complemented by zesty local citrus.

Riverland: Needle & Pin Spirits
Kayla Grigorio, founder of Needle & Pin Spirits, comes from a family of winemakers. Her brother Greg owns Bowden winery and cellar door Oddio, and is the Delinquente Wine Co winemaker, while her parents operate Portia Valley Wines in the Riverland’s Monash Valley. Kayla’s pivot towards small-batch craft gin is new for the family, however her knowledge and process is still steeped in tradition. The Riverland Dry gin uses a range of botanicals and local ingredients, such as saltbush and herbal olive leaf, while the award-winning Seville Orange Gin was made with Adelaide Hills oranges and other local flavours. 

Kangaroo Island: Kangaroo Island Spirits
Lauded as Australia’s first gin distillery, Kangaroo Island Spirits was founded in 2002 by Jon and Sarah Lark. Although Australian investment company Founders First acquired the brand in March, Jon and Sarah have remained as chief distillers and brand ambassadors. KI Spirits is known for its award-winning small-batch gins, which don’t skimp on juniper and are infused with local ingredients. Earlier this year, KI Spirits teamed-up with Island Estate Vineyards to release a barrel-aged Wally Wild Gin, with a percentage of profits going to Disaster Relief Australia, to aid the Island’s bushfire recovery. A world-class million-dollar KI Spirits distillery and tasting room is also in the works.

Limestone Coast: Sinkhole Gin
Hidden away on private farmland south of Mount Gambier, Kilsby Sinkhole is an almost-secret dive spot that’s inspired a distillery. The crystal-clear limestone-filtered water in this natural wonder has become a key ingredient in spirit newcomer Sinkhole Gin. It’s fun, fresh and very drinkable, with the bottle designed to emulate that incredible light phenomenon when the sun breaks through the clouds, illuminating the 30-metre deep limestone chamber with brilliant cobalt rays. 

This information first appeared in The SALIFE Food & Wine List 2020.

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