Friday Drinks Sunny Hill Distillery

FEATURE | Sunny Hill Distillery w/ Sam and Olivia Collison

Arthurton | Yorke Peninsula

Ashamed to admit it, neither Lizzie or I had been to the Yorke Peninsula since we were children and it was finally time to download the Coastal Way map and head on an adventure. It’s an amazing part of the world for a holiday, numerous seaside villages just perfect for that long weekend away from the city, some great places to stop and snorkel and the accommodation is top notch.We had heard for some time of the small producers making waves (no pun intended) around the coast, including Watsacowie Brewing and Barley Stacks Wine, but were pleasantly surprised to hear that a recent distillery had been built and they had already won international awards. Sunny Hill is a family owned and operated distillery set amongst the fields just outside of Arthurton and less than two hours from Adelaide. You’ll know when you get close, the bespoke fluorescent orange road signs, the result of a flippant answer to a colour request by the local council, do a wonderful job of guiding you to the entrance.

The service was excellent and good humoured! Sunny Hill produce their spirit using a “crop to drop” philosophy which is an extreme rarity in the spirits industry in Australia. Growing their own grain, producing the base spirit and then turning that into the vodka and gin they currently offer is not something done by many other producers in Australia. We were lucky to get the opportunity to visit the distillery recently and get to take a look around the impressive collection of stainless steel being used to create the spirits which we had just sampled. Lizzie and I love to drink gin neat and this was no problem at all with what Sunny HIll provided but what was a real stand out was their vodka. I know many people would feel their stomach turn when remembering (or not remembering) those disgusting nights with Smirnoff double blacks or mixed drinks and the thought of vodka is enough to turn anyone off drinking all together.. But just as trying gin neat was foreign to us at one point and now we love it- it is always good to drink better and learn. Boy, are we bloody glad we did. So buttery. So easy. So delicious. After sampling we are not surprised that they took home the award for Best Pure Neutral Vodka at the World Spirit Awards 2020 in London (and so we also took it home!)

We got the opportunity to throw some questions at Sam and Olivia Colliver after our visit:

Our motto is “Crop to Drop” and being a farm based sustainable operation that produces high quality premium spirits is what we want to be known for.

Sam left a career in the military as an Avionics Technician, as he and his young family all moved back to the family farm. A trip to Europe, in particular Scotland, for a passionate whisky fan led to them joking about the possibilities of building their own brand back in South Australia. As can sometimes be the case, the jokes turned from something crazy to something very real and the groundwork began. Legalities, approvals, costing and finance were researched and ticked off and Sunny Hill was born. 

Where do you see Sunny Hill in 5 years time?

We are a very small producer, independent and family owned and operated and we would like to keep it that way. We only have a very small distribution market as we sell the vast majority of our product at our own tasting room on the farm and this is the way we want it to stay for people to visit the distillery and have a great time enjoying our products. In 5 years time we want to have a good stock of whisky and rum ageing.

Like many start up distilleries the end game is to release some locally produced and aged whisky. This has been a particularly strong focus for Sam and Olivia at Sunny Hill distillery with their first barrels being laid down this year. 

Our first Whisky will be ready for release in the second half of 2021. Unfortunately due to the set of circumstances of COVID we have not been able to lay away many barrels this year, we are hoping to lay down a lot more in 2021.

In addition to the whisky another exciting project has been in laying down some brandy barrels. 

Our largest local winery Barley Stacks Wines had a few barrels of wine that were not up to their brands standard so after a discussion we decided to distill it, the result which we were very happy with the quality so it was filled into a specially made brandy barrel from Seppeltsfield Cooperage. Looking forward to trying a wee sample at the 6 month mark.

Remember when Hendrix was the fanciest gin at the bar? With so many spirits being created in South Australia and across the world it seems a shame to hide them behind a wall of mixers or garnishes or bastardise them with post-mix. Sunny Hill subscribe to this way of thinking with their tasting flights taking on a process of discovery. Ensuring you try the spirit the way it was created and the slowly adding parts of the drink to arrive at a form which suits your tastes perfectly.  

The ultimate way to sample gin is neat to truly taste the expression of the gin, next would be with ice then with water then with soda water etc. Yes we garnish our G&T’s with a slice of lime but this is placed on the side of the glass and the customer is free to add it or not. We believe that we have gone through all the effort to putting the flavour into the gin, there isn’t any point in adding a fruit salad to it!

What songs would we most likely hear playing in the distillery while you’re working?

Excellent question, I have a very broad taste in music, while mostly the J’s are playing on the radio if I were to select the songs myself there would be a range from Parkway Drive to Tia Gostelow to Tool to Mark Ronson to Slipknot etc.

All time favourite drink? Desert island drink perhaps?

Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyside, basically Glen-anything with a big number on the bottle, all time favourites that I have been lucky enough to have in my collection is Glen Feddich 30, Glenlivet 25 and Glenmorangie 25.

Sunny Hill Distillery overlooks the farm in which they grow the grain which produces the base spirit taking centre stage in the vodka. Our spirits aficionado, Cathryn has written a review on their Vodka which you can read here (LINK) Their offerings also include two gins, a Dry and the ever popular style Pink Gin. The Dry is in the traditional style with the juniper taking centre stage and backed nicely by a slightly sweet finish. The Pink is floral and vibrant, berries galore and finishing slightly sweet. The gins have been crafted to maintain that traditional sense of the spirit rather than going overboard on the additions and flavourings. Those looking for something sweeter may also enjoy a dash (or a bottle to take home) of either or both of their Chocolate and Coffee liqueurs. Both as moreish as they sound. 

Do you get into other drinks? Beer or wine? List a few favourites

Olivia enjoys a good craft cider when not drinking spirits (also recently discovered Little Bangs Citrus Sour Face Inverter), I prefer beer. Favourites at the moment would be for a mid the Watsacowie New Wave Nordic Pale Ale, session beer would be Watsacowie SYP Ale, Big Shed Royal Park Lager, good old Coopers Pale (actually prefer it from a can). Dark beer, Woolshed Brewery Judas the Dark, Watsacowie Watsakraken Nitro Stout (on tap at the brewery) and again good old Coopers Best Extra Stout on tap at the pub.

The sprits industry in SA is going from strength to strength which can be highlighted by the new distillery trail. Also awesome to see some newer distilleries branching out into other things apart from Gin, keep an eye on Mad Monkey Distillery as an upcoming rum distillery in Adelaide.

For now, Sunny Hill are keeping things local with only a very small percentage of their product making it to Adelaide. Being a small independent producer which is able to sell a majority of their product from their tasting room is a huge bonus. 

With some exciting projects on the horizon we think that Sunny Hill are worth keeping a strong eye on over the coming months. They are hoping to have more events with food trucks and live music and as it is only a two hour drive, why would you not go? With a focus on developing a locally made whisky which stacks up against the best from Speyside being the ultimate goal, who couldn’t get excited about that? 

The Tasting Room Hours

8658 Upper Yorke Rd, Arthurton SA 5572

During School Terms
Friday – Sunday
11am – 6pm
School Holidays
Wednesday – Sunday
11am – 6pm
Long Weekends
Open Mondays
11am – 6pm
New Years Day – Good Friday – Christmas Day – Boxing Day

Sunny Hill Distillery | 100% Wheat Vodka

Sunny Hill Distillery | 100% Wheat Vodka

By November 20, 2020
Most people remember the first time they tried vodka, and if you had a pretty standard teenage experience then it probably wasn’

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september, 2021