Australian spirits are on the up and up with new distilleries popping up all over the country, following on from the well-worn path of the craft beer and cider industries. And much like those craft brewers and cider makers that have gone before them, the craft spirit makers across the country have seen a corresponding upswing in the demand for their local, and unique products.
According to Kathleen Davies, Sales & Marketing Manager at Australian craft spirit distribution company Nip of Courage, there has been a constant ground swell of small distilleries turning up all over Australia in response to the growing demand for local products.
“Gen Y loves that craft spirits all come with a unique story about the distiller or process that they can share with their friends,” she says. “To them ‘small is the new black’, which is why small craft distilleries and spirits have so much more appeal as opposed to commercially produced spirits.”
With Australian spirit companies faring well in international competitions, it isn’t just the local market that is sitting up and paying attention – Australian spirits are now being shipped all around the world.
“Most Aussie craft spirits are produced with quality ingredients and strict production methods,” says Davies. “And a lot of Aussie distillers are inspired by Australian native botanicals which have already given Australian distillers a bit of a unique edge on the global stage in world spirit competitions.”
Richard Angove of St Agnes Brandy is optimistic about the future of craft spirits, citing the fact that all the distillers have “skin in the game” and are all incredibly passionate about their cause.
“The Australian spirits category will continue to grow as consumers seek out locally grown and crafted produce,” he says. “Australia is a clean and green place to make spirits and the industry is united in a clear objective to make quality products we stand behind.”
It is impossible to discuss the Australian spirit industry without mentioning the godfather of Australian whisky. Or more specifically, Tasmanian whisky. Since 1992, when the ban of craft distilling in Australia was lifted, Bill Lark has been at the forefront of producing world beating drams. Though he is now well established in the industry, Lark was initially nervous about kicking off his whisky quest.
“I thought people might think we were trying to teach the Scots how to suck eggs and they would think, ‘what are you doing, you silly colonial?’” he says. “But in fact it’s been exactly the opposite. We have had tremendous support from the single malt industry worldwide, and from consumers. They were always a little nervous at the start, but it really didn’t take long for the market to truly grab hold of the fact that Tasmania can produce stunning single malt whisky.”
Lark wasn’t the only one to realise that everything you need for a world-class whisky is in Tasmania – other distilleries in the southern state include: Sullivan’s Cove, Hellyers Road, Heartwood, Overeem, Nant, Redlands, and William McHenry & Sons, to name a few.
The idea of a gin renaissance is hardly a new one, the other white spirit has been in a boom for a good few years now. The craft end of the spectrum has heated up as well. With the Poor Toms in Sydney crowdfunding their way to a sold out first batch of gin, Young Henrys installing a distillery in their brewery, and The Melbourne Gin Company rapidly expanding outside its home state, the gin distilling scene has expanded exponentially in even the last 12 months.
One of the most successful local brands to come out of the gin renaissance has been The West Winds out of WA, with co-founder Jeremy Spencer asserting that, after over 200 years of good food and wine, it’s finally time for Australia to show the world about local Australian spirits.
“Gin lets us truly express Australian native flavours without the shackles and chains of history, tradition, appellation or restriction,” he says. “Australian and proud without the shadows of cringe-worthy export and duty free pasts.”
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