Consumers worldwide are rapidly embracing spirits from craft distilleries, but especially so in Australia, helped along by the budding small bar scene.
While the growth in craft spirits is an international trend, small boutique-style bars are increasingly popping up in Australian cities.
According Sydney law firm Kemp Strang partner Nick Simpson, who advises on property and commercial matters, the city’s evening entertainment has shifted to a café-style society thanks to a more streamlined liquor licence application process.
“The small bar is fundamentally shifting the entertainment culture of the city centre,” Simpson says. “They have added variety and colour and are attracting people back to the city at night as well as retaining city workers after hours.”
Simpson says there will be casualties due to the changing landscape, with large-scale operators being forced to rethink their strategies.
“The result is a lot of the large-scale operators are downsizing or opening their own small bars,” he says.
Smaller spirits makers, however, still have some stiff competition from their larger counterparts, and to this end, boutique Australian-based distillers The West Winds Gin, Tequila Tromba and 666 Vodka have teamed up to co-promote each other’s brands.
While Tequila Tromba imports its product from Mexico, which is where genuine tequila must be made, the other two brands are made locally.
The three brand owners have pooled resources to create a local distribution company known as Local Craft Spirits, and their collective aim to enlist bartenders as their brand ambassadors, to get drinkers to think more about what they drink and where their drinks come from, and to tap into interest in locally made products.
Nigel Weisbaum, Local Craft Spirits’ national sales manager, says first Australia saw the craft beer market explode and now the craft spirits market is following suit.
“People are starting to drink less but when they do drink, they choose more premium products,” he says. “Australia makes and exports fine wine all over the world, now the world is starting to see that Australia can make fine spirits as well.”
One of these is Tasmania’s Lark Distillery which won the title of Best Australian Distiller at the inaugural Australian Distilled Spirits & Liqueurs competition recently.
Twenty-eight exhibitors from across Australia entered more than 90 products at the competition, which was part of the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards (RMFFA).
Lark Distillery also took home the Champion Whisky Trophy for its Lark Tasmanian Single Malt Whisky – Small Cask Strength, Whisky Aged, Sherry Cask, Cask No 412.
Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) CEO Mark O’Sullivan said the introduction of an Australian distilled spirits and liqueurs category to the RMFFA was a huge success, thanks to the overwhelming number of entries received in its inaugural year.
“The RASV is proud to give distillers the opportunity to benchmark their products against national competitors in the first competition of its kind for Australian-based spirit and liqueur producers,” O’Sullivan says.
“The Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards is designed to promote and celebrate excellence and we are delighted to have successfully introduced this program to the distilling industry.”