By Belinda Willis
South Australia is aiming to become the gin capital of the nation as 27 craft distillers produce dozens of award-winning bottles and create their own industry association.
Last month, Adelaide was also host to the Australian Distillers Association conference with its finale event held at the Prohibition Liquor Company Tasting Room in Gilbert Street where its owners showcase gins from across the state.
“We serve 40 plus SA gins,” says co-owner Adam Carpenter, adding that the new state industry association also held its first event at the same venue in August.
“We’ve been trying to own the title of the gin state, there are more distillers in other states but they don’t work together as collaboratively as we do, that’s where we have a real strength.”
It’s been a rapid growth story for the SA industry and the Prohibition Liquor Company started by Adam Carpenter and Wes Heddles in 2015 has been riding the wave.
The two have a range of five core gins along the selection, including the Original and the 69% proof Bathtub Cut Gin – “1% higher and it’s officially a dangerous liquid” – both winning a swag of national and international awards.
Adam and Wes opened their tasting room and bar a year ago to showcase their own gins produced at Applewood Distillery in the Adelaide Hills, along with 90 others from around Australia and the world.
They have educational gin tasting flights with many locally crafted brands rotating through the SA version. Adelaide Hills Distillery is in the mix at the moment, a clear sign of Adam and Wes’s commitment to supporting other craft distillers.
Their inclusion marks Adelaide Hills Distillery opening its own tasting and bar venue Lot 100 near Nairne this month. For Adam, it makes sense to work together to jointly promote the state’s rich offerings.
“SA logically is one of the best places in the world to produce gin, first of all most of us use grape-based spirit and we have access to some of the best in the world,” he says.
“Then we have that quality in the gin coming from the best botanical ingredients, some of the best Riverland citrus, we use Adelaide Hills lavender and there’s a whole range of bush ingredients.”
On the bush ingredient side, Something Wild and Adelaide Hills Distillery are making Australian Green Ant Gin with the unique bush tucker hand harvested in the Northern Territory by the Motlop family of the Larrakia people and the product handcrafted and bottled in the Adelaide Hills.
Ambleside Distillers in Hahndorf produces Kifaru Gin using native botanicals found at Monarto including mintbush and wattleseed – with money from bottles sold supporting threatened Southern White Rhinos.
While Kangaroo Island Spirits forages for native juniper on Kangaroo Island for its award-winning Native Gin, also using fresh limes from nearby Fleurieu Peninsula.
Some of those capitalising on the state’s top quality fruit include Rowland Short in McLaren Vale. He uses Japanese native yuzu being grown for the first time in the Riverland, bottling under the Settler’s Gin label.
And Twenty Third Street Distillery – owned by the Bickford’s Group and based in the old Renmano winery in Renmark – has created an award-winning Signature Gin with “tiny explosions of Riverland sunshine”, using local mandarin and lime.
It’s an industry daring to be different, and Prohibition Liquor Co is keen to continue being at the forefront. This month, the company is installing Adelaide CBD’s first functioning and visible distillery at its Gilbert Street venue.
Red Hen Gin uses a copper column still for its London Dry Style gin in the city but it’s not on display. Adam says the new still will be used to make existing gins along with some new offerings crafted on site.
Prohibition Liquor Co gins are now distributed nationally through Dan Murphy’s stores along with other independent bottle shops, online and the business is exporting to New Zealand and Singapore.
Adam says the new year will see an even greater focus on expanding exports along with the two continuing to build strong relationships with other SA gin makers. Wes is treasurer for their new industry association.
“We were about the fifth on the market in SA when we started out, now there’s 27 or 28, it was all starting to emerge in 2015 but it’s just exploded in the last three years,” he says.
“We have been working together well as an industry on an informal basis since about 2016 but as more and more emerge we are bringing them into the fold, we’re sharing the knowledge so everyone benefits.”
Industry in focus: Craft industries
Throughout the months of November and December, the state’s craft industries will be celebrated as part of I Choose SA.
South Australian craftspeople make up some of our most creative thinkers and makers of sustainable and innovative goods. Read more craft stories here.
Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.