The industrial suburb of Sturt might sound like an unlikely place for a distillery door but, for Lindon and Geordan Lark, that juxtaposition just adds to the magic.
“We hope to be the diamond in the rough,” Blend Etiquette co-owner Lindon Lark tells Broadsheet. “The brief has always been to build something that is soft and comfortable, an oasis in the middle of our industrial district.”
Spirit aficionados will recognise the surname. The young distiller grew up in the spirit world; his uncle and aunt founded Tasmania’s Lark Distillery, while his father and stepmother were the founders of gin-focused Kangaroo Island Spirits. He has fond memories of harvesting wild fennel on the side of the road to help make his dad’s liqueurs.
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“When [dad] told me he was going to make gin, I was in year 10 and I ridiculed him saying, ‘no one drinks that’. He was the first in South Australia to do it,” Lark says. Despite his dad’s trailblazing, Lark never aspired to a career in distilling. Instead, he studied architecture while his wife Geordan studied property development and business.
In 2016, the couple founded Blend Etiquette and released their first product, Snake Oil Tonic Syrup (an homage to the anti-malarial tonics that led to the modern-day gin and tonic). Back then, distilling was a hobby but a couple of business grants followed and, before they knew it, they were deep in the world of gin.
By the end of 2018, using Kangaroo Island Spirit’s 80-litre copper still, they established a core range including Pangolin Gin (now known as Yours and Mine), Floral as Hell and Strangely Savoury, and also became contract distillers for the likes of Maggie Beer, Patritti Wines, Coffin Bay Spirits and SA Distilling Co.
Come 2020, armed with a new warehouse space and large still (custom-made as a larger version of the original copper still), the distillery continued to grow. The 2700-litre beast is the focal point of the new tasting space, while the accompanying brew house is home to two 5000-litre fermenters, a mash tun and grist mill.
Now they’ve opened a new distillery door and gin garden with capacity for 130 people, free gin tastings and an accompanying menu of cocktails.
The space – designed by Black Rabbit Architecture & Interiors – is a kaleidoscope of colour. A large mural by local artist Jasmine Crisp turns heads as motorists enter the nearby Southern Expressway and head toward McLaren Vale, and inside there’s a low-lying bar.
“The bar was designed at 950-millimetres to be as accommodating to wheelchair users as possible,” Lark says. “It sounds gimmicky, but we are trying our best to make this space a safe and accommodating place for all people.”
The cocktail menu was designed by career bartender Alana Hockley and, over the next month, a shared food menu including burrata with sticky fig syrup; taramasalata and crisps; warm smoked olives; peppered dry-aged sirloin; Ortiz anchovies and bread; and a full vegan board boasting dips, garden pickles and dolmades, will be added to the offering.
As well the new distillery door, the couple have big plans to make liqueurs as well as South Australian-grown whiskies, brandies and agave spirits, says Lark. “We’ve got our own barley crop at Mount Crawford and the aim is to make whisky from paddock to bottle.”
1510 Main South Road, Sturt
0452 422 107