Down under juniper: a history of Australian gin

It should come as no surprise that Australian gin has become one of the most sought-after variations. After all, our famed distilleries are taking home awards from competitions all over the globe!

What makes Australian gin so interesting is the rare and unique ingredients being used to produce these fascinating spirits, providing so much room for creativity in this industry relatively young to Australian shores.

Today, Aussie gin producers are using all kinds of ubiquitous ingredients to produce flavours that tantalise gin lovers from London to Los Angeles and beyond, but we didn’t exactly start out as a gin-distilling nation ourselves…

It all started with… whiskey?

There is a man with a name you may be aware of if you’ve spent any time looking into Australian spirits: Bill Lark. The man is synonymous with Australian whiskey and, on a wider scale, one of the faces of Australian spirit production. Lark’s Tasmanian whiskey distillery was the first distillery on the island to be granted a licence in over 150 years, and that was only back in 1992!

Not only did Lark Distillery quickly make a name for itself through its fine Single Malt Whiskey, but it soon set the course for other Aussie spirits, like the great juniper gin, to commence production in Australia.

And, funnily enough, this production began with Bill’s brother, Jon Lark. Inspired by his brother’s unparalleled success, he and his wife, Sarah, began producing what is now some of the world’s finest contemporary gin on Kangaroo Island.

They wanted to create Australia’s first dedicated gin distillery, producing the drop with an Aussie twist – the boobialla. By combining both the classic juniper berry with boobialla, Kangaroo Island Spirits was able to produce a brand new style of gin combining both traditional and new ingredients.

It was the start of something special

For some time, it was only Kangaroo Island Spirits producing its botanical variants, but there was a sudden influx of micro-distilleries setting up shop all over the country. Soon, people started to consider gin as an industry that could find a welcoming home in Australia.

Soon, Australian cities started to take notice, and legendary institutions like Melbourne’s Gin Palace began dedicating their service to this spirit that had once played second fiddle to other Aussie spirits like rum and, more recently, whiskey.

But it was Western Australia’s West Winds distillery that really put Aussie gin on the map with its affordable, yet incredibly delicious house-pourable gin. In fact, the distillery was a meagre three weeks’ old when it scored the Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition – some calling it the most revered spirits comp in the world.    

Aussie gin was clearly starting to make progress on a global scale…

From there, fantastic distilleries like Four Pillars and the Adelaide Hills Distillery popped up, with both distilleries quickly earning fantastic reputations for their variants. This was back around 2013, when there were just 10 gins being made in Australia. Fast forward eight years, and there are now roughly an amazing 700 gins being made in the country.

The speed and rapid interest that came with gin production in Australia is a testament to our distilleries, the unique production methods and fine, native ingredients being used to produce delicious botanical variants. From lemon myrtle to lilly pilly, peppermint gum and native ginger just some of the ingredients going into our fine drops, it’s easy to see why Australian is always turning heads on the international stage.

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