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The Rise Of Australian Distilleries

The Rise Of Australian Distilleries

You may have noticed a huge upswing in the amount of locally distilled alcohol over the last few years. It seems that everyone and their neighbour is starting a brewing company with beer, gin and whiskey being on the top of that list. Of course, if you enjoy a good local drop like us, then you’re thanking your lucky stars at the increase of brewers and distillers but why the sudden surge over the last few years?


Well, like any good Australian yarn there is actually a tale to tell. Until recently there was a law in place that didn’t allow alcohol production from smaller stills – anything less than 2,700 litres and you couldn’t gain a licence. Now, 2,700 litres is a very LARGE still and enough to put your backyard or small business owners off from taking on the commercial enterprises. Thankfully, Bill & Lyn from Tasmania had the drive and ambition to lobby this law with their local parliament and were granted a general spirit makers licence allowing them to open Lark Distillery in Tasmania, now famous for their boutique whiskey.


Changing this law has allowed many other whiskey distillers to open their doors around Australia with many places utilising local ingredients to create distinct flavours. Recently, we’ve been excited to see distillers open in the Northern Rivers with Brookie’s Gin and Husk Distillers creating some excellent gins using local, rainforest ingredients combined with traditional, imported ingredients.


One thing holding the industry back are high tax rates on alcohol production in Australia. Some producers can expect to pay around 35% of the retail value of their product back in tax. American producers pay approximately one tenth of that figure in taxes. This keeps the cost of the product high, which explains why imported beverages are the biggest sellers in Australia and the local market is still considered ‘boutique’.


High taxes aside, there is still a large number of people entering the market and the industry continues to boom. Having a ‘boutique’ setting may be what has helped create the unique flavours coming out of local distilleries. Brookie’s Gin in Byron Bay use a copper pot still and infuse the mix with botanicals gathered from their very own rainforest. Ink Gin have created a uniquely purple-coloured gin using Thailand’s Butterfly Pea. The size of these businesses have given them scope to create something truly unique.


In the mid-1900’s Australia had their very own large commercial gin and whiskey producers. Unfortunately, changes to tariff laws made it cheaper to import liquor from overseas. This, with the increasing labour cost, saw these commercial producers close in the 1980’s. Now only companies like Bundaberg remain. We’d love to see a resurgence in supporting local businesses and look forward to what the industry produces next!


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