By Tim Ashdown
AT SOME POINT gin developed a reputation. “It had been relegated to an old lady’s drink, mostly because vodka had taken over,” says Jon from Kangaroo Island Spirits.
And then something big happened.
“When Bombay Sapphire introduced their blue bottle, that was the beginning of the new premium gins,” says Jon.
That was in the late 1980s and the ripple from the blue bottle is now a wave that is about to break.
“We’re hearing from London this is going to be the decade of gin.” It’s taking off again in the UK, and the same is happening in Australia, partly because bars want to serve locally made spirits.
That suits Jon who started playing with gin in about 2006. Others were doing something similar, but Jon says Kangaroo Island Spirits, or Kis, was the first to do a new world gin in Australia.
“New world gin” – it sounds so exciting.
The phrase has been thrown around for the last 10 years to describe the new things people are doing with this old spirit. “That’s one of the things about gin. It has to have juniper and after that you can put anything in it. And people are.
“New world gins are made all around the world, and often have botanicals that represent the area they’re made in,” says Jon.
Cue: Kangaroo Island and its amazing array of botanicals – not that Jon uses them for the sake of it. “We use them because they’re good. We don’t use them just because we’re from here.”
His hero is the Kis Wild Gin. He’s been making it for about five years and uses a native berry known as boobialla. “We’ve married it with common juniper from Europe and 10 other very traditional gin botanicals. It’s a fairly floral gin.”
He only produces about 50 bottles at a time.
“The other distilleries are small but we’re extremely small.” he says.
When you visit the quirky cellar door on Kangaroo Island you can often see the gin you’re tasting being made right in front of you. The distillery and cellar door are in the same shed. “It wasn’t planned that way,” says John, “we just haven’t won Lotto yet. But people love it – it works very well.”
Jon will be chatting at Tasting Australia about bathtub gin from the prohibition era and showing people how to blend their own bottle at Share Session – Botanicals and Bootlegging. He’ll also make a top secret appearance at one of Tasting’s Australia’s major events. He says he can’t wait.
This article originally appeared on tastingaustralia.com.au