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February 7, 2018

Imperial Measures distillery coming to the West

Imperial Measures Distilling, the company behind Ounce Gin, is joining the burgeoning booze production hub in Adelaide’s inner west, with a distillery and cellar door on West Thebarton Road.

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  • Story: Johnny von Einem

It is a cavernous warehouse that David Danby and Chris Jones welcome CityMag into; a space set to become the first physical home of Imperial Measures Distilling – producers of back bar favourites, Ounce Gin.

The boutique distillery was an idea conceived by David, Chris, and third founder, Ty Swan, who worked together at Apothecary 1878 in 2014.


Imperial Measures Distilling is located at 31 West Thebarton Road and is set to open to the public by mid-2018. Keep an eye on their social media for updates.

“We were fortunate enough to be surrounded by an excellent back bar, great flavour profiles of gin, and we used to spend the knock-offs working our way through it: what do we like? What don’t we like?” Chris recalls.

“Without even thinking about it, we were just compiling this Frankenstein monster of knowledge.”

Through these tasting sessions, the seed of a gin brand was planted amongst the trio.

To learn the practical side of the craft, David took a job at Kangaroo Island Spirits as a production distiller, and after three months, journeyed back to mainland ready to bring Ounce Gin into reality.

“David called and said ‘You know that thing we’ve been talking about? I think we can do it,’” Chris says.

This was during a golden age of boutique South Australian spirits that saw Adelaide Hills Distillery launch 78 Degrees and Applewood Distillery enter the market.

It was through the latter that Imperial Measures got the leg up they needed to get off the ground.

“We were looking at the costings of getting a space, a still, everything, and it was pretty hectic, so the fix to that was to use Brendan [Carter, Applewood founder]’s facility,” David says.

“I put it to Brendan: ‘Can I put some stuff through your still,’ and that’s where that whole contract thing started for him.”

By November 2015, Ounce Gin hit the shelves, and “sold pretty much overnight,” Chris says.

“[We] just put all of the money back into doing another run. Ever since then, demand has kept us coming back to it.”

While the relationship was initially hugely beneficial, the reality of booking access to a still and not having access to storage made it difficult for the business to grow.

“We got to the stage recently where production was just keeping up with venues who already had us,” David says.

“We were getting so close to running out that you can’t really be going to new venues to get them on board, because you might not then have it for somebody who’s been supporting you for the last two years. That’s not something we were wanting to do.”

With the keys to a new property on West Thebarton Road, Dan and Chris plan to assume full control of their means of production, building a distillery and cellar door from scratch.

They will join a booze hub that includes Pirate Life, Ambra Liqueurs, Wheaty Brewing Corps, and the West Thebarton Hotel, whose front bar was recently taken over by Big Shed Brewing Concern, and, carrying on the distillers’ tradition of helping comrades in the industry, David and Chris will temporarily share their new space with Never Never Distilling, as they transition out of Royal Park and over to their McLaren Vale facility.

The Imperial Measures still is currently being fabricated in Ballarat and is due to arrive in a few weeks, but with it, and the warehouse’s abundant space, they hope to be able to backlog stock and continue to push their brand into markets further afield.

“And we can experiment,” Chris says.

“We can’t really afford to do that with Brendan, we’ve designed the run, we know exactly how it’s going to go through the Gumeracha still, so there’s no chance for variation. This will allow us that opportunity.”

David and Chris will build the space between their day jobs, but they expect to have their first gin run completed in about two months, and they hope to have the cellar door ready for the public by mid-year.

“We’d like this to be a little hospo haunt, to some extent,” David says.

“We’d like people in the industry to feel comfortable coming down and spending time with us and learning. We’ll do a lot of education. Going to a venue and going ‘Bring everyone down on Sunday, we’ll take you through the whole process’… hopefully makes people a little more comfortable with the category, and it gives people some ownership as well.”

“We like to entertain,” Chris continues. “We’ll like to have people in here. I think it will be a natural extension for us to have a facility that enables us to produce our stuff, and if people are comfortable to come in and have a chat and a yarn, enjoy a drink or two – absolutely. We would love that more than anything.”

Stay tuned to Ounce Gin’s social media for updates.

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