Eat & Drink

Kangaroo Island Is The Unexpected Home Of Australia’s Best Gin

Cheers to that.

Sure, its name gives away a bit of what you’ll encounter on a visit to Kangaroo Island, but there’s a lot more to this wind-whipped outpost than its namesake animal.

Australia’s third-largest island is also home to a vibrant and varied food and beverage culture, hinged on top-quality local produce and the palpable enthusiasm of entrepreneurial residents. And Kangaroo Island Spirits is by far one of its best exports.

On a less lonely stretch of the Playford Highway, about 5km from KI’s only airport, a charming shed-style farmhouse welcomes passers-by to the cellar door of Australia’s first gin-dedicated distillery. The property has been the home to some of the country’s best bottles since husband-and-wife team Jon and Sarah Lark opened the doors in 2007, but it’s not the fact they pioneered the practice that makes Kangaroo Island Spirits an industry mainstay – it’s the unique infusion of native and locally-sourced botanicals to their distillation process that truly sets their tipple apart.

While traditional gin has a best friend in juniper, the Kangaroo Island Spirits team instead opts for Myoporum insulare, a juniper-type berry native to Kangaroo Island. Where European distillers might drop in ingredients like blackberries, lemon peel or liquorice, Kangaroo Island Sprits substitute native coastal daisy, local mulberries, aniseed and lemon myrtle.

And the liqueurs are just as deliciously distinct, flavoured with everything from the island’s famous Ligurian honey to kaffir lime leaves.

Although the website humbly announces there’s “no such thing” as a world’s-best gin, a slew of awards – including the gold medal at the international SIP Awards – suggests otherwise.

Don’t take someone else’s word for it, though: thanks to its rustic, off-the-beaten-track setting and super friendly staff, the Cygnet River cellar door of Kangaroo Island Spirits is a serious highlight for any visitor to the area. Less than 10 minutes from Kingscote on the Playford Highway to Kingscote Airport, you can stop by for an impromptu tasting, take an afternoon in the Gin Garden with cocktails (the G&T comes highly recommended, of course) or pre-book a gin blending masterclass that will see you head home with your very own self-made bottle (check the website for upcoming dates).

The cellar door is open every day from 11am to 5:30pm, except during South Australia school terms, when it shuts its doors on Tuesdays. And, if you’re keen to take a bottle home – which, after a tasting, you will – prices start from $89 per bottle for their signature Wild Gin, $47 for Pure Vodka and $49 for anisette liqueur.

(Lead image: Kangaroo Island Spirits / Facebook)