Just five kilometres from Sydney’s CBD the passionate team of distillers at Archie Rose is creating a distinctly Australian gin that’s finding its way onto the menus of bars across the country. Meet the man behind it all, Will Edwards.
Is Archie Rose Sydney’s first distillery since 1850?
As far as we’re aware, it’s the first independent distillery in the City of Sydney since the Brisbane Distillery (based in Camperdown) was acquired and closed by the Colonial Sugar Refinery in 1853.
We thought it was ridiculous that in 2015 Sydney did not have a local spirit and distillery to call its own.
Where did your love of distilling come from?
I’ve always had a passion for spirits. I used to do a bit of homebrew, made some pretty terrible spirit-based infusions and play around with oak maturation, but it remained a hobby.
I reached a point where I knew I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing, so I headed to NYC to check out some of the first distilleries since prohibition that had popped up in Brooklyn and after seeing their set-ups and hearing their stories, I just couldn’t figure out why no one had started up a distillery in Sydney since the mid-1800s.
Most of the practical learning happened in Tassie six months later.
And what did you discover in Tassie?
I found the pioneers of the modern Australian distilling industry in Tassie, but what I was really looking for was how Australian distilleries were currently doing things, what traditions we wanted to maintain, and what aspects of production we wanted to push a little and get a bit more creative with.
What was the first spirit you ever made and was it any good?
The first spirit we ever made at Archie Rose was our first batch of pure juniper distillate, and yes it was delicious.
We had done a lot of testing and R&D before we committed to our first full run though so we were pretty confident it would turn out OK.
Can you tell us about the Australian botanicals you use to make the gin?
The key four are blood lime (earthy citrus), river mint (herbal mint), lemon myrtle (herbal citrus) and Dorrigo pepperleaf (rich spice).
They all offer something different from their traditional gin counterparts and all of them we purchase directly from growers. In fact, we purchased our very first botanicals from the growers’ stands at Eveleigh Markets at Carriageworks.
And what about those beautiful copper stills?
They were all handmade by Peter Bailly down in Hobart (at the time, Australia’s only still-maker).
They took him one year less a day to complete and are all hand-made and beaten. They’re incredible pieces of kit (if you’re into that sort of thing), and every dimension is custom-designed to suit the flavour profile and type of spirit we are working to create.
When can we try an Archie Rose single-malt whisky?
The single malt will likely be another four to five years, but the Malted Rye Whisky should be ready in about a year!
How can we get involved?
We launched a project called Tailored Spirits, which lets you design your own personal gin, vodka or whisky, right down to your name on the label. It’s actually a world-first!