Distilleries from South Australia have dominated the winners' list in both the 2019 Australian Distilled Spirits Awards and the Tasting Australia Spirits Awards over the weekend.
At the ADSA awards held in Melbourne on Friday night, South Australian entrants took out top gongs in the whisky, gin and brandy sections to put 'south of the border' emphatically on the radar for local spirits enthusiasts.
Meanwhile, at the Tasting Australia awards on Saturday night in Adelaide, South Australian entrants won seven of the nine national categories, including the two major awards.
Tasting Australia awards head judge Bill Lark – the man often credited as the 'godfather' of the all-conquering Tasmanian whisky industry – said the quality of entries "goes up a level" each year, led in 2019 by the burgeoning South Australian scene.
"I think South Australia is seriously becoming a leading state for spirit production; a lot of SA spirits are winning top awards around the country and that's something we've seen reflected here," he said.
The ADSA, Australia's largest distilled spirits competition, is conducted by the Royal Agriculture Society of Victoria and attracted a record 337 entries across five categories in 2019.
The top gong of the night, for the overall champion distiller, went to Tasmanian whisky maker Hellyers Road, further reinforcing the Apple Isle's already strong reputation as a centre of excellence for boutique spirits.
But in a coming-of-age moment for the emerging South Australian craft spirits industry, the coveted title of Australia's champion whisky was collected by Fleurieu Distillery, based in the town of Goolwa, one hour south-east of Adelaide, with its 'Fountain of Youth' expression.
In the ultra-competitive gin section – which comprised half of the spirits entered across the awards – it was Ounce Gin Bold from Adelaide's Imperial Measures Distilling that received the nod from the judging panel.
A new champion
Brandy is a particular beloved spirit in South Australia and the St Agnes Distillery, based in Renmark, has had a lock on the ADSA 'champion brandy' title for the past three years with variations on its St Agnes X0 expression. This year a new winner emerged – Adelaide Hills Distillery's Apple Brandy.
In other categories, the ADSA's champion vodka for 2019 was Citrus Vodka from Victoria's Alchemy Distillers, while the champion rum went to a regular winner, the Ord River Rum from West Australia's Kimberley-based Hoochery Distillery.