On the eastern side of this rugged outpost, Kangaroo Island Spirits crafts award-winning tipples that reflect the isle’s rich history, unique flora and incredible resilience.
When Jon and Sarah Lark started Kangaroo Island Spirits 15 years ago, there were only 17 distilleries in operation throughout Australia. “I think there are over 290 now,” says Jon. “But back then, the industry was dominated by whisky and even my brother, Bill Lark, a whisky producer who was instrumental in changing the law to allow boutique distilleries, told us gin would never work. We still like to remind him of that...”
KIS not only became Australia’s first dedicated gin distillery, it’s also home to one of the most-awarded gins in the country, O’Gin, which recently took home best contemporary gin at the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. “It’s basically the equivalent of the Oscars for the spirits industry,” says Jon. “If only they could see the shed we work from.”
At the heart of KIS is a commitment to honouring the spirit of Kangaroo Island. “We fell in love with KI the second we arrived and immediately wanted to make gin that represented the island,” says Sarah.
There’s native juniper in KIS gin, hand-picked samphire in its vodka and the award-winning O’Gin is infused with olearia, a local coastal daisy bush that imparts sweet piny notes. “We came here to escape the world and we hope that people can do the same just by opening a bottle of our gin,” she says.
The island has “an abundance of people who are creative and entrepreneurial and we really believe it’s the island that gives people that creativity.”
It also gives them resilience to survive everything from bushfires to COVID-19. “The community here is so strong, there’s so much support and it really feels a million miles away from anywhere else. It’s a great place to come and start something unique.”
Their top small business tips
Keep it local: “It’s important to have strong links to your region, through your product and your team. We’ve been obsessed with creating high-quality spirits that represent everything we love about KI and ensuring we have a strong culture within our local team,” says Jon Lark.
Find a partner: “Collaborating with other local businesses has been integral to our success. It means we can share resources, ideas, support each other and compare notes on operating a business within a regional area.”
Image credits: South Australian Tourism Commission (Sarah and Jon Lark); Wasa Media (KIS product).