Another award, new Koala 48 variety at Kangaroo Island Distillery

JUNIPER BUSHES: Kangaroo Island Spirits head distiller Charlie Schmidt checks on some of the juniper bushes planted at the distillery property. Photo: Stan Gorton
JUNIPER BUSHES: Kangaroo Island Spirits head distiller Charlie Schmidt checks on some of the juniper bushes planted at the distillery property. Photo: Stan Gorton

Kangaroo Island Spirits has been awarded "Best in Category" trophy and a gold medal for its Old Tom Gin at the Australian Gin Distillers Association's celebrated 2021 Gin Distilling Awards.

Head distiller Charlie Schmidt and his crew are just about to get the access to its new distillery shed, when local builders Kauppila hand over the keys later this month.

It's part of a $3 million expansion of the distillery, including a new cellar door with immersive experience that will cater for up to 50 guests.

New shed video

The new facility, designed by Studio S2 Architects, was partly funded by a $500,000 grant from the SA Tourism Commission's Tourism Industry Development Fund. It will be open to the public in November.

Charlie expects the whisky still to be delivered in coming weeks but the big new gin still in the new shed is ready to start producing.

In other news, Kangaroo Island Spirits Distillery has just released its Koala 48 Gin, a homage to cult German drop Monkey 47.

Now it's back, featuring 48 botanicals grown in the distillery's backyard just outside of Kingscote, a label depicting a marsupial neighbour, and a strictly limited edition.

Old Tom wins again

More on that later, but first to the win at the 2021 Gin Distilling Awards.

Old Tom Gin is notedly different from the classic dry styles and widely regarded as a sweeter, less-botanical-driven version of most gins found on the market today. It is a generic term for vintage gin, some created with the addition of sugar or various botanicals for added sweetness.

Kangaroo Island Spirits' version is made from a base of its Wild Gin and O'Gin and lightly aged in small, re-charred French oak barrels with the addition of local aniseed and lemon myrtles.

Launched in 2014, Old Tom Gin is one of Kangaroo Island Spirits' most popular gins, renowned for its delicate balance and hint of sweetness.

In awarding Kangaroo Island Spirits' Old Tom Gin the 'Best in Category' award, the Gin Distillers Association's judges said, "A beautifully woven gin with a resoundingly smooth and luscious finish."

Head distiller Charlie Schmidt is thrilled with the result.

"Old Tom was first created to serve at The Tasting Australia Origins Dinner in 2014, and it's great to see that it's still being rewarded for its unique style and commanding the attention of gin critics around the world," he said.

Kangaroo Island Spirits' Whisky Barrel Gin also won a silver medal in the Matured Gin category while O'Gin and Wild Gin received bronze medals in the Contemporary Style Gin category.

2021 has been a big year for Kangaroo Island Spirits, winning Platinum, Double Gold, Gold and Consumer Choice Awards in the SIP Awards in May as well as silver medals in the International Wine & Spirit Competition in July.

Kangaroo Island Spirits Koala 48 features 48 botanicals grown in the distillery's backyard, a label depicting a marsupial neighbour, and a strictly limited edition.

Kangaroo Island Spirits Koala 48 features 48 botanicals grown in the distillery's backyard, a label depicting a marsupial neighbour, and a strictly limited edition.

Koala 48 re-released 

On its first release in 2019, Kangaroo Island Sprits' Koala 48 Gin, a homage to cult German drop Monkey 47, sold out quickly.

Now it's back, featuring 48 botanicals grown in the distillery's backyard, a label depicting a marsupial neighbour, and a strictly limited edition.

As with all good gins, juniper is the first flavour to hit the front of the palate, according to head distiller Charlie Schmidt.

"The fresh juniper picked from the trees here at the distillery packs a much stronger, fresher punch than dried juniper from overseas," he said.

"It's one of the first things you notice when trying Koala 48 and we're really proud of it."

The other 47 botanicals - coriander and angelica, lemon myrtle and pineapple sage, cardamom leaf and rose petals among them - come together to form a complex gin.

The bold juniper is followed by extensive green garden flavours - bitter lemon, floral and herbaceous notes - finishing with a gentle minty freshness that lingers.

"If you bought a bottle of the first release of Koala 48, you'll taste they're related, but when you're dealing with 48 different, fresh botanicals you're never going to get a perfect match. The 2021 version is distinct," Charlie said.

Most Australian gin makers import dried juniper berries from Europe, making Kangaroo Island Spirits perhaps the only distillery in the country to grow its own and use them fresh in Koala 48.

On the property there are about 150 trees in four different varieties - Juniperus communis pendula from the US, Juniperus communis 'Hibernicus' or Irish juniper, and two Australian cultivars - that thrive in the cool, coastal climate.

"These trees are really special," Charlie said. "There aren't enough for us to grow the amount of juniper we need for the whole operation, but it's perfect for limited editions like Koala 48."

With an ABV of 48 per cent, Koala 48 will only be available in 500ml bottles.

It is the first of five limited-release products in the new Kangaroo Island Spirits' Distiller Series.

Kangaroo Island Spirits' range of award-winning contemporary gins, including the limited-release Koala 48, vodkas and liqueurs are available from the cellar door and the website.

ABOUT KANGAROO ISLAND SPIRITS

Kangaroo Island Spirits Distillery (KIS) was founded by Jon and Sarah Lark in 2004 in a humble shed. Since then, after numerous awards, it has built a reputation as one of Australia's best gin distilleries.

KIS has recently won a swag of accolades including best contemporary gin at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, the first time an Australian gin had won the award in its 50-year history.

It's most recent achievement was at the 2020 International Wine and Spirits Competition, where it received 96 points for both its Wild and O Gins.

That score was the highest for all the Australian gins. KIS also took out the Consumers' Choice Award 2020 and a Platinum Award for its Whisky Barrel Aged Gin at this year's SIP Awards.

In March 2020, Mighty Craft acquired KIS, and appointed Charlie Schmidt as head distiller in September 2020. www.kispirits.com.au

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