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The first evidence of a legal Australian distillery is Sorell Distillery in Hobart that was opened in 1822 after Governor Macquarie wanted to stimulate grain production as well as capturing the excise.

1838 the new Governor for Tasmania (no longer under the control of Macquarie) banned whisky production after his wife, Lady Jane Franklin is alleged to have said, “I would prefer barley be fed to pigs than it be used to turn men into swine”. Governor Franklin was a widely respected intellect of the time. The impact of banning spirit production was only in effect for Tasmania and did not affect the rest of Australia and New Zealand.

Some notable mainland producers came into affect.

1824 Sydney Distillery opened in Paddington, Sydney.

1845  Milne and Co Distillers were established in Adelaide and continued for more than 100 years.

1862    Distillery was established in Victoria

1883 Castlemaine Brewery Maltings and Wine and Spirit Company Limited in Newcastle, NSW began producing spirits

1888 Federal Distillery in Melbourne

1901 saw the introduction of the Distillation Act, that said, in part

“(f) There must be erected in the still-house:

(i) A still capable of exhausting in the case of a general distiller’s licence at least 675 litres of wash in an hour, and in the case of a wine distiller’s licence at least 225 litres in an hour, or a wash still capable of containing at least 2,700 litres, and also capable of containing double the quantity which the low wines or spirit still is capable of containing. In lieu of one still of the required capacity two or more stills aggregating the required capacity shall suffice.”

The requirement to have a capacity of at least 2,700 litres meant that only large scale production that required significant capital investment was possible. This effectively brought the end to “Craft” or small scale spirit production.

1928 Corio Distiller was built in Geelong, Victoria and was the largest distiller in Australia. Production exceeded 500,000 gallons annually.

Beenleigh is Australia’s oldest operating distillery, founded in 1885 on Albert River in Eagleby QLD, they have been making small batch rum for 136 years.

Bundaberg Rum was established 133 years ago. The Bundaberg Distilling Company began operations in 1888, and Bundaberg rum was first produced in 1889. Production ceased from 1907 to 1914, and from 1936 to 1939.

No whisky was produced in Australia between 1980 and 1990.

Bill and Lyn Lark were producing spirits in a 20 litre still and were ageing it in barrels. Legend has it that they were not the only ones in Tasmania that were making whisky illegally.

In 1990 Bill Lark lobbied his local MP, Duncan Kerr, member for Denison (1987 – 2010) to change the law to allow small scale or craft whisky production. Mr Kerr spoke to Minister Barry Jones who was Minister for Customs (1988–90) and they agreed they would make the changes and issue a license.

Bill Lark then founded Lark Distillery in 1992. This was the first licensed to distil issued in Tasmania for 154 years and the first craft distiller in nearly 100 years. This paved the way for more craft Australian distilleries to come.

Sullivan’s Cove whisky distillery was setup shortly after Lark in 1994, in Sullivan’s Cove, Tasmania. It was then called simply Tasmania Distillery.

2004 The Australian Distillers Association (ADA) was officially set up in 2004 with four visionary founders:

  • Cameron Syme as President
  • Bill Lark as Vice President
  • Raymond (Spike) Dessert as Treasurer
  • Patrick Maguire as Secretary.

This is how the ADA remained until 2012, where Cameron Syme resigned as the Chairperson and Bill Lark took up the position as the new Chairperson.

Bill Lark remained as the President until 2014 when he resigned and Stuart Gregor stepped into the President’s role. 

The ADA started to grow in 2014.  The membership was approximately 30 Members.

On 12 November 2014 an ADA Conference/AGM was held in Victoria at New World Whisky Distillery.  There were approximately 30 attendees.

2014 Sullivan’s Cove French Oak single cask won the world’s best single malt whisky at the World Whiskies Awards. This was the first time a distillery outside of Scotland or Japan had won this category.

16 November 2015 saw the ADA Conference/AGM take place at The Limeburners Margaret River Distilling Company in Margaret River, Western Australia.  Approximately 35 people attended. Alasdair Malloch was elected Secretary.

In 2016 the ADA had 29 new members and the total membership stood at 84 Members – 44 Full Members and 40 Associate Members.

In February 2016 an Administration officer was appointed by the committee to assist members enquiries and other functions.

The 2016 ADA Conference/AGM was held on 17 October in NSW at Archie Rose Distilling Co. with 43 attendees. 

2017 saw a huge growth in membership with the ADA.  There were 58 new members with the total membership at 134 members – 64 Full Members and 70 Associate Members. 

The 2017 ADA Conference/AGM took place on 12/13th November at McHenry Distillery in Port Arthur, Tasmania.  There were 85 people who attended.  It was also the first time we had a sponsor for our conference. It was CCL Label.

Sadly, on 13 December 2017, one of the original founders, Spike Dessert, passed away. The members were informed, among other things, “Spike was, and is, a legend. One of the "original four" founding members of the Australian Distillers Association, our Treasurer, our yarn-spinner, our “True Believer” and frankly, in many ways, a big big part of our heart and soul” 

In February 2018 Kalyn Fletcher replaced her dad as the Treasurer.

2018 again proved to show a big growth in distilleries as the ADA Membership grew to 183 Members.

The ADA Conference/AGM for 2018 occurred in Adelaide on the 11th- 13th November.  We had 140 people attend the three-day event.

2019 had the biggest increase in membership numbers with 81 new members taking the total to 246 members – 106 Full Members and 140 Associate Members. The conference was held in Kingscliff, in northern NSW which had 193 delegates in attendance for the three day event.

In 2020 Covid hit the world with force. In spite of this by the end of the year we had 285 members (121 Full and 164 Associate) that include 56 new members. ADA hosted a virtual conference which had 173 members registering to attend. Kathleen Davies from Nip of Courage had a big hand in ensuring the success.

2021 was the biggest year in terms of membership. 336 members (183 Full members and 153 Associate members), 70 new members for the year of which half were full members. This was the first year we had members in every state and territories in Australia. We also appointed our first Chief Executive. This year we postponed the conference due to covid restrictions, but held the AGM virtually. The 144 members present elected 18 members to the committee of management. Kalyn stepped down as Treasurer and remained on the committee of management. The Hon Stephen Parry was elected as the Secretary and Treasurer.

2022 Great Southern Distilling company founder, and Australian Distillers Association founding President, Cameron Syme was inducted into the Australian Whisky Hall of Fame at the Australian Whisky Awards. His award was bestowed by Bill Lark for his trail blazing work including receiving over 135 awards and his work for others in the Australian distilling community.

CONTACT US

AUSTRALIAN DISTILLERS ASSOCIATION

Level 5, 20 Bond St
Sydney NSW 2000

Paul McLeay

Chief Executive Officer
0418 610489




Michael Sugg

Executive Officer
0481 177160

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Australian Distillers Association

Level 5, 20 Bond St,
Sydney, NSW, 2000

ABN 77 622 845 275

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