Mallee Spirit | Myrtle Gin


This month we’re so excited to be showcasing the amazing Myrtle Gin from Mallee Spirit, a small distillery that
calls Lameroo home in the South Australian Mallee Region. Owners Robin and Ron Valentine never set out to become the next big thing in the world of distilling; for them, it’s always been about being themselves while showcasing their passion and their community. Although small, Mallee Spirit has a huge heart, bucket loads of passion and we have no doubt they’re about to become one of Australia’s most loved distilleries. 

Between the two of them, Robin and Ron run the operations at Mallee with support from Rusty, their Hungarian Vizsla. With a background in project management (and current local Mayor), Ron
provides emotional support, governance, logistics, book-keeping and a lot of the grunt work behind the operation. Alongside a 14 year career in medical imaging, Robin is the dreamer who is fascinated by botanicals and gets to play with the still, and of course – loves gin! Rusty does nothing much but looking great and demanding a pat every time they walk past.

After interviewing Ron and Robin to share their story with you, we very quickly realised that they were the best
people to tell it. So, we’re including the full interview with them for you to enjoy! 

Ron and Robin Valentine

How did Mallee Spirit get started?
“Luckily, Ron added up the many bottles of gin tucked away in the freezer, cellar and
cupboard and thought ‘if my wife had a still, I could save all this money!’. After some research Ron bought three stills from New Zealand (the home of
hobbits and legal home distillation). It was intended as a birthday present for me, but COVID slowed the boat across the Tasman and the surprise arrived 6 months late.”

Ron: “The stills included a 25-litre column which was used for distilling low wines to spirit, a 10-litre copper alembic still for making gin and a sweet little
3-litre alembic still so that Robin could play around with essential oils and hopefully manufacture her own scented candles – another item gathered
by Robin with gay abundance! All in all, my plan to save money was a foolish thought!”

Tell us about your journey so far!  
Ron: “A thirst for knowledge had Robin doing online courses, buying every home distillation book she could find, and eventually doing the Fundamentals of Spirit Distillation course at the University of Adelaide in 2021. She was hooked. A business plan was written, license applications submitted, and the journey began.”

Robin: “We launched the brand at a ‘Tasting Australia’ event in Lameroo in May 2022. The night was a great success for both the local community and Mallee Spirit. Many guests took home a bottle of gin and a bit of COVID – including myself! Mallee Spirit has a regular bar at many local events including Country Arts, Ladies’ Days, Farm Fairs, Markets, Show days and at the local footy and netball games.”

What does your distillery look like at the moment?
“Living on a broad acre farm we have the advantage of space. The farm was
established around 1910, the house built during the depression and the shearing shed built in the mid 60s, just like us! Back in the day farms were smaller, flocks were smaller and apparently even the sheep were smaller. Shearers now prefer to work in large modern sheds, so our small two stand shed became redundant. Not to waste the space, sheep were last penned in the shed in September 2022 and about a week later we moved our 260-litre still ‘Nelly’ in.  

Nelly was named after a beautiful aunty who passed away last year. She was a little round in the bottom and always ensured everyone had a good time. She had a laugh like no other and we thought this was a great way to remember her.

The shed isn’t used for much now other than needing to operate the still, but we are currently working through the development process with council to turn this into an occasional tasting room
and ‘pop-up’ bar. We’ll call it the ‘Broad-acre Bar’ in homage to the primary industry in our region.” 

When will we be lucky enough to see the shed finished, and what can our members expect if they come by?
Robin: “Hopefully we can satisfy council and the regulatory bodies and have the shed open later this year. Despite wanting to keep the shearing shed in all its original glory – including the lanolin on the floor and the chalk on the shearer’s tally boards,
there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to have it comply with standards. Ron builds with as many recycled materials as possible – each piece of timber having a patina and story to tell. So, it also depends quite a bit on the time he has to put into it and how strong and fit he is feeling at the time as he does it mostly on his own. I’m a bower bird and collect all those useless things that will bring the shed to life!”

“To date there is so much enthusiasm from the community for the venue. We have people asking about availability for product launches, small concerts and Christmas shows. Some locals just want a unique space surrounded by the open natural beauty of our region to relax, meet friends, or ‘chew the fat’ as it were over a drink after a tough week of work.

The original slatted floorboards of the shearing shed are not stilletto friendly!

Our town is no tourist destination, in fact it’s often seen as ‘the boring bit that you have to drive through’ between Sydney and Adelaide. Our distillery is 13km out of town and our driveway alone is 2km long! It’s never going to be one of those places you drive by and spontaneously drop into. Our goal is to open on set days and advertise via social media. We are a small distillery and we really don’t want to change that. The shearing shed conversion is just as much about showcasing our gin as it is providing a space for our wonderful community and friends. And warning to all – we have no intention of changing the slatted shearing shed floor. Stilettos are definitely not going to work!”

Why ‘Mallee Spirit’?   
Robin: “It was the only name I wanted. From the first thought that we could make a business from this, the name and the logo of the ute and windmill was in my head. While I was doing a whisky tasting session with the Uni course, I received an email confirming the business name had been registered (by Ron), so I knew this really was going to happen.
I chose the term ‘spirit’ to describe not only the distilled drink – but the disposition of mind or sentiment of a person. I wanted to leave scope to think of how you feel when you get home on Friday and pour that perfect clear liquid over ice and hear the sound the ice makes as it cracks to welcome the flavour.”


Now onto the gin! What was the inspiration behind your delicious Myrtle Gin?  
Robin: “The Myrtle Gin came about because I just love a citrus-based gin – and because I
had just planted both lemon and aniseed myrtle in our garden! Playing with our small 10-litre alembic still, I experimented with a basic gin then upped the
citrus flavours. Initial batches had 10 lemon myrtle leaves and 2 aniseed myrtle leaves – the poor trees started to look a bit depleted when the recipe
was ramped up to suit the larger still. I also added some pink peppercorns to bring some late warmth on the palate, plus the abundance of the pepper tree in
the Mallee region adds some terroir to the drink. 

It did not take long to start making a gin I liked, tasting regularly along the process of course. Ron’s initial suspicions that I like all gins were confirmed very quickly... but working with the small still it was difficult to find consistency. Translating the recipe and technique to the larger still was another challenge. There were certainly plenty of reject

Do you have any exciting products coming up in the future that you can share with
us? Or even any hints about what is next for you?
Robin: “The Mallee region of South Australia is not only known for dry land farming – irrigated crops such as potatoes, carrots and onions are huge here. About 80% of Australia’s potatoes come from SA, with the majority from the Southern Mallee region. So, that being said, my next venture just has to be a potato vodka.  

After inheriting the farm, we found out that Ron is actually related to the family who built it. Around 100 years ago they had the foresight to plant five Moreton Bay Figs on the property, and Ron is very excited to utilise them. He has challenged to me to develop a gin featuring them, which I’m not too sure about, so we will see how I go with that!” 

Robin, what is your favourite thing about having a distillery? 
“It’s that cross between science and taste, and I love gin. I love experimenting with the behaviour of the distillation process and the use of botanicals. It’s also given me a renewed enthusiasm for gardening. My garden is now full of plants that I hope one day to use in a distillation. Mind you, it
will be a long time before I can harvest juniper!

Having worked full time as a health professional, it is fantastic to be able to delve your attention into something
that has absolutely nothing to do with your day to day work. One day when I slowly transition to retirement, I will be able to say I am a distiller, instead of experiencing the loss of identity that so often overwhelms the early retiree.

It’s also something that Ron and I do together. We may not always be doing the same task – but we share the same goal. We would not have Mallee Spirit if I did not have the support and knowledge of Ron.”

Ron, what’s the best part of running Mallee Spirit from your perspective?  
Ron: “I am so pleased that Robin has found a passion that will drive her forward and give her purpose beyond her chosen career, and the fact that it is based on the farm is just fantastic. Robin has supported me and my choices over so many years – it is simply brilliant that I get to do the same for her.” 

Gin type – Australian Dry

Appearance – Clear, bright

Botanicals – Lemon myrtle leaves, aniseed myrtle leaves, lemon zest, lime zest, pink peppercorns, coriander, cardamom, cassia bark, liquorice root, orris root, angelica

Aroma – Fresh citrus dominates with piney notes from the juniper

Palate – Lemon sherbet and lime feature, with soft complex notes 

Finish – Woody notes from the liquorice root and aniseed myrtle linger with a warm pepper finish 

Our perfect G&T
• 30ml Mallee Spirit Myrtle Gin
• 90ml Bickford & Sons Dry Tonic
• Dehydrated dragonfruit

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