The Australian Distillers Hall of Fame has welcomed its first four members, celebrating four industry legends who have helped pioneer Australian spirits into the wonderful and exciting category that it is today.

Australian Distillers president Stu Gregor announced the Hall of Fame inductees at a gala dinner in Melbourne on Monday night, attended by more than 400 distillers and spirits industry representatives from across Australia.

If you need to know just how exciting Australian spirits are right now, the Australian Distillers Association Conference and gala dinner held this week is the perfect manifestation of that. A collaborative conference with hundreds of distillers sharing thoughts and ideas was a wonderful sight.

Raymond “Spike” Dessert The Third

The late Spike was the owner of Hoochery Distillery, which boasts Western Australia’s oldest continuously operating legal still, as well as a founding member of the Australian Distillers Association (now Australian Distillers).

His award was accepted by daughter Kalyn Fletcher, who assumed the reins of Hoochery Distillery after Spike’s passing in 2017, and continues to make world-class rum, gin and liqueurs in her father’s original still.

Kalyn said: “If Spike was accepting this award, he would definitely be tipping his hat and he would have been very impressed with this crowd and the number of distillers here.

“What makes this industry amazing is it’s full of many amazing people from different walks of life and that’s what the four distillers were as well and Spike would have loved that. Thanks to everyone at the ADA for this, it’s really nice to be here.”

Bill Lark

When Bill and his wife Lyn established Lark Distillery in 1992, it was the first such licence issued in Tasmania since 1939.

A founding member of the Australian Distillers Association, he is also a founding director of Starward Distillery in Melbourne, a co-founder of Old Kempton Distillery in Tasmania, an internationally sought-after spirits consultant and judge, and the first Australian to be bestowed the honour of being inducted into the World Whisky Awards Hall of Fame in the United Kingdom.

Understandably, Bill is lauded in the Australian spirits industry as “the Godfather of Australian Craft Distilling”.

Bill said: “The reality is that I am only standing here among you all because of everything you have all done – what a wonderful thing it is to be here with 400 distillers tonight who have really brought this industry to where it is today. So I want to thank you all for making this industry what it is.

“I also want to say I really do miss Spike Dessert, what a shame he couldn’t be here, but I am glad Kalyn was able to accept his induction, we all remember Spike with tremendous fondness.

“The most important person in this though isn’t me, it’s my wife Lyn. Lyn has been as much a part of this industry, the formation of it and Lark Distillery as I have so I would like to acknowledge and thank Lyn very much for this.”

Patrick Maguire

As co-owner, manager and head distiller of Sullivan’s Cove Distillery in Tasmania, Patrick took the brand from obscurity to win multiple international awards, including World Whiskies Awards, World’s Best Single Malt in 2014 and World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt in 2018 and 2019.

Another inaugural member of the Australian Distillers Association, Patrick recently left Sullivan’s Cove to embark on a new challenge, launching Maguire and Co Bottlers and Distillers.

“I remember when we first thought of the idea to have an association in 2004 there were four of us sitting around a table in the back of a pub somewhere and now look at what we’ve got. We’re filling a hotel and it’s bloody brilliant really. I can’t really believe we’re here with so many people, so thank you to everyone here,” he said.

Cameron Syme

Cameron is the owner of three of Western Australia’s most internationally acclaimed distilleries: the Great Southern Distilling Company in Albany, Giniversity in Margaret River and Tiger Snake Distillery in Porongurup. His spirits have been awarded over 150 medals and trophies in international spirit competitions over 14 consecutive years, including the first Gold Medal for an Australian Spirit in the UK’s International Wine & Spirit Competition.

An inaugural member of the Australian Distillers Association, he was also its founding President, a position he held until 2010, and continues to serve as Australian Distillers’ Vice-President.

Cameron said: “First of all I would like to recognise our First Nation people and I call on each and every one of us in the room to do what we can to achieve reconciliation.

“To echo what has been said, this is incredibly humbling. Growing from four of us to 400-plus is so exciting for our industry. I also want to say ‘rest in peace Spike Dessert’ he was a legendary man with a very fair manner. Thanks to everyone, I think this industry has progressed and is in very safe hands. This is an exciting time for our industry, so let’s take the world on.”

Announcing the inductees, Stu, who is also founder of internationally acclaimed Yarra Valley distiller Four Pillars, noted the amazing growth of the spirits industry in Australia since 2014, when there were just 28 distilleries operating in Australia.

“The industry is now at a point where we believe it can replicate the remarkable ‘wine boom’ of the 1980s and 90s, when Australian winemakers began to win global acclaim and created an exporting powerhouse,” Stu told guests at the Australian Distillers annual conference dinner.

“So we think it’s time to acknowledge and celebrate the significant contributions of the members who were there at the beginning of this revitalisation, who can take so much credit for what the Australian spirits industry is today.”

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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