Meet Wendy. She’s the glistening copper still, responsible for churning out Never Never Distilling Co gin. Her base is a small annex at the back of Big Shed Brewing Concern in Royal Park. It’s unpolished, a little tatty around the edges. But it’s home.
Owners Sean Baxter, George Georgiadis and Tim Boast have big dreams for the future.
The name of their new distillery is inspired by the remotest parts of the Australian outback. “To head into the Never Never you need to be strong, courageous and fearless,” says Baxter. “It encompasses everything about the excitement and adventure we’re about to have.”
The words “Fearless Spirit” are even plastered on their bottles. “[It] isn’t just an attitude. It’s what we want to represent with our products – a bold, fearless return to flavour,” says Baxter.
The former brand ambassador for Johnny Walker moved to Adelaide from Sydney earlier this year. “The industry here is booming,” he says. “The gin audience is so involved, so engaged and so educated. It’s brilliant.”
Georgiadis has spent considerable time travelling the US, visiting more than 40 distilleries and seeking out the best producers to understand their processes. He believes the quality of SA spirits is world class. “If you can make something that is quality on the South Australian scene, it’s quality on the world scene,” he says.
The trio launched their label at Hains & Co two weeks ago. Since then their triple distilled juniper gin has been picked up by Maybe Mae (“now it’s extra fun drinking cocktails there”) and independent bottle shops such as Sturt Street Cellars, Goodwood Cellars and East End Cellars.
They’ve spent the past few months experimenting with various botanicals. Of the 45 distillate trials leading up to the launch, 15 included native botanicals such as wattle seed, lemon myrtle and gumbi gumbi (Australia’s native apricot tree). They settled on a classic, London Dry-style gin, but hint that we might see these native distillates popping up in Italian-style bitters and astringent cocktail liqueurs in the future.
Their flagship Never Never Gin is made with eight botanicals, including native pepperberry, angelica and orris root, cinnamon, coriander and citrus. It’s juniper prominent and botanically forward, with a smooth finish and residual sweetness courtesy of liquorice. Georgiadis recommends pairing it with soda, tonic, in a smooth Martini or in a Negroni spiced with cassia (Chinese cinnamon).
Other experiments include the Southern Strength Gin, bottled under its Dark Label Series banner. At 53 per cent alcohol, it packs maximum flavour and intensity. Each bottle is individually labelled with batch date, bottle number, and the initials of its three producers. Try this one in a Gibson Martini (gin and vermouth) dressed with pickled onion and bitters.
Whisky will be a strong focus going forward. The trio is currently maturing whiskies from McLaren Vale and Fleurieu distilleries in a range cask styles. Once they’ve reached maturity, they’ll be blended with specialty malts and yeast courtesy of neighbouring brewer Big Shed.