Just last week, Adelaide’s Red Hen Gin was named best Classic Dry Gin nationally at the inaugural Australian Gin Awards. Not bad for a group who have been distilling on their weekends around full-time jobs and only started out as a hobby.
Brothers Michael, Anthony, and Daniel Vallelonga, and business partner Luke Page started distilling in a backyard shed back in 2014.
“My brothers and I grew up in Gawler growing grapes and making wine with our grandfather just for our family,” said Anthony.
“We wanted to do something like that with gin, just for our friends and family. But we thought, ‘if we’re going to do this, let’s do it properly’. We got the proper licensing and one thing led to another and now we’re making gin.”
They named their batch-distilled gin Red Hen, because of their time spent travelling to and from school on Adelaide’s iconic red hen trains back in the 90s.
They’ve been selling the Red Hen Gin since the end of 2016, distilling right in the heart of town in the CBD’s west end. They picked up their first big award not that many months later, winning the Champion Small Batch Spirit at the 2017 Australian Distilled Spirit Awards.
Since then it’s been a mad rush trying to keep up with demand.
And then there was the recent award win – the trophy for best classic dry gin in Australia at the Australian Gin Awards.
Of the Red Hen Gin, judges said: “well balanced gin which fits firmly in the Classic Dry category. Great! Tantalisingly junipered on the nose. A well rounded juniper spice combination on the palate with a well balanced lingering, spicy finish. Ticks all the boxes in this category.”
Whisky legend Bill Lark, also considered by many as the godfather of the Australian spirit industry, was the chairman of the nine judge blind tasting panel for the awards, who selected the Red Hen Gin as best out of 40 gins.
“There were some quite outstanding gins in this category and this one [Red Hen Gin] is the winner, and I don’t think you need to do anything with it, just drink it the way it is,” said Bill.
“We get a lot of feedback that people can drink it neat. But we think it makes a good gin and tonic as well,” said Anthony.
Anthony has just recently started working full time on the business, and the team hopes to expand the range to a second gin.
“For us now it’s all about trying to grow the brand,” said Anthony.
“We’ve discussed doing a navy gin or sloe gin or something different, but we haven’t locked anything in yet.”
Want to taste the award-winning Red Hen Gin? Anthony will be doing a tasting at The Gallery on Waymouth Street on Thursday April 11 from 5-7pm. Find out all the event details here.