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Aussie bush gin prepares to go global

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Kangaroo Island Spirits this week took out the Champion Gin Trophy at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards for its Old Tom Gin and prepares to more than double production for export.

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The accolade, handed out by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria in Melbourne, comes as the remote Kangaroo Island distillery prepares to install a second still to give it the capacity to enter the export market.

Kangaroo Island Spirits owners Jon and Sarah Lark have been distilling at Cygnet River for more than a decade.

Jon, whose brother Bill founded renowned Tasmanian whisky distillery Lark, said the second still would have the ability to “significantly more than double” production, which currently sits at about 7000-litres a year.

“We’ve intentionally remained small over the years because we wanted to maintain control of our product but we’ve just been receiving so much interest, particularly in export, that we are about to install a 300-litre pot still and within 12-months we’ll have that running off solar power and have the only solar distillery in the country,” he said.


Kangaroo Island Spirits’ champion Old Tom Gin.

Kangaroo Island Spirits has up to five gins using local botanicals and traditional processes in its range at any one time. It also produces vodka and liqueurs.

Jon said although the most significant sales were through the cellar door, wholesale was rapidly expanding with a great deal of interest from high-end bars, restaurants and independent bottle shops across Australia.

He said the artisan distillery had received international inquiries from the United States, United Kingdom and from Asia.

“I’d particularly like to go into Spain because Spain consumes more gin than the UK but a lot of people don’t realize that and certainly Asia makes a lot of sense from here as well,” Jon said

Known for its natural beauty and wildlife, Kangaroo Island draws more than 40,000 international visitors every year with the majority coming from Italy, Germany and North America.

“We’ve been here 10 years and we’re going from strength to strength and this award is going to help us no end in getting to that next stage,” Jon said.

“Also, Kangaroo Island has developed a fairly significant food and wine industry and we’ve been a part of that. “

Kangaroo Island Spirits took out the national award for its “Old Tom” gin, a traditional gin flavoured with native plants.

It boasts a distinctly Australian flavour enhanced by the inclusion of foliage from the coastal Daisy bush (olearia axillaris), native Juniper (myoporum insulare) and locally grown Lemon Myrtle and Aniseed myrtle.

Jon said “Old Tom” was a slightly sweetened gin, which took its name from an English gin tradition from the 18th century.

“We’ve made an Old Tom style of gin using that process but we’ve added local botanicals and we’ve aged it for six weeks in reconditioned French oak barrels to give it some character.”

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