SA’s spirits may not be quite as famous as our wines, but they’re becoming just as prized internationally, winning a slew of recent awards. At distillery doors around the state, locals can taste our best craft spirits and meet their makers, too.
A spirit state in the making
Five years ago, there were only around 10 distilleries in South Australia. Now there are more than 100, many in regional SA.
South Australia’s established, emerging and world-renowned distilleries are getting a whole lot of love worldwide for their gin, whisky, vodka, rum, brandy, liqueurs and more – we’re talking Rakomelo, Kafe La’Bomba, oyster shell gin and Panettone Negronis.
ABS data shows the South Australian spirit industry had an export value of $30.8 million in the year ending August 2023, representing about 12 per cent of Australia’s spirit exports. The local sector is tipped to grow to 2,300 direct jobs by 2031 – in roles like production, sales and marketing, and tourism – up from an estimated 600 people in 2022.
Total domestic and international South Australian spirit sales are also forecast to increase to between $120 million and $180 million by 2031, according to Distillers South Australia President – and Managing Director of SA’s iconic Never Never Distilling Co. – George Georgiadis.
With a little help from our friends
George says the State’s spirit industry has developed into a “mega industry” so quickly thanks to distillers’ willingness to help each other out, State Government support – and a leg up from our wine industry.
“Fortunately for spirits, we’ve actually been able to make the most of a lot of the good work that wine’s done – all the suppliers, all the knowledge,” he says. “That education, the courses that are run, have really helped the industry get off the ground.”
Distillers South Australia – the peak industry body – recently received a $50,000 grant from the State Government to develop an export strategy for SA’s distillers to enter new markets, build on existing partnerships and create jobs.
The funds will also be used to establish an international trade event from next year, highlighting to buyers around the world why South Australia is fast becoming the ‘spirit state’.
Simply the best
So how does SA stack up against the rest of the country? George says the answer’s simple: “we’re the best”.
“We’ve won more global trophies than any other region in Australia,” he says. “Between a handful of distilleries here, we’ve won multiple world’s best gin, world’s best whisky, world’s best distiller awards. A South Australian has been named Australian champion distiller for the last four years (in a row).”
The local sector also dominated the 2023 Tasting Australia Spirit Awards, winning 10 of the 12 prestigious gongs on offer.
“The awards really do help get recognition out there, help reinforce that we are making high quality superior products and keep people switching more to local spirits,” George says.
Want more? Matt, Anna and Tim are joined by special guest George Georgiadis in episode 24 of Hot Topics. Listen now!
That’s good news for locals
When it comes to why SA spirits are the best, George thinks the history of our wine industry has helped us in terms of standards and production quality. But he also says it’s down to the locals – “we do have such discerning consumers here in South Australia; people are so into flavour.”
He says it’s an amazing time for the SA consumer to enjoy themselves because if they order a local gin or whisky at the pub, they’ve “got a good bet now it’s going to be an outstanding spirit”.
If your usual is still a pale ale or Savvy B but you’re “spirit curious”, the best way to find out what you like is to sample a few (or a lot!) of different options while you chat to distillery staff for a few tips.
A trail to raise your spirits
Sound good? Then the SA Distillery Trail is your guide to where the best craft spirits are being made in Adelaide and right across the state. Whether you visit one distillery door or make a day of it, mention the Trail for special discounts, unique experiences and personalised insights.
It really is a fun way to get to know SA’s gin, whisky, vodka, rum, brandy and liqueurs – not to mention some seriously delish cocktails. Plus the staff will give you the lowdown on how the spirits are distilled so you can impress your friends by knowing the difference between a single malt and blended whisky. Ask nicely and they’ll even explain what it means to stir the mash and flocculate!
Don’t want to leave your couch? The Trail’s also a handy online resource, with signature cocktail recipes, plus all the info and links you need to stock up your home bar cart with an online haul. Anyone else fancy a Brompton Calling cocktail or a Yeah, Nah-groni?
Want more? Here’s a list of 10 SA distilleries to visit (or buy from online!)