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April 20, 2021

Introducing Brightside Distilling: A low-alcohol, full-flavour gin-not-gin

With the debut of Brightside’s sessionable 10% ABV triple-botanical spirit, there is finally a low-alcohol gin alternative on the market that tastes like the real thing.

  • Words and pictures: Johnny von Einem

In the world of booze, there has been a collective attempt recently at offering health-conscious drinkers low-alcohol alternatives to their favourite Friday night imbibes.


Brightside Distilling
A low-ABV gin alternative, distilled in Adelaide.


The natural wine movement is known for creating fresh, young wines that sit at around the 10% ABV mark, while in beer, the rise of the session ale has been swift.

But in the realm of spirits, there has been less traction.

The production of a gin or whisky with only a low level of alcohol – or none at all – is a technically difficult process, and the results have not yet won over a significant market share.

Brightside Distilling founders Felishia Abbott and Len Cirillo were among those interested in cutting down their alcohol intake via a low-ABV alternative and found existing products lacking.

“We tasted every single product that was zero-alcohol gin, and tipped all of it down the sink. We could not finish a bottle,” Felishia recalls.

“We were so disappointed that we were spending $50, $60 on a product that wasn’t even palatable.”

Felishia and Len, an insurance broker and accountant respectively, met at a Settlers Spirits gin workshop late in 2019 and bonded over their outsized passion for the spirit.

They wanted to start a brand of their own, but knew there was little room in the market for yet another great South Australian gin.

In order to stand out, they needed to do something different. And so, with the help of a distilling team based in Thebarton, they began what would be a 10-month process in creating and refining a low-ABV version of gin.

Brightside ‘happy ambassador’, bottle model and close personal friend of CityMag, Mr Chuck enjoys a B&T with his human companion


Brightside Distilling’s first release is a 10% ABV botanical spirit, and because this is below the 40% cut-off, is not actually gin.

But Felishia and Len went into the project with a specific flavour profile in mind, and so the beverage hits all of the notes you’d expect of a full-ABV gin, at only a quarter of the strength.

“Having the mouthfeel and things, those were important to us. Making sure we try and replicate as close as possible as we could,” Len says.

“We actually wanted to recreate a gin, essentially, but don’t make it too complex. So it was really important for us to make it really simple,” Felishia says.

“We wanted flavours that people could pinpoint and say, ‘Hey, that’s citrus,’ or ‘That’s passionfruit.’ So be really clear with that, rather than creating this really complex product.”

There are many reasons someone might want to cut back on their alcohol intake – not least of which are the increasingly horrendous hangovers that come from over indulging outside of your 20s. (This sentence verified by the author.)

Felishia hopes Brightside will allow people to continue to participate in the South Australian craft distilling scene without having to sacrifice their Saturday and Sunday mornings.

“A girlfriend messaged me – and it’s funny how they keep track of how many Brightsides they’re having – but they said, ‘I’ve had three Brightsides and I’m feeling amazing,’” Felishia says.

“It’s really nice to know that there’s that expectation that if I drink this product, I’m actually going to feel good.

“That’s where ‘drink happy’ (the company’s slogan) comes from, because with a lower-alcohol product, you actually feel better. You kind of wake up and you don’t have that hangover or that heavy feel.”

With their brand still young and the local low-alcohol market only sparsely populated, Felishia and Len hope for the Brightside name to become synonymous with the category.

“I’d love Brightside to be a household name. I’d love for people to walk into a venue or a bar and say ‘I’ll have a B&T’ – a Brightside and tonic – rather than, ‘I’ll try that low-alcohol product,’” Felishia says.

The first edition of the Brightside spirit, featuring happy ambassador Mr Chuck, is available at Regions Cellars in Dulwich or online.

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