You’ve heard of Monkey 47, but what about Koala 48?

16 April, 2019 by Tam Allenby

(Image credit: The Lead South Australia)

Kangaroo Island Spirits has gone one better than Monkey 47 with its latest gin release Koala 48, which boasts 48 botanicals grown in its distillery garden – including juniper berries in a claimed “Australian first”.

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Co-founders Sarah and Jon Lark planted their first common juniper trees about five years ago, and now have about 150 trees of four different varieties.

The berries are among the four-dozen homegrown botanicals featured in Koala 48, which launched on Thursday 11 April at the Tasting Australia festival in Adelaide.

The majority of juniper used for gin distillation in Australia is sourced from Europe, with very little grown in Australia due to an unsuitable climate.

However, KIS Director Jon Lark said the varieties planted on the KIS property – juniper communis pendula (US), juniper communis hibernicus (Ireland) and two Australian cultivars – are thriving in Kangaroo Island’s cool coastal climate.

“To date it’s the first Australian estate-grown juniper to go into a gin and we put it into Koala 48 with 47 other botanicals from our block,” Lark said.

“It’s created this very quirky and complex gin with lots of layers that start off with a nose of green coriander and finishes with pineapple, bitter lemon and a whole range of cottage garden things going on. There’s also a really wonderful expression of fresh juniper in there.”

Koala 48 was inspired by a chance encounter with a koala at the KIS cellar door last year and is also a tribute to the renowned German gin Monkey 47 – which launched in 2011 with an ABV of 47 percent and contains 47 botanicals found in Germany’s Black Forest.

“Kangaroo Island is known for its kangaroos but the island has also got a significant koala population and about six months ago an adolescent male koala walked through the back door of our distillery, which we’d never seen before,” Lark said.

“We were standing around wondering how to tell this story in a bottle of gin and we had been thinking about Monkey 47 for a while.

“So, being Australian, we thought ‘bugger this we’ll do 48’.”

Only 900 bottles of the limited release gin have been released, which also boasts an ABV of 48 percent. And just like its German counterpart, Koala 48 is being sold in 500ml bottles (RRP $95).