The Hipster Spirits of Kangaroo Island

The Hipster Spirits of Kangaroo Island

Published: 9:28 AM, May 30, 2016
Updated: 1:43 PM, June 10, 2016

The Hipster Spirits of
Kangaroo Island

We find out more about what slow spirits are all about at Kangaroo Island Spirits from South Australia

Cocktails are having a grand ol’ moment in Singapore. It’s evident everywhere you go.

Five years ago, if you asked a waiter for a gin & tonic, he would have simply nodded silently and walked away (we are such a chatty bunch, aren’t we?) to fetch your drink. Today, that waiter might first ask “Which gin?” before proceeding to ignore you all night.

Yes, Singaporeans have gained a growing appreciation for spirits (of the boozy kind). And it may surprise you to know that the next bottle of gin you’ll be telling your friends about might come from a place a little further south than you’d expect. Way down under: Australia.

If South Australia is the country’s wine capital, Kangaroo Island is its spirit centre. And there’s one smooth acronym that lingers on the lips of locals and tourists alike: KIS (Kangaroo Island Spirits).

The first boutique distillery in the state follows the philosophy of “slow spirits” and uses fresh Australian botanicals to enhance the profile of its beverages. In the range are several liqueurs (kaffircello and chilli, anisette, honey and walnut, lime and ginger) and three types of gin (wild, mulberry and O – so named because of the addition of Kangaroo Island’s coastal daisy bush olearia axillaris, and the limited edition Old Tom).

Here are three reasons you need to have KIS on your lips the next trip to South Australia.


When Sarah and Jon Lark launched Kangaroo Island Spirits almost 10 years ago, they also became neologists, coining the term “slow spirits”. It is not a reference to a ghost who can’t do algebra — it’s because they produce spirits using a similar philosophy to the slow food movement.

“We enjoy the fact that we do everything by hand, in small batches and utilising traditional processes,” explained Sarah. “We start with a high-quality neutral spirit; we have chosen a grape spirit as it is light and made in the Barossa. This goes through the still on its own, as there is a reaction with the copper that makes the spirit smoother.

“We prepare the botanicals (the spirits are infused with) the day before by roasting or crushing them and soaking them in the spirit.”

And, of course, any hipster worth their salt lives off the land. “We are using South Australia-grown coriander and have planted more than 150 juniper trees to eventually have our own supply of juniper. The result is a high-quality product that can be consumed slowly and enjoyed with the knowledge that there are no hidden additives.”


In the Wild Gin alone, there are a dozen different botanicals – all native to Australia. That’s right, you won’t find them anywhere else in the world. And on the off chance someone has imported these ingredients, you can guarantee they won’t be prepared with this level of care.

“We prepare the still and place the botanicals in a basket that sits in the neck. As the spirit evaporates, the vapour passes through the botanicals, taking the oils with it, through the condenser, then into our collection vessel,” said Sarah. “We love the juniper flavour and believe it should be the hero of the gin. The other minor botanicals are there to complement it and give it personality.”


Plenty of love and numerous taste-tests have gone in to creating the perfect combinations. “We have been very lucky to have a number of volunteers who have helped us by taste-testing our trials,” laughed Sarah.

KIS may not be on the lips of the average barfly right now, but the boutique distiller guarantees that just because a brand is better known doesn’t mean it’s of better quality. “Because of the size of our still (80 litres), we can get away with starting at very high alcohol percentages, compared to, say, a whisky distiller whose initial runs begin at anything as low as 5 per cent alcohol by volume.”

To find out what else South Australia has to offer visit or head to The Singaporean’s Guide to South Australia for more stories and videos from the series.