By Melissa Keogh
It took a career crisis and a curiosity for gin making for ex-policewoman and classical musician Nicole Durdin to turn to the world of distilling in the Barossa Valley.
Nicole and her husband Jon were living in the UK when a desire to move home and delve into something starkly different to their professions took over.
This weekend the South Australian pair will celebrate the opening of Seppeltsfield Road Distillers (SRD), the Barossa Valley’s first commercial distillery.
“We were in the UK for Jon’s work (as a finance director), and I went over as a freelance musician expecting that work would be easy to find ,but it didn’t quite turn out that way,” says head distiller Nicole, who also spent 10 years in the police force.
“I was having a career crisis and needed something to focus on … we knew that we would come back to the Barossa, that was our plan.”
Nicole, a French horn player with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, is a seventh-generation Barossa local whose ancestors were among the first to settle in the Barossa Valley.
Her great-grandfather was one of the first coopers at Seppeltsfield, while her grandfather, uncle and father are all involved in the wine industry.
Nicole says she and her husband had toyed with the idea of falling into the wine industry, “but didn’t want to be tied down to the seasonality”.
So they put the idea on the back-burner, heading to the UK.
One day Jon suddenly flagged the idea of gin making – and the pair were hooked.
“Jon just said to me, ‘why don’t you make gin?’ It just came out of his mouth,” Nicole says.
“We knew nothing about gin other than we liked to drink it. But I started doing some research. The industry in Australia was still really small at that stage, and over 12 months we planned and studied.”
Nicole then flew back to SA from the UK to look at a block of land, turning their distant Barossa dreams into reality.
The pair now live in Tanunda, with their small-batch boutique distillery at home along the palm-tree lined Seppeltsfield Road.
Visitors to SRD are first greeted by the sight of the German-made still where all the magic happens.
“The first thing you see when you arrive on site is the still. Being in the Barossa, people love the idea of knowing how things are made,” Nicole says.
“Our first goal is just to make really good gin, but we also want to help educate people on how gin is made, so we’d like to include tours and gin-blending masterclasses.”
SRD has launched a trio of gins made with a range of botanicals sourced from the Barossa where possible.
The distillery uses a grape spirit base from the Barossa Valley’s Tarac Technologies, Australia’s largest producer of high-quality grape spirit.
Botanicals including pink pepper corn and lavender are sourced from as close as down the road.
First up is the Barossa Dry, “a take on the traditional London Dry Gin” with clean juniper and coriander notes and a pinch of peppercorn and lavender.
The Savoury Allsorts features star anise, liquorice root, fresh thyme, marjoram, borage, and gentian.
The House Gin is recommended for drinkers not quite sold on the taste of gin, as it has subtler hints of juniper, while chamomile, lavender and cinnamon add sweetness and warmth.
The gins have already scooped a number of awards, including the House Gin which won silver and the Barossa Gin which won bronze at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London.
The House Gin has also been awarded a gold medal at the Melbourne International Spirits Competition.
SRD will make its public debut at a sold out gin blending class as part of the Barossa Gourmet Weekend on September 1.
On September 2 SRD will set up a pop-up gin bar for the ‘Gin & Jams’ event at The Greenock.
Visitors can explore SRD from September 3. Check the website for opening hours.
Header photo features tasting room manager Bec Henderson, left, gin distiller Nicole Durdin, general manager Jon Durdin and brand ambassador Scott McCarthy.
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