As Sydney’s first inner-city distillery since the 1850s, Archie Rose wasted no time in becoming a beloved local institution. The bar itself is a double-floored joy of coppery, oaky elegance, and the staff are genuine experts who utterly adore their craft.
We spoke with founder of Archie Rose Distilling Co. Will Edwards to discover their local story:
What is the story behind launching Archie Rose?
I always had a passion for spirits. I used to do a bit of homebrew, make some pretty terrible spirit based infusions and play around with oak maturation, but it remained a hobby and I went down a fairly standard corporate path for a few years.
In 2013 though I reached a point where I knew I was not doing what I wanted to be doing, and the distillery idea was constantly in the back of my mind. I headed to NYC for a break and to check out some of the first distilleries since prohibition that had popped up in Brooklyn and the surrounding areas. After seeing their setups and hearing their stories, I just couldn’t figure out why no one had started up a distillery in the City of Sydney in recent years. Like NYC, we have a unique history of distillation, amazing craft brewers, an incredible bar scene and people who are genuinely interested in where their food and drinks come from and how they are created.
When I returned to Sydney, I knew that there must have been a few people that had considered starting a distillery, but none had eventuated and survived. In my mind there had to be a reason that I didn’t know of as to why you couldn’t start (or successfully operate) a distillery in Sydney. I thought that if I did the research and found that reason, then I could put the idea to bed and get on with other things. I spent six months working on finding the reason, but never found anything I considered an absolute roadblock, so it was then I committed to starting Archie Rose.
After coming up with the idea, what were the next few steps you took to make it a reality?
Ignoring the obvious market research, business planning and capital raising, the first major step was to figure out what was actually required to set up and run a distillery in The City of Sydney, and while I had a fairly good understanding of the licencing requirements and chemistry of distillation, I did not know enough about the infrastructure requirements and specialty equipment – let alone where to source it.
What you realise quite quickly is there is no handbook on how to setup a distillery – it’s not something you can just Google and there are not really any consultants you can bring on board to give you a hand. Furthermore, you realise just how small the Australian (and even global) craft distilling industry is. There are only a handful of coopers (barrelmakers), maybe two stillmakers and very few experienced distillers. That said, if you commit to the research and are prepared to do the calculations, design equipment from scratch and take the time to meet with and listen to those who have come before you, you can put it all together.
Where do you draw your inspiration? How do you seek to remain innovative?
It sounds clichéd, but when you are genuinely passionate about what you are doing, you really don’t need a source of inspiration. I must say that I draw on the enthusiasm of our team though in a big way. Everyone who works here is so into spirits and cocktails and oak and copper that there are constantly new ideas popping up, side projects that we are working on and new materials that we are testing.
I’ve got to mention the bar, restaurant and brewing industries as well. They’re all so interrelated and I look to those guys to see how they are pushing the boundaries in their respective fields and how it could relate to spirits.
What is your business famous for?
In the distillery, definitely our spirits, and the daily tours that we run for the public.
In the bar, great cocktails and one of the best (and most extensive) selections of gins and whiskies available in the country. We were also lucky enough to be awarded Best International Bar at the International Restaurant and Bar Design Awards in London.
What is your favourite local business?
What do you love about your local area?
The community feel, the growing number of restaurants, cafes and creative businesses and how willing everyone is to support each other.