Kangaroo Island Spirits’ distillery is getting a $3 million upgrade to transform into a flash new tourist attraction for the fire-ravaged island.

The development will include the construction of a “world-class” distillery – says Mark Haysman, chief executive of Founders First, who bought the distillery in March – including the addition of a third still to increase production capacity and a tasting space overlooking it, which will double as a venue for masterclasses and events.

The existing cellar door, opened by founders and chief distillers Jon and Sarah Lark, will also be revamped to serve visitors KIS spirits and cocktails in the native botanical garden, which is home to more than 75 species – including native juniper, coastal daisy bush, anise and lemon myrtle – used in the gins. Further works will add a commercial kitchen and, potentially, overnight accommodation.

Studio S2, the architecture firm behind Wirra Wirra Hotel and the Barossa Visitors Centre, has been tasked with the design.

Haysman says the multi-million-dollar upgrade will work alongside other attractions to help bring tourists back to the island, which has been “significantly impacted” by the bushfires and Covid-19.

“This is going to be significant for Kangaroo Island,” Haysman tells Broadsheet. “We hope this upgrade will mean more people travelling to the island. We hope it will create stronger visitor numbers, longer stays and encourage people to spend money on the island and therefore boost the local economy.”

Kangaroo Island Spirits opened in 2004 and was Australia’s first dedicated gin distillery. The brand’s O Gin was named best contemporary gin in the world at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London last year. It was the first Australian brand to win the award in 50 years.

In a statement, founder Jon Lark says the upgrades will “improve our ability to make our beautiful products ... [and] enable us to welcome more visitors to experience our island hospitality”.

The distillery will soon add whisky to its repertoire: a limited release made with local malt and aged in port barrels will be available later this year.

The upgrade will begin in September and is expected to be finished by May 2021.