At the Bar with Kangaroo Island Spirits Distiller Charlie Schmidt

Kangaroo Island Spirits Distillery has introduced a world-first gin made exclusively with 100% Australian-grown juniper in South Australia.

Head distiller Charlie Schmidt, who joined Kangaroo Island Spirits in 2021, is thrilled he’s finally able to share the First Harvest Juniper Gin.

“This gin only came about because our juniper bushes had their first good harvest of berries back in late 2021,” says Charlie Schmidt who says the juniper grows less than 100 metres from the distillery.

“All the juniper at Kangaroo Island Spirits was planted long before my time here and by the original founders,” he says.

“It’s a slow growing plant and takes six to seven years before it can produce any berries, and even then it can take longer before it produces a meaningful amount. We’re fortunate the founders had the foresight to plant them so that we may have the privilege of using them now,” says Schmidt.

More than 230 juniper bushes were planted in 2006, all now fully matured and allowing hand-picked juniper to become part of the gin journey.

But it’s not just juniper you find in the bottle – there’s also hints of native thyme, lemongrass and orange zest to add to its flavour profile – building some complexity to the spirit and balance out the juniper.

Charlie Schmidt spoke to The Write Drop for our At The Bar series.


From Adelaide but live on Kangaroo Island. Prefer the country life to the city life, less people, less traffic, less drama, less hassle.


Last weekend, my girlfriend, her brother, and I were diving for crayfish. We caught a nice sized southern rock lobster. We took it home and cooked it up on the BBQ with plenty of butter and garlic and shared it with the family. If I had to choose a restaurant though, the two that stand out in my memory are ‘the odd plate’ in Kingscote which has since burnt down and ‘The Salopian Inn’ in McLaren Vale. Both had sensational food.


The Quaich Bar in the Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside, Scotland. The bar had over 700 bottles of whisky and the bartender knew each and every one. You could tell him what you were feeling and he’d go off and come back with half a dozen bottles of whisky for you to choose from. Was a cool, personalised bar experience.


Whisky neat.


Powerade and time on the couch.


Cabernet Sauvignon.

False Cape, Kangaroo Island


First Harvest Juniper Gin.


American bourbon trail, to learn about the product that seasons a lot of our whisky barrels.





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