A day in the life of the Archie Rose distilling team
For a job that involves a lot of alcohol, our day starts surprisingly early. It’s a character-building experience routinely interrogating high-proof distillate before many people have had their second cup of coffee for the morning, but the Archie Rose team and myself view alcohol slightly differently to many others. Assessing a spirit requires the same objectivity that an architect may have for his or her latest project, or an antique dealer for a new piece of furniture. Spirits are what I wake up for, what I do all day and what I ponder before retiring for the night.
This is a reflection of one particular day, according to my diary.
8am - Walking into the distillery I am immediately greeted by the distinctive and visceral aromas of distillation. Shane Casey, our head distiller and the team have been on deck for the last hour, charging the stills and preparing to brew. The team assembles for some morning banter over a coffee before diving into the day.
8.15am - We’re back onto single malt production after a few months of filling some spectacular 36-month air dried virgin oak casks with rye malt new make. The six malts that comprise our mashbill fill the air with the unmistakable scents of chocolate, raisin and coffee. We pay careful attention to the malt’s grist size (the fineness/courseness of the milled malt), taking multiple samples and weighing them out in fractions. Settings are honed where necessary.
10am - Once the morning fores/heart cut has been taken on the spirit still, the team assembles to assess our latest gin creation. Over five days and 37 iterations, the team has honed and molded the next expression of Archie Rose gin to be released: Horisumi - Spring, the third installment in our run of limited seasonal gins, created with Japanese tattoo artist Horisumi. The small trial blend has married for a week. With the flavours now fully integrated and the team possessing fresh palates we interrogate the sample alongside industry benchmark gins and in a range of classic serves including a Martini, Gin and Tonic and Negroni. The consensus is unanimous; this is an individual, concise yet nuanced representation of the season.
11.30am - Shane sets up our small five-litre still on the bench. We’re trialing a new supplier's orris root. This is one of a dozen such distillations on this ingredient which will determine if we can craft an even more flavorsome spirit than we already have. In my opinion, to be innovative distillers we must constantly look to coax the best flavour from our techniques and ingredients. At every moment flavour is paramount and progress is not static.
12pm - A working lunch reviewing the current affairs in the spirits trade. We’re more than a little fortunate to have some great food options in the Archie Rose precinct in Rosebery.
12.30pm - Right now we’re collaborating with a yeast supplier to undergo two world-first yeast trials for distillation. Our meticulous trials will undergo chemical analysis with Gas Chromatography and blind sensory evaluation by the team. As fermentation is critical to building the fundamental building blocks of flavour this investigation into yeast is both exciting and promising. And smelly
2pm - Some maturing casks are brought back from our off-site storage. The team gathers to evaluate the progress and attributes. The weight of casks is documented as is the current strength of the spirit. Progress notes are made to be entered into the system.
3pm - I meet one of our cask suppliers to discuss our future demand and opportunities to further develop the already high quality casks we receive in the Archie Rose distillery. We place a strong emphasis on the quality of cooperage oak we receive, specifying particular treatments and producers. By using a high percentage of Australian ex-sherry casks for our single malt we pay homage to the rich tradition of fortified winemaking in this country. For me personally, some of the casks we received would have years ago been filled by my winemaker father. These cask deserve respect and care.
5pm - Time with my emails rewards me with the news that we have picked up a 'Platinum' designation for our Signature Dry Gin and at the SIP awards in the USA! This competition is judged by consumers, rather than professional judges, which makes it an even more humbling accolade.
6pm - Preparations and set-up for a whisky tasting in the bar are almost complete. I don my shirt and look over the good work of the bar team with my pedantic eye. It’s been a long day, so a quick sharpener by way of a Distiller's Strength Gin and Tonic is necessary.
6.30pm - The bar is abuzz and the mezzanine full. I kick off the private whisky tasting, walking guest through a range of eight Scottish single malt whiskies. Education is fundamental to who I am as a spirits lover and what Archie Rose is to the community. Not only do I love sharing my passion for quality spirits, but really enjoy igniting a similar passion in in attendees. (Take a look at our Experiences page here).
8.30pm - After the tasting, I take a walk through the distillery and make sure everything is in its place so tomorrow we can do it all again.