Just south of the Sydney CBD is a mini haven for Australian spirits. As I first approached it reminded me of some sort of Japanese Zen rock garden or spa. There is a weight, yet openness to the Archie Rose bar that makes you want to stay (see bar photo at the end of the story). The best part is that this is not only an Australian focused bar but Archie Rose is a distillery making authentic Australian spirits. I was meeting with Dave Withers, the head distiller at Archie Rose. I planned to arrive a bit early to have ample time exploring the bar’s selection.
Your back is to the distillery as you sit and chat cocktails with the knowledgeable bar staff. Production happens just beyond a metal wire cage and you can see, smell and hear whisky being made. Dave and I walked through the gated area and to the right your attention is immediately drawn to the two Peter Bailey pot stills. Behind the fermenters, you will find a smaller still that is used for their batch style gin production. (Gin still photo to the left).
Will Edwards started Archie Rose just a few years back and boasts to be the first distillery in Sydney for over 160 years. As of right now they have quite a diverse portfolio. Dave was just as adamantly passionate about their whisky production as he was their gin. On site, they make gin, vodka, rye and single malt. They put a large emphasis on the beginning of the process by choosing high quality and alternative malts. This is similar to many of the new American producers. The cask is important but if you put garbage in… you know the rest of the saying. At Archie Rose, they are using a 6-malt recipe for their single malt including:
Imported Scottish peated malt
For all whisky production including rye and single malt they are bringing in malted grain, milling and mashing on site. It is a controlled fermentation and then moved over to one of the two copper pot stills. The wash still is 3,600 liters in capacity and the spirit still is 1,500 liters. As I’ve been told, Sydney’s local water supply is quite adequate and soft and is used throughout the production. As you look around you will see a variety of cask sizes and types lining the walls of the fenced in distillery. Dave said they have about 1,400 casks aging right now and they don’t feel any aged whisky will be ready for release until at least the end of the year. These casks vary in size but all are at the 100 or 200-liter mark. Due to Sydney’s hot temperatures they are still determining what the angels share will be but so far, they are finding evaporation can be upwards of 20%!
For now, their products are only distributed in Australia. I mentioned to Dave that gin isn’t necessarily my strong suit but he was patient in walking me through their specialized process. They distill each botanical individually, each in an alternative fashion and then marry the distillates together. These different styles of botanical infusions include maceration and vapor infused at different temperatures giving them more flavor control. If you are interested in knowing more about juniper berries and their role in the modern-day styles of gin check out Dave’s article on Martini Whisperer. The gin still sits behind the fermenters and is a true batch, pot still production and is at a 300-liter capacity. My notes on all of the clear spirits are below.
Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin @ 42% ABV
A heavier lemon, like a lemon curd, berries and some fruit punch. More floral and honey notes on the palate.
Archie Rose Distiller’s Strength Gin @ 52.4% ABV
Malty biscuit and denser with vanilla and baking spices. Easy to sip for the proof.
Archie Rose White Rye @ 40% ABV
Unaged, imported rye malt – 80% rye and 20% malted barley mash bill
Oatmeal raisin and nutmeg. A bit of earth and grassiness on the finish. Great to taste the rye new make spirit.
Keep an eye on this brand. I would say your best shot at getting a taste of their whisky in the next few years is get up and go to Sydney and have a seat at the Archie Rose cocktail bar. I’ll see you there!