The man behind the freshly launched Buckley’s Rye Whisky from Crafty Buggers, Hugh Roxburgh (pictured above), said the brand is all all about doing things differently, just like the character that inspired the whisky’s name.

Roxburgh held the very first bottle of Buckley’s Rye Whisky in his hands in 2019, a highlight of his year. It was a five year journey to get to that point though, and Roxburgh said the biggest challenges are yet to come.

“It feels like all the work to date was like getting to Everest base-camp. That was the easy part. Now I realise the huge challenge ahead and the enormous mountain that needs to be climbed,” Roxburgh said.

“But it’s been an incredible journey so far and I’ve meet some amazing and passionate people in the industry. I’m really grateful that these people have been willing to back Buckley’s Rye Whisky and get behind it.”

Roxburgh says Crafty Buggers will need to work at building consumer awareness about rye whisky.

“Rye whisky has an incredible flavour and it’s hugely underrated. It’s with good reason that Jim Murray, the world renowned whisky critic, has nominated a rye or rye-based whisky as his ‘World Whisky of the Year’, four out of the last eight years,” Roxburgh said.

He said rye was the first whisky to be drunk in Australia, brought here on the US trading ship ‘The Hope’ by Benjamin Page on Christmas Eve 1792.

“This led to one hell of a Christmas piss-up, it kicked off the dodgy dealings of the NSW Corps and eventually led to the ousting of the colony’s governor,” said Roxburgh.

The love of a good story is also a huge driver behind the branding of Buckley’s Rye Whisky. The name comes from one of Australia’s first underdogs, William Buckley, a wrongly accused English convict who escaped from a Port Phillip settlement and disappeared into unforgiving bushland.

“His chances of survival? Buckley’s. After weeks of wandering he was exhausted and on the brink of starvation. However, just as he thought his luck was up, he happened upon a spear marking a grave,” Roxburgh said.

With spear in hand, the Wathaurong tribe believed Buckley with his pale skin was the reincarnation of the spear’s owner and so adopted him as one of their own. He lived among them for 32 years and Roxburgh said when Buckley emerged, he was “bold, fearless and full of character, just like the rye whisky that bears his name.”

Buckley’s story will drive a lot of opportunity in the New Year, as Roxburgh said: “Our focus over 2020 is to continue to grow the brand of Buckley’s Rye Whisky. The brand has to be built from the ground up and this means pounding the pavement and wearing out the shoe leather.”

In terms of hopes for the future, Roxburgh wants to continue to create a premium rye whiskey that is accessible, and see the category itself grow in popularity.

“There are a few rye whiskies already available here in Australia and that’s great because this will help build awareness and hopefully see the category grow as a whole,” he said.

This story is from National Liquor News’ 2020 Annual Industry Leaders Forum issue, out in February.

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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