The Gin Society

14 April - by Jo Russell-Clarke

Words by Jo Russell-Clarke

If you ask Mick Krieg of Howling Owl why South Australia is producing so many gins with so many new producers in so many creative ways, he shrugs a little and expresses amazement himself. 

But he does think that the 'Father of SA Gin' – Kangaroo Island Spirits’ Jon Lark – should be given some credit. 

Jon began Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS) with wife Sarah in 2002.

Many who cut their teeth making gin with Jon went off with his blessing to start producing from their own stills – or indeed share facilities while experimenting with the many weird and wonderful botanicals at their disposal. 

The supportive sense of community among producers is one of the strengths and pleasures of learning about local gins – as it is about many of the food and beverage groups in South Australia.

The Gin Society is, a little sadly, not a club housed in a brass-plaqued heritage building with studded leather lounges, or even in a funky cracked-window warehouse. It’s the name given to a Tasting Australia extravaganza at Howling Owl (declaring itself Adelaide’s premier gin den), presenting a tasting list of three pages of gins from SA alone.

Not a mere tasting class, the Howling Owl event – on Saturday April 14 and Saturday April 21 – is a three stage crash-course, that becomes a tour through their premises off Rundle Street. 

Starting downstairs in a small and fragrant back room, the Gin Society journey begins with Blend Etiquette’s snake oil tonic syrup session. Founders Geordan Elliss and Lindon Lark (Jon’s son) will present a history and hands-on demonstration of this classic elixir.

The Urban Cow Gallery located upstairs is next stop on the tour, where Sarah and Jon Lark will run the KIS bootlegging masterclass. 

Looking like a colourful mad-scientist laboratory, clusters of high bench-tables are awaiting the experiments of guests who will leave with a sample of their own blend to take home.

Finally participants will be guided through the rich and surprising tastes of SA gins by Hugh Lumsden and Angus Rawson of Lyrebird Distilling Company. Four gins will be variously paired with local garnishes, exploring how fruits and herbs infuse and influence flavour.

You can sample the gins of South Australia any time at The Howling Owl, where very knowledgeable staff provide a commentary to their prepared tasting flights, or your own selection. 

The Gin Society evenings go several steps further, and promise to be an immersive and creative education in the fastest growing and most fun drinking experience you can have with your taste-buds and friends.

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