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Tuesday 27 June 2023

Coonawarra has its first distillery in three-quarters of a century

Family-owned Majella is one of the stars of the Coonawarra wine industry - and is also now a craft distiller.

Majella has just released a gin and an Eau de Vie - and a brandy made from grape spirit is in the works.

The whole project came about by chance.

Co-owner Brian "Prof" Lynn was asked by a retail store manager: "When is Majella going to make a gin? With the Majella name on it we could sell some".

With plenty of pressings left over after each vintage, it seemed like a good idea, except Prof thought "Why not distil it and make that old-fashioned product: brandy."

After looking at using a contract distiller, the Majella team decided to go it alone.

They purchased a still from Burns Welding and Fabrication in Griffith, NSW, and now own a 970-litre copper "pot still" (below).

It is the first commercial still in Coonawarra since one was removed from what is now Wynn's Coonawarra Estate Winery in the early 1950s. It was installed in the early 20s to make spirit for both brandies and fortified wines.

By law, brandy has to be aged for at least two years in oak barrels before it can be released as Australian Brandy.

"We've had some in barrel now for just over seven months and it's looking very good indeed," Prof says. "Hopefully in a couple of years it will be a great Australian craft brandy."

But the Majella team has the distilling bug.

"While we are waiting for the brandy to age gracefully we've used the spirit we've made to make two new products," says Prof.

"We've taken some of the brandy spirit that we've already distilled, mixed it with some botanicals, aged it for a while and then re-distilled it as gin.

"This has given us a smooth, traditional London Dry-style gin, perfect on it's own but a gin that mixes exceptionally well with tonic water or soda.

"The botanicals we have used are very traditional - juniper, coriander, fresh lemon peel (from our own orchard), and a little orris root and angelica root."

When someone asked "What's your gin like?" Prof replied that it was just a very simple gin, and that is what its called: A Simple Gin by Majella.

It is bottled in 500ml rectangular bottles and sells for $65 per bottle.

And then there is the Eau de Vie, French for "water of life", billed as "an absolutely marvellous cocktail base". This one is $55 a bottle.

You can buy both at

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