Home' Bars and Clubs : BAC MarchApril 2015 Contents Will Edwards had been tossing around
the idea of starting his own distillery
for a decade before he decided to get
serious. After following what he calls a "fairly
standard corporate path" into management
consulting, a trip to New York led Edwards to
investigate the urban distilling scene that was, at
the time, starting to pop up in the city.
"I went and visited the distillers. I heard their
story, and how they'd set up, and you know, they
had a similar background to me," he said. "And
I also saw the similarities between New York
The seed was planted.
"I just thought, I've got to know why it can't be
done," he says. "Because in my mind, there must
have been other people who've tried."
Determined to find the "deal-breaker", and
force himself to abandon the idea, Edwards set
about six months' worth of research -- speaking to
suppliers and even travelling to Tasmania. But the
deal-breaker proved elusive.
That was two years ago now. Since then
Edwards quit his job, bought a custom-built
distillery and recruited a team that includes Joe
Dinsmoor -- the 22-year-old distilling wunderkind
who cut his teeth on his very first whisky run
at Lark Distilling on his 18th birthday; and Dave
Withers -- the whisky guru from Sydney whisky
emporium Oak Barrel. He also took his girlfriend
to Tasmania for a romantic trip for her birthday.
Then accidentally took her to visit all of the world-
famous distilleries that just happen to be there.
CUSTOMISING A CUSTOM STILL
Edwards is a details man. You can see the glint
in his eyes when he talks about his stills and
the process he went through to have them
made exactly how he wanted. His first stop
was Forsythe's, in Scotland. The well-regarded
producer could give Edwards the degree of
customisation he was looking for but in 2013,
when he approached them, the company was
unable to deliver until the end of 2015 -- out of the
question for the Archie Rose timeline. Next stop
was Germany, where the still producers could
deliver on time but could not offer the exacting
level of customisation. So Edwards turned to his
own backyard and to Peter Bailly, a Tasmanian
"When [Bailly] got into still making, he took a
trip to Scotland, and went around trying to find
the perfect still dimensions," Edwards says. "He
used to have a friend of his stand next to the stills
at a known height and a known distance. Then he
would recreate the still dimensions. You can go
over them and -- knowing what styles of whisky
they produce -- think about the flavour profile
you're looking for in your whisky and how that
then translates back into the shape of the still."
Edwards based all the details of the still -- like
the diameter of the neck, the height of the neck,
the way the swan neck curves over, and the length
and slope of the line arm -- on the types of whisky
he likes to drink himself.
"For me, I like whiskies that are pretty full-
flavoured, and are a little bit more viscous," he
says. "I like being able to sort of chew on it."
The hand-hammered stills were built to exact
specifications in order to achieve such a whisky --
the necks are a little shorter, and squatter than a
standard still for a slightly richer, oilier spirit.
FINDING A HOME
Being close to the CBD was always the plan, and
Edwards was lucky enough to be referred to a
site that wasn't technically on the market. The
owners were looking for a brewery; once they
met Edwards that plan quickly was switched to
"For me, what I loved was actually going and
visiting distilleries, and seeing the process of how
you make spirit," says Edwards. "In Sydney, the
closest was Erina. You're not going to get in the
car and drive an hour and a half to go visit."
There was plenty to consider in the mammoth
set-up task: utilities, correct zoning, six metre
clearance for equipment, security (if the alcohol
gets stolen Archie Rose still pays tax on it), and, of
course public accessibility. Then there is licensing,
which was a whole other kettle of fish.
"The main challenge is that you submit this
application for a distillery, and there's no one
It's the first distillery in Sydney in 150 years, and needless to say,
Archie Rose's owner Will Edwards has caused something of a stir.
Stefanie Collins sat down with him to get all the details
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