The past few years have seen an explosion in our state’s offerings of small-batch, hand-crafted spirits. In particular, operations producing bespoke gins have become omnipresent around the Adelaide environs. One of the most recent additions to this growing local industry is Red Hen Gin, founded two years ago by brothers Michael, Daniel and Anthony Vallelonga – along with honorary bro, Luke Page.
Brought together by family, friendship and a shared passion for locally, hand-crafted produce, Michael told us, “We had made wine together, beer together so a crafted spirit was the next step. It also helped that we love gin!” So in 2014, they ordered a hand-made column still from the US and began the lengthy (but imaginably very enjoyable) process of developing their craft of gin distilling, complete with blind tastings in Luke’s shed, well away from the kids’ curious eyes.
Red Hen wanted to craft a gin that aligned with the boys’ own preferences for a more delicate quaff: “We like Martinis, Tom Collins, Negronis, and Southside Gin cocktails.” They decided to use a vapour-infused process that aligned with their love for drier gins, but that still retained the qualities of the locally-sourced botanics they infuse into the liquor. This meticulous method involves heating up the liquor and turning it into vapour. The copper column further refines the alcohol by further distilling the liquid six times across the process. The vaporised liquor then gently passes through the botanics, infusing them with their flavour and fragrance. It is then finally condensed in the still back into the spirit that we know and love as Red Hen Gin!
In 2015, the boys decided they were ready and secured a site off Sturt St. in Adelaide CBD’s west end to turn into their permanent distillery. The location was once the home of an old pub called the ‘Star and Garter’. Apparently, our city’s west end was rife with less-than-legal distillery operations in the 1800’s! Red Hen Gin’s operation is distinctly more reputable, and since their inception have been picked up by trendy haunts like Hains & Co. and Bar Torino. Even better, Red Hen Gin won a gold medal for its gin at the 2017 Australian Distilled Spirit Awards and also took out Champion Small Batch Spirit in Australia! Michael says, “SA is fast becoming ‘The Gin State’; we bat well above our average on the national and international stage.”
Red Hen has grown over the last few years from an enjoyable family pastime to a popular local brand. “Through the support of our customers and a loyal following, the business has grown to more than a hobby and is keeping us very busy”, Michael told us. The emergent gin company is not only a fantastic addition to Adelaide’s CBD culture, but is yet another example showcasing South Australians’ passions and talents to the rest of the country and the world.
You can order your own bottle of the good stuff through Red Hen Gin’s website, where you can also find a list of all the great local bars that stock their stuff. To keep up with events, like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram.