“Needle and pin” means “gin” in cockney rhyming slang. It’s also the name of Kayla Grigoriou’s new spirits label, which she operates out of a distillery on Port Road. While the name was chosen spontaneously, the label itself has been a long time coming. It was an idea sparked while Grigoriou was working in hospitality (she works at both Bar Torino and Maybe Mae).
“I started drinking gin and loved it . . . I have a fascination with the craft of distilling – the actual way to make it, the ideas behind it. And I like the creativity. I was probably talking about it for two years.”
Growing up at a Berri vineyard, Grigoriou comes from a family deeply passionate about winemaking. Her distillery sits within her parents’ bottling hall at (Portia Valley Wines), and her brother, Greg, owns Oddio winery and is the winemaker at Delinquente.
“Dad has olive groves, orange orchards and all the rest of it,” says Grigoriou. “I think as a kid you kind of take it for granted, but growing up, you realise how awesome it is to be around fresh produce.”
She aims to showcase the Riverland’s natural diversity through the botanicals she uses, including lavender, raisin, olive leaf and saltbush. Her gin is made from a wine base (using grapes from her family’s organic vineyards), with the wine being sent through the still a number of times to become a neutral spirit.
Making a neutral spirit from scratch sets Needle & Pin apart from other distilleries. “Most people in South Australia use Tarac, which is a wine base – but it [already] comes as a neutral spirit,” explains Grigoriou. “I’m not sure how many other distilleries actually create their own neutral spirit, but it’s not super common in SA.”
Similarly untraditional is the grappa Grigoriou makes. “We use Montepulciano grape marc, which is – after the wine has been pressed – the stuff that people used to throw on their gardens to fertilise their roses,” she says. Instead of sending it directly through the still, it is left to ferment with sugar and water for about a fortnight, almost making a low wine in the process. “It has a very strong character. You really taste the grape more than in other traditional style grappas.”
But the odd tradition is retained. Grigoriou shows Broadsheet one of her favourite recent creations – a more classic Seville orange gin. Flakes of pulp and rind float around in the bottle. “I made it in the bathtub style,” she says. “It’s a little bitter, a little sweet, and a little bit lower in alcohol as well.” Grigorious uses “seconds” oranges and mandarins from Riverland farmers that would otherwise be rejected by supermarkets due to minor blemishes.
Long-term plans include creating more gins, a vodka, and perhaps even whisky. “I want to create something that’s really true to myself,” Grigoriou says. “I don’t want to put anything out there that I don’t believe in.”