I’d never consider myself one to appreciate all the things that gin encompasses. Gin, to me, is a drink that my partner drinks. It’s also drink that I hazily remember drinking during my apprenticeship, at a pub, in a bit of an inebriated stupor. Maybe that’s where things changed for me? Personally, when it comes to spirits, I’m more of a vodka guy.
Seeing a gin masterclass on our Kangaroo Island itinerary put a small knot in my stomach. How the hell was I going to sit and bluff my way through gin tasting, and then write about it? Well, let’s just say that it was this masterclass that reintroduced me to what gin really is. Appreciating its complexities rather than mixing it with lemonade and boozing as I did in my very early twenties.
Jon and Sarah Lark welcome us to their pride and joy. Their artisanal micro distillery a short drive from Kingscote that’s a home, an “office” and a place where some magic happens.
Gin & tonic welcomes us to their home; using a tonic that’s made in-house very much the way it’s meant to be. And the stained colour it used to be. This was one gin & tonic I couldn’t stop sipping; letting myself go and started appreciating the drink for what it is.
A cluster of unnamed glasses peppered the table and it was these that we sniffed and tried to decipher the notes from a variety of gins. I was always under the impression that all gins tasted the same. How wrong I was. Varying spiced and herbaceous notes jumped from each glass, proving to me that no gins are the same. Fascinating stuff.
It wasn’t just all about the gin that evening as we tucked into some pretty special food, cooked by Louis Lark, 22 year-old son of Jon and Sarah. Hold on. Of course it was about the gin. Each dish had gin incorporated.
An oyster with gin bloody mary granita, some gin & beetroot cured atlantic salmon, and some gin spice-cured snapper with horseradish, lime and mint.
Served in a small martini glass, a chilled cucumber and gin soup with avocado, tomato and mint preceded a tasty South Rock lamb with mulberry gin jus. A bit of celeriac puree and prosciutto came with.
Dessert was a simple-yet-beautiful pair of lemon & gin tarts. Defrosted raspberries added a little more sourness and some unsweetened cream married the two. Hmmm, I may be a gin convert now.
Kangaroo Island Spirits – Playford Highway, Cygnet River
Following our final breakfast on Kangaroo Island, we took the cars and headed out to Vivonne Bay, a place that’s usually all about the turquoise waters and white sand. That morning presented us with more of a moody side to what the coastline offers its visitors. Churning ocean, salty mist and temperature only a seal would love.
Speaking of seals.
About 20 kilometres away is Seal Bay. This is a place any wildlife fan can come and be pretty-much guaranteed a sighting of these cute creatures. A staggered elevated walkway leads you down towards the beach with views across the dunes and beach to where the seals rest, sleep and congregate.
Half-way between Vivonne and Seal Bays is Little Sahara, a couple of patches of large sand dunes that are there for climbing and frolicking, if you wish.
Down by the wharf, back in Kingscote, was one of the other major events held for FEASTival. Tasting Kangaroo Island at the Wharf is a low-key event that celebrates the islands growers and providores in a market atmosphere. Live jazz, a farmers market, food and wine stalls, cooking competitions and mingling with locals and visitors alike.
KI Wilderness Retreat got my attention with their braised lamb shank & Bay of Shoals shiraz pie. All sipped down with a malbec from The Islander Estate.
Another thing that got my attention was a big cardboard box that was being used to smoke rows of local snook. This make-shift smokehouse is a device that local guy Dan Pattingale uses to cold smoke any fish he can get his hands on.
The wood he used that particular day came from old fence posts; smouldering in an adapted gas bottle with a tube that carries the smoke to a cardboard box that contains the hanging fish. A simple set-up that produces some pretty tasty smoked fish.
hnf travelled to Kangaroo Island courtesy of South Australia Tourism.