The Road to Archie Rose
Archie Rose Distilling Co. had been an idea for years. At that stage it was just “a distillery” rather than Archie Rose, but I had been interested in spirits, distillation and maturation since my teenage years. I used to do a lot of homebrew, mature spirits in a little 5L oak cask I had at home and play around with some pretty awful infusions – I remember trying to strain the brown apple, cinnamon, vanilla pod sludge out of a bottle of rum. It didn’t work out.
From those early days though, it was very difficult to see how a distillery could work in Sydney. The Australian distilling industry was in its infancy and there were no distilleries in a major Australian city, let alone Sydney. In addition, the global craft distilling industry hadn’t really kicked off, so there was no obvious inspiration or role model to follow. The closest thing was really the 42 Below story from NZ, which was of course the first book I read.
So, for a number of years the distillery idea remained as just that, an idea. I went down a fairly standard path of finishing my Commerce degree, completing a Masters, and then entering the corporate world as a management consultant.
It was a fascinating job, and one which definitely equipped me with some great skills which came in handy when opening Archie Rose, but after a couple of years I realised this is not what I want to do with my life. The key thing for me was that I wanted to do something very tangible, and very basic. Just make something from scratch which people will enjoy.
The Turning Point
Trying to decide what to do next, I spent some time travelling, and found myself in New York at just the time some of the first distilleries since prohibition were popping up. I headed out to Brooklyn and went on a few tours, specifically interested in the story and setup of Kings County Distillery in the old navy yards. The key for me though, was that I just couldn’t figure out why no one had started up a distillery in the City of Sydney since the mid 1800’s? Like New York, we have a unique history of spirits and distillation, awesome craft brewers, an incredible bar scene and people who are genuinely interested in where their food and drinks come from and how they are created; but no distillery.
On returning to Sydney, I knew that there must have been a heap of people over the past 160 odd years that had considered (or even tried) to start a distillery, but none that I was aware of had ever eventuated. In my mind there had to be a reason that I didn’t know of as to why you couldn’t start a distillery in Sydney. I thought that if I did the research and found that reason, then I could put the idea to bed and get on with other things. I spent six months working on finding the reason, but never found anything I considered an absolute roadblock, so it was then that I committed to starting Archie Rose.
The Trip to Tasmania
From there, things really picked up. I resigned from my consulting job, headed to Tasmania and spent some time visiting distilleries and the craftsmen that supported the industry. I met Joe Dinsmoor, now our Head Distiller, Adam Bones, our Cooper and Peter Bailly, our Stillmaker, as well as a few of the other founders of the modern Australian Distilling Industry.
Armed with what I naively thought at the time was all the information I needed to start a distillery in Sydney, I headed home and began sourcing equipment, running heat load calculations, looking for raw materials, investigation the licencing requirements and looking for a site – all from the office I had set up in my bedroom.
Fast forward 18 months, and Archie Rose Distilling Co. is now producing a beautiful Gin, Vodka and White Rye as well as laying down casks of Single Malt and Rye Whisky for the years to come. The bar as well is serving incredible cocktails, with distillates we produce onsite, and ice made from the same filtered water we use in the spirit.
It’s been a long and challenging road, but I’m pretty excited to see Sydney again producing local spirits after far too long between drinks.