It began as many things do with discussions over knock-off drinks. A long shift, new staff, the booze provided the opportunity to dig a little deeper. As staff at one of Adelaide’s superior wine and cocktail bars, we shared a weight of responsibility for hosting Adelaide’s winest and finest. It was and still is a great place to work.
With a reputation as being one of the supreme wine and cocktail bars in a state with an unparalleled level of wine production and appreciation, the expectations and standards were high and we bonded over the awesome array of quality products we were able to dispense and sample. David, Ty and I formed a post-work cadre that discussed all aspects of the world and beyond as hospo types have done and will continue to do at ‘Knock-Offs’ forevermore.
A love and appreciation of fine booze was always a focal point, particularly the common interest in spirits, distillation and gin production. We would share our knowledge and discuss at length the production processes, whilst sampling any and many of the latest addition to the growing world’s list of new and old gins. And of course, knocking up and knocking back gin cocktails both the old and the new.
It became clear this was more than just a boozy lark. We soon found our free time was consumed comparing different stills from across the world, analysing production processes and researching costs of manufacture and cultivation of botanicals.
Our lives outside the bar as a Wine Rep, Student of Agriculture and Apprentice Distiller intersected and we were soon discussing what it would realistically involve, to develop our own gin. First and foremost access to a still was the primary concern. All of this was taking place at what appeared to be the birth of a Gin Revolution, and we applauded its every goose step.
It was just too coincidental to ignore…
The final impetus was Danby’s take-up of a position as distiller’s assistant to a well-known South Australian gin producer. At the same time, Ty was approaching the critical final year of his degree and I was just about to embark on a quest to sell South Aussie wine to regional SE Oz in a caravan for 6 months. We knew that if we were to harness the dream of making a gin, then we needed to seriously commit to the idea. It appeared to be now or never.
I still remember where I was when Ty called me. Too hot for the caravan, I had pitched a tent in camping grounds in Ulladulla on the far South Coast of NSW. It was the end of the week so I had several bottles of half-finished wine samples at my disposal but it was miles too hot for red wine. I’d grabbed a couple of beers from the local and was charging up phone and laptop in the communal kitchen when the phone rang. The reception was sketchy.
“Hey Ty! How’s it all going?
“Jonesy! All good – we need to talk. Danby is coming back and we are going to make it happen! He thinks he may have access to a still. Where are you and when are you back?
“I’m in Ulladulla and I’ll be back in about 6 weeks… where is he getting a still from?
“Not sure about the details yet. I just wanted to check that you are still keen?
“Hell yeah I am! Sling me some details when you can! I’m going to give Danby a call now. Cheers knackers!
It was at about 10.30 pm that I managed to get in touch with Danby. By that stage, it had cooled sufficiently to drink red wine. Which was just as well as there was no more beers or riesling left…
With an extension cord running 20 metres from the neighbouring powered site to my ‘mobile’ phone, Danby and I gassed for several hours over intermittent reception that regularly dropped in and out. By the end of the call, I’m not sure what I had agreed to, but one thing was clear – when I got back to Adelaide, we were going to make gin.