When an experiment becomes reality
Intense research and development forms the basis of everything we do at Archie Rose, but our Concepts range is where we let our wildest experiments truly shine. Here’s a deep-dive into our how and why.
The research and development (R&D) arm of Archie Rose spirits production is at the core of all we do. Right from the very beginning we had the intention of stripping everything back that was being done in Australia and internationally in all spirit categories, and really challenging why it was being done that way. “Personally, I don’t find it interesting making something the same way it’s always been done,” says Archie Rose founder, Will Edwards. “It doesn’t make sense to recreate something from another part of the world. Our spirits should be reflective of our history and environment here, not plucked from somewhere else. We aim to showcase the quality and variety of ingredients we have access to in Australia, which you can’t get elsewhere.” And so, extensive testing and experimentation, using uniquely Australian grains, producers and botanicals as well as new techniques and cutting-edge equipment, is happening every single day in the Archie Rose Distillery, and forms the philosophy behind our Archie Rose Concepts label - reserved for our most interesting, small-run, rare releases.
Archie Rose Concepts is where we can push the envelope a little further. It gives us an opportunity to release things that maybe started off as an internal project, or have an interesting side we feel should be shared. Behemoth Aged Spirit kicked off the Concepts range in 2018, created as a collaboration with Victorian craft brewers KAIJU! Beer. “There were only 80-odd bottles and it was this crazy, super fruity beer-spirit thing that technically you couldn’t call whisky,” says Will. “It was a hell of a lot of fun.”
Concepts allows us to do small-scale, quirky things on the fringe of production, technique and flavour profile. We want to give people a taste of something unexpected, make them think and spark conversation. Our new Smoked Gin, which makes the most of a special character which didn’t make it to our Summer Gin Series – ironbark smoked water – is potentially a challenging product for some because the flavour is quite unexpected, but it lent us a chance to show the public an incredible flavour we’d come across in our trials for a completely different product altogether, it gave smoked water a home. “With blending,” says Archie Rose Master Distiller Dave Withers, “you always start with more bricks than you need to build a house – [smoked water] was one of those bricks that we ended up putting aside.” For Dave, embracing the uniqueness of a trial result or test project is what makes Archie Rose Concepts so exciting. “Rather than trying to stick a square peg into a round hole, we embrace the characteristics that don’t fit elsewhere, and make them completely their own thing,” he says.
Concepts covers extremely small runs or products that can’t be commercially produced. Take our soon-to-be-released Virgin Cane Rhum – a cask leak meant we had such a scarce amount it ended up as an extremely limited 182-bottle Concept release. Rather than showing the sweet, caramelised notes usually associated with rum, our product instead expresses notes of chervil, olives, marshmallow and fresh earth.
It’s also about you, our Archie Rose fans. “We want to create things that challenge people,” Will explains. “We want the customer to feel the same way we feel internally about these releases. Sometimes we’re super excited, we can’t wait for it to get out there and for people to drink it and we’re pumped. Other times we have big debates about whether it should be released at all.” Most distilleries keep the results of their testing in-house, but we want to share them with true spirit fans who are prepared for something strange and new.
There are a handful of exciting Archie Rose Concepts in the pipeline – our Virgin Cane Rhum is due to be released this month (sign up to Archie’s Journal to be the first to know). And excitingly, we don’t know quite yet, what will come after that. Will explains, “I hope Concepts make people think about spirits and what they are and what they should or shouldn’t be. If it doesn’t challenge people, then maybe we’ve failed.”