Founders First, a company that invests in independent craft brewery and distillery businesses, is developing the Kangaroo Island Distillery in Cygnet River, South Australia, into a world-class distillery and tourism destination.

The masterplan for the distillery development was unveiled in July 2020. Founders First acquired Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS), the former owner of the distillery, in March 2020.

The masterplan will focus on transforming Kangaroo Island Distillery into a place that will provide an immersive experience for visitors. The development will help increase the number of tourists to Kangaroo Island. Expected to be completed in mid-2021, the project will create 20 jobs during the construction period and approximately 25 jobs upon completion.

Kangaroo Island Spirits location

The gin distillery is located in Cygnet River on Kangaroo Island in the state of South Australia. The location was selected due to its emerging food and wine industry along with increasing tourism.

Kangaroo Island distillery details

Kangaroo Island Distillery will be developed in two stages and will include a spirit tasting room and education space overlooking production. The space will provide brand experiences such as masterclasses, group tastings, and events.

Following the completion of the construction of a world-class distillery, the development will move to the second stage, which will add a commercial kitchen and include a potential plan for accommodation facilities to serve the overnight market needs.

The project will introduce a third still to expand the production capacity for both domestic and export market of gin and vodka.

The distillery also plans to release a single malt whisky, which is set to be the first to be created on Kangaroo Island. Set to be available on very limited release by the end of 2020, the whisky is prepared using local malt and aged in port barrels.

The project will also include the upgrade of the existing cellar door, which will be used to serve spirits and cocktails in the native botanical garden.

The garden has more than 75 native gin botanical species, including Native Juniper, Anise Myrtle, Coastal Daisy Bush, and Lemon Myrtle.

Product portfolio of KIS

KIS’ product portfolio includes gin, vodka and liqueurs made using locally grown or sourced ingredients. The company’s gin offering includes Wally Wild, O’Gin, Wild Gin, Mulberry Gin, Whisky Barrel Gin, Old Tom Gin and Kis a Sailor, while the vodka range features SLAP Vodka and Pure Vodka.

KIS offers Limencello, Zenzerino, Kaffircello, Anisette and Honey and Walnut in liqueur category.

Marketing commentary on Kangaroo Island Spirits

Established in 2002 by Jon and Sarah Lark, KIS claims to be the maker of best contemporary gin in the world.

It is Australia’s first dedicated gin distillery that produces predominantly juniper flavoured gins in a traditional way.

Kangaroo Island Spirits supported the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic by producing alcoholic hand sanitisers. It resumed operations in June 2020 serving gins and cocktails after services were closed in view of lockdown restrictions.

KIS received many awards in 2018, including silver medal outstanding at International Wine and Spirit Show, gold medal at Spirit International Prestige (SIP) Awards, bronze medal at Tasting Australia Spirit Awards and silver medal at Australian Distilled Spirits Awards. It also received gold awards at the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) and the SIP Awards in 2020.

In August 2020, Founders First expanded into the whisky business through a partnership with former Australian Whisky Holdings CEO Chris Malcolm to co-invest in a new whisky business named NewCo.