Created by Sarah and Jon Lark in 2006, Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS) was Australia’s first dedicated Gin distillery. KIS was inspired by Jon’s brother Bill Lark, who helped change the laws in 1993 in order to establish Australia’s first whiskey distillery. As a result, the whiskey industry blossomed. However, the gins that were being created by these distillers were merely about cash flow while they waited for their whiskey to age.
Jon and Sarah were motivated to change this and worked together to develop a premium gin. The couple has won awards all around the world for their gins, including receiving the trophy for Best in Show at this year’s Australian Gin Awards. They also have a range of liqueurs and vodkas, all inspired by local ingredients that reflect the flavors of Kangaroo Island.
Where is Kangaroo Island Spirits located?
The distillery is located approx. 10 kilometers from Kingscote, on Kangaroo Island (856 Playford Highway).
Where do most of the ingredients for the gin come from?
We use ultra-premium grape spirit from the Barossa Valley, Macedonian Juniper, along with a small amount of our own from the 200 small trees that we planted four years ago. We also use SA Coriander seed, along with a number of other locally grown or native botanicals.
How is gin made?
We have a 300lt copper pot still that incorporates a basket to hold our botanicals. During distillation the vapor passes through the botanicals, collecting the oils that infuse it with flavor. This is then condensed back to liquid, diluted back with Kangaroo Island pure water to create the gin that is ready to bottle.
How do you make different flavors of gin? The process?
The character of the gins is influenced by the minor botanicals or aging in different types of wood. The key major botanicals are Juniper, coriander and angelica. All of the botanicals in our gins are introduced during the distilling process.
What are some of the different flavors of gin you create at Kangaroo Island Spirits?
The first gin we released in 2006 was our Wild Gin. It is a traditional style of gin that is fresh and easy to drink. We used a native berry called Boobiala, which has brought a slight floral sweetness and subtle native juniper notes to the gin. Lime zest and mint help to freshen it with pink pepper and ginger to brighten the flavor.
Our O Gin uses a native coastal daisy Olearia axelaris, which is often referred to as a native rosemary. Its aroma is the smell of walking through the sand dunes on a hot summers day. We have given this gin more warmth with orange zest, Asian peppers and Tonka bean from South America.
Old Tom is an old style of gin that is sweetened and characterized by lemon and licorice. We have used native lemon and aniseed myrtle, then complemented the flavors by aging in French oak for a few months, which lends creamy vanilla notes to the gin.
Is the process of making gin different in Australia?
There are many different processes that are utilized in Australia that I’m sure would be the same around the world. What is different is the quantity of Australian native flavors that are being incorporated in the gins. It is really increasing awareness of the amazing flavors that we have here on our doorsteps.
What is your favorite kind of gin?
I like to drink my gin neat on ice, so it needs to be a smooth and complex gin. I love a gin that will linger and tantalize the taste buds.
What types of food pair best with gin?
That’s a complicated question. It depends on the style of gin, how the gin is served – there are so many different cocktails that gin can be incorporated into. For me – I love a sake martini with a good bit of sushi or fresh oysters.
What are some of the signature drinks at Kangaroo Island Spirits?
We make the best classic G&Ts served with matching garnishes, premium tonic and in a copa glass (so you can get your nose in and enjoy the aroma of the gin) One of our liqueurs we make with local honey and walnuts makes a “to die for” affogato – drizzled over homemade ice cream and served with a shot of coffee.
What kind of experience can I expect when I visit Kangaroo Island Spirits?
We offer a range of different experiences, from being able to walk in to the cellar door and tasting all of our products, to sitting in our gin garden and savoring a cocktail. For a more in-depth experience, you can book a gin-tasting platter, which explains a little more about the different flavors and how to create a perfect G&T. For a more unique experience we offer the opportunity to learn more about gin and how it is made before enabling participants to create their own gin to take away with them.
Can I come home with a bottle of gin?
You can definitely purchase our range of gins either in a 700ml bottle or a three pack of 200ml bottles. We’re also available at Adelaide airport and the duty-free shop.
What is so special about living and making gin on Kangaroo Island?
There is something truly amazing about living on an island. Kangaroo Island Spirits exemplifies all that’s good about island life. You can sit back and relax here in our family friendly garden and just let go of the stresses and worries of day-to-day life.