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Kangaroo Island Spirits has launched a gin boasting 48 botanicals grown in its distillery garden including juniper berries, which it says is an Australian first.

April 16, 2019 Beverage, Headline News No Comments Email Email

Sarah and Jon Lark, who established Australia’s first dedicated gin distillery at Cygnet River in 2002, planted their first common juniper trees about five years ago and now have about 150 trees of four different varieties.

The berries are among the four-dozen home-grown botanicals featured in their Koala 48, which is being launched today (Thursday, April 11) at the Tasting Australia festival in Adelaide.

The majority of juniper used in the traditional distillation of gin in Australia is sourced from Europe. Very little is grown in Australia because the climate isn’t suitable. But John said his varieties – juniper communis pendula (US), juniper communis hibernicus (Ireland) and two Australian cultivars are thriving in Kangaroo Island’s cool coastal climate.

“To date it’s the first Australian estate-grown juniper to go into a gin and we put it into Koala 48 with 47 other botanicals from our block,” Jon said.

“It’s created this very quirky and complex gin with lots of layers that start off with a nose of green coriander and finishes with pineapple, bitter lemon and a whole range of cottage garden things going on.

“There’s also a really wonderful expression of fresh juniper in there.”

It is unlikely the Larks will ever be able to grow enough juniper to fuel their entire operation but they plan to use their pine cone-like berries for limited releases such as Koala 48 and for special batches of their flagship ‘O’ and ‘Wild’ gins.

“When you think about the juniper that everyone else in Australia uses a lot of, it comes from places like Macedonia where the trees are 400 years old and there’s mountains of them,” Jon said.

“It’s a horrible prickly pine tree, it takes a long time to grow to get the volume that you need and if you’re competing with Macedonia then I wouldn’t have thought the price point would be commercially viable.

“But one of the things that is really noticeable to us about this is when you pick a fresh juniper berry off one of our trees and compare it to the dried product that’s coming into the country from overseas, it’s like picking a tomato out of your backyard and comparing it to one from the supermarket, there’s this astounding fresh and wonderful flavour.”

Jon said juniper was being grown in other parts of Australia with …

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