EVEN before climbing the steps up to the striking new home of Seppeltsfield Road Distillers, the glamorous star of the show holds centre stage.
Across the wooden platform, encased in a tall, glass box, “Christine” is a complex configuration of gleaming copper and steel tanks, pipes, valves and dials – equal parts the working heart of this new gin-making business and a stunning work of art.
“We wanted people’s eyes to go straight to the still,” explains Nicole Durdin, seventh generation Barossan, chief distiller and owner of this venture with her husband Jon.
“When you drive past at night it will be all lit up. We want people to know the gin is produced here. We want them to be able to touch, taste, see … the full experience. Having that provenance is important to us.”
Nicole says the still, made by CARL of Stuttgart, is named after her grandmother, whom she describes as “a very determined German lady”.
“She (the still, that is) is incredibly elegant and beautiful but she works hard.”
Seppeltsfield Road Distillers’ tasting and production facility, a Grand Designs-style compound fashioned from shipping containers around a central, multi-level deck, will be officially opened on Saturday with a special, sold-out blending event that is part of the Barossa Gourmet Weekend program.
SRD is a complete career change for John and Nicole, who plays a French horn with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. The pair were in the UK when they came up with the idea three years ago.
“I was having a career crisis and trying to come up with ideas of what I could do,” explains Nicole. “We talked about starting a business and toyed with the wine industry. We started to do some research about gin and saw the potential of a fledgling industry.”
With Nicole’s connection to the Barossa, “it was never even a discussion about where we would do this”.
They found an empty block on Seppeltsfield Rd and came up with the shipping container design, partly to address challenges posed by the slope of the site.
Nicole has developed three different styles of gin, after experimenting with a wide range of botanicals.
“When you go wine tasting in the Barossa you don’t turn up to a cellar door and there is only one style of wine,” she says. “We wanted to make sure we had enough of our own product to keep people interested.”
The Barossa Dry is a classic, juniper-forward style, that also incorporates pink peppercorns from local trees, lavender and cornflowers.
The House Gin, made for “people who don’t like gin”, is sweeter, brighter, with less juniper and more citrus, as well as cinnamon and cornflower, while Savoury Allsorts, as the name suggests, uses star anise, licorice root, fresh thyme, marjoram and borage.
While the blending class has sold out, SRD has also teamed with The Greenock for “Gin & Jams” on Sunday as part of the Barossa Gourmet Weekend.