When Suzie Annese and Tony Parkinson asked Kangaroo Island Spirits’ (KIS) Sarah Lark to distil some gin for the label they were launching, her initial response was that she was too busy. Undeterred, the pair went along to Lark and her husband Jon’s gin-blending masterclass at Tasting Australia last year.
“When Jon had two glasses of [our gin], we realised we were onto a good thing,” Parkinson recalls. A partnership was born, and so was Mad Men Gin.
Trips to the KIS distillery helped refine the recipe, but the original gin is pretty similar to what was produced in that fateful masterclass. Annese and Parkinson wanted a London dry style that was simple, rather than overloaded with botanicals. A base of juniper, coriander and angelica is lifted by strong ginger notes and rounded out with quandong, cinnamon, lime and mint.
Parkinson, who founded Penny’s Hill Winery in McLaren Vale, had the Mad Men name registered with a wine range in mind. But when Annese approached him about launching a gin, he decided that was better suited to the name.
The first batch of Mad Men Gin was distilled at KIS late last year. Find it at East End Cellars, Bank Street Social, The Howling Owl, the d’Arenberg Cube Restaurant and Seed Winehouse and Kitchen in Clare.
The second batch came 12 months later (to the day) but Annese expects this one won’t last nearly as long. It’s the flagship product at Flights – a newly opened tasting room on the Penny’s Hill property.
It’s in a 160-year-old carriage house, which the pair spent months renovating. Removing a layer of concrete revealed a beautiful slate floor, and slate roofing tiles are still visible from inside.
Behind the bar, Mad Men’s original gin sits alongside the full KIS range. Fever Tree is the tonic of choice, but there’s also a range of Utonic kombucha spritzes. The first cocktail of the month is a quandong gin sour.
“The appeal of gin over wine is the endless experimentation,” Parkinson says. “There’s not much you can do with a glass of wine.”
There’s no distillery attached to the tasting room. But there is an airstrip between the vines. Plans to run day trips to KIS – via helicopter – are in the works.
281 Main Road, McLaren Vale
Fri to Sun 3pm–7pm