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Aussie koala trumps Monkey 47 in gin stakes

Tourism

A leading Australian craft distiller is capitalising on a chance encounter with a koala to go one better than the German creators of globally renowned gin Monkey 47.

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Kangaroo Island Spirits will today launch its Koala 48 gin, which uses an incredible 48 botanicals sourced from the distillery’s South Australian garden.

Launched in 2011, Monkey 47 has an abv of 47 per cent and contains 47 botanicals found in Germany’s Black Forest. It has gained a global following and is sold in more than 50 countries, including Australia. French drinks giant Pernod Ricard took a majority stake in Monkey 47 in 2016.

However, Kangaroo Island Spirits is no stranger to success, winning a swag of national and international awards including Best in Show with its KIS O Gin at the Australian Gin Awards last month.

KIS Director Jon Lark said the idea for the small batch of Koala 48 was formed when a koala wandered into the distillery last year.

“Kangaroo Island is known for its kangaroos but the island has also got a significant koala population and about six months ago an adolescent male koala walked through the back door of our distillery, which we’d never seen before,” he said.

A koala that stumbled into the KIS cellar door last year has helped inspire a new gin.

“We were standing around wondering how to tell this story in a bottle of gin and we had been thinking about Monkey 47 for a while.

“So, being Australian, we thought ‘bugger this we’ll do 48’.”

Only 900 bottles of the limited release Koala 48 have been produced with an abv of 48 per cent. Like its German cousin it is in 500 ml bottles and is being sold for $A95.

Kangaroo Island is about 150km southwest of Adelaide, the South Australian capital, and is Australia’s third biggest offshore island behind Tasmania and Melville Island.

It has long been regarded as one of the world’s most pristine natural environments and is also known for its premium food and abundant wildlife.

KIS gins boast a distinctly Australian flavour enhanced by the inclusion of foliage from the coastal daisy bush (olearia axillaris), native boobialla and locally grown Lemon Myrtle and Aniseed myrtle.

Sarah and Jon Lark, who established Australia’s first dedicated gin distillery on Kangaroo Island in 2002, found 48 distinctive botanicals in the distillery’s gin garden “without too much trouble”.

Sarah and Jon Lark.

“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,” Jon said.

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

“I would never suggest that we are trying to be better than them (Monkey 47), I think it’s a bloody good gin in its own right and it’s been very well received at a couple of tastings in the past couple of days.

“It’s just a bit of Australian humour around the notion of a German putting 47 botanicals into a gin and we thought we’d have a go at using 48.”

The Larks have also used Koala 48 to showcase the use of their own juniper berries, which they say is the first time Australian estate-grown juniper has been used in a commercial gin.

The Larks have panted about 150 common juniper trees across four varieties in the past five years and the trees are just beginning to yield significant crops.

Jon said the fresh juniper took the locally grown botanicals of Koala 48 to another level.

“It’s a fun project but the likelihood of being able to match those 48 botanicals in exactly the same way is not going to happen so if there’s another batch it will be a version two.

“One of the things that influenced us was guys like Gin Mare in Spain who are these third generation distillers who decided to make a gin that represented their backyard and they broke all the rules by putting in things like olives and rosemary and basil.

“Flavour is 80 per cent aroma so it makes so much sense to make gins that relate to the environment we live in.”

The Larks are exploring export opportunities into Asia and have recently visited Singapore, China and Japan to further negotiations.

“When we were in Singapore and Japan there were a lot of people interested in the koala story and we’ve got one of Australia’s oldest and highest awarded gin distilleries but one of our greatest asset is that we come from a pristine place called Kangaroo Island.

“When you go to Asia people think that is fantastic so a gin with a koala on the bottle would certainly appeal to those markets.”

Koala 48 is being launched today at the Tasting Australia festival in the South Australian capital Adelaide.

The 10-day festival includes more than 160 events across 120 venues spanning 12 South Australian regions from April 5-14.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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