The Riverland is rapidly breaking the mold and if you flicked to the Cellar Doors section of a Riverland Tourist Guide you would find in addition, Breweries & Distilleries. Yep, the Riverland is so full of entrepreneurial types, that locals are finding more ways than one to turn their favourite fruits into alcoholic refreshments.
Cue :: the 23rd St Distillery :: helping the sweetest oranges on the tree find their way into the most hipster-est drink of the moment, Gin. And bringing sexy back to Brandy, that stuff your Mum drinks when she has a cold….not sure why though…definitely not endorsed by the medical community.
But there is more to the Distillery than creating a Brandy that is definitely Not your Nanna’s and Gin so good you actually can drink it on the rocks!
In fact, there are 5 other things about the Distillery that I love and here they are >>
1.It’s a prime experience
The visitor centre is open, peaceful and a great place for a pre-dinner drink. The modern and earthly design leaves me feeling like I am in the city but without the crowd. You can taste the spirits that are distilled on site and take your taste buds on a journey that you probably wouldn’t have taken them on before. I’ve tried both Brandy’s and was surprised that I like them! I’ve also tried the hybrid whisk(e)y and decided that I still don’t like bourbon or whiskey due to a very unfortunate event when I was around 17.
The venue is perfect for a big event (hint hint Riverland Brides-to-Be) and their twist on the traditional Espresso Martini and Gin Martini are pretty delicious. There is an interesting atmosphere, I think it’s the way the natural light and dark wood styling compliment one another. Creating a space that feels spacious yet cosy >>
2. Go on a behind the scenes tour
It’s safe to say everyone loves a VIP experience and interacting with the people behind the spirits at the Distillery is the easiest way to get this feeling. Tours of the distillery are run by the distillers and staff themselves, and they are more than happy to bestow their knowledge upon you. The tours are also a great way to actually see the inner workings of an operational distillery and go inside a Barrel Hall where you could probably get drunk off the air itself if in there too long!
There is so much history behind the 23rd St Distillery site, which brings me to my next point >>
3. It’s a real-life Cinderella Story
The Distillery has breathed new life into the historic Renmano Winery, built in 1914. Transformed by Fairy Godmother late in 2016 (or by Bickford’s and a team of builders, architects etc if you want to be factually correct) the site is once again a vibrant hub of activity.
The Renmano Winery originally distilled brandy and fortified wines using local grapes until the 1960’s when around 130 growers got together and decided to form Australia’s first co-op of it’s kind, The Renmark Growers’ Distillery Company. It became a full blown winery, helping to support the local economy and grower which was reported as a great success during that time.
In 2002 operations ceased and the site remained dormant…a bit like Sleeping Beauty until Prince Charming (Bickford’s again) gave the kiss of life.
Paraphernalia from the good old days can be seen in The Custom’s House and more stories of times past uncovered on the tour. Basically old has been transformed into new (a bit like The Block) and where knocking down and rebuilding was an option, the stories and features of the old winery have been kept, making it a key feature of the venue >>
4. Local Love
I think in this current age, you’d be a bit silly if you didn’t try your darnedest to look local first and utilise the hell out of whatever you can get your hands on locally. 23rd St are getting a solid ‘A’ for this in my opinion. Local citrus and coriander are used in the gin, grapes and apricots in the brandy’s and rose petals from Ruston’s Roses are used in the special edition Vodka.
Even the labels of the 23rd St range capture the essence of the Riverland with artist’s impressions of the Paringa Bridge and mud map of Renmark. For all they know, the gin drinking hipsters of Adelaide are drinking simply another premium South Aussie drop. But hopefully it helps connect them to the Riverland and raise the profile of our also premium region >>
5. The Bathrooms
Yep. I am a girl after all and we all know how fascinated we are with bathrooms. The Distillery’s are no exception.
Created in what I think are old concrete vats from the winery days, the bathrooms are dark and mysterious. They really make you check twice that you haven’t walked into the Men’s room (it’s ok, they are unisex).
One thing that draws me to the bathroom (besides the obvious) is the smell (the not so obvious). So much so that I am hooked on The Aromatherapy Co Lemongrass, Bergamont & Lime scented diffuser used to make this one of the best smelling bathrooms of all time!