On its first release in 2019, Kangaroo Island Sprits’ Koala 48 Gin, a homage to cult German drop Monkey 47, sold out quickly. Now it’s back, featuring 48 botanicals grown in the distillery’s backyard, a label depicting a marsupial neighbour, and a strictly limited edition.
As with all good gins, juniper is the first flavour to hit the front of the palate, according to head distiller Charlie Schmidt.
“The fresh juniper picked from the trees here at the distillery packs a much stronger, fresher punch than dried juniper from overseas,” he says.
“It’s one of the first things you notice when trying Koala 48 and we’re really proud of it.”
The other 47 botanicals – coriander and angelica, lemon myrtle and pineapple sage, cardamom leaf and rose petals among them – come together to form a complex gin.
The bold juniper is followed by extensive green garden flavours – bitter lemon, floral and herbaceous notes – finishing with a gentle minty freshness that lingers.
“If you bought a bottle of the first release of Koala 48, you’ll taste they’re related, but when you’re dealing with 48 different, fresh botanicals you’re never going to get a perfect match. The 2021 version is distinct,” says Charlie.
Most Australian gin makers import dried juniper berries from Europe, making Kangaroo Island Spirits perhaps the only distillery in the country to grow its own and use them fresh in Koala 48. On the property there are about 150 trees in four different varieties – Juniperus communis pendula from the US, Juniperus communis ‘Hibernicus’ or Irish juniper, and two Australian cultivars – that thrive in the cool, coastal climate.
“These trees are really special,” says Charlie. “There aren’t enough for us to grow the amount of juniper we need for the whole operation, but it’s perfect for limited editions like Koala 48.”
With an ABV of 48%, Koala 48 will only be available in 500ml bottles. It is the first of five limited-release products in the new Kangaroo Island Spirits’ Distiller Series.
Kangaroo Island Spirits has been working on another exciting project: a $3 million expansion of its distillery, including a new cellar door with immersive experience that will cater for up to 50 guests. The new facility, designed by Studio S2 Architects, was partly funded by a $500,000 grant from the SA Tourism Commission’s Tourism Industry Development Fund. It will be open to the public in November.
Kangaroo Island Spirits’ range of award-winning contemporary gins, including the limited-release Koala 48, vodkas and liqueurs are available from the cellar door and the website.