Smudge Eats: The Rebirth of Inner City Distilleries

[Originally posted on Smudge Eats, October 2015]

The Rebirth of Inner City Distilleries in Sydney

- by Camilla Sampson

Until recently inner-city Sydney had been without a distillery for more than 160 years. The world over, in cities like New York and London, have been slowly swept up by a wave of artisan spirits and craft beers, created locally in micro-breweries and small batch distilleries. This revival in urban distilleries and breweries has encouraged a small but growing group of inspirational Sydneysiders to open their own.

Leading the charge are Archie Rose Distilling Co. in Rosebery, Young Henrys in Newtown, and Poor Toms in Marrickville. The trio of businesses answered the question of why Sydney didn’t have a burgeoning distilling industry, seeing no reason for there to be a gaping hole in Australia’s craft booze offerings.

Young Henrys committed to making the Sydney beer scene more innovative. The concept of hand-crafted beer originally came up against many hurdles, and their applications were rejected on numerous occasions. They finally found their home in 2012, in the creative hub of Newtown, and have been joyously brewing ever since. The team is proudly committed to reducing the environmental impact by keeping things local and sustainable.

Meanwhile, Jesse and Griff at Poor Toms set out to create an Australian gin that was ‘delicate, fresh, and floral’ and reflected their home turf rather than somewhere from Europe. Luckily for them, craft distilleries opening up in the UK and the US were really transparent about what methods they were using and so the pair began experimenting. After a lot of hard work, Poor Toms became a reality. Why gin? Aside from the huge potential to experiment with flavour combinations, they found that while some people have a spirit animal, for Jesse and Griff, “gin is our spirit-spirit”. They wanted a ‘party gin’, something that ‘gets people on the dance floor’. The result: green apple, chamomile and native strawberry gum leaf that reflect Australian flavours while also creating something that is fun and fresh.

The Australian distillery industry was in its infancy when Archie Rose started out. But they were equally as excited to do something new in Australia. Since there was no ‘handbook’ to opening an operation of their size, they literally learnt from the ground up, gaining knowledge from those who have come before them. Having waited exactly a year for three custom-made copper pot stills, the team now produce gin, vodka and white rye whiskey and do everything by hand, from choosing the botanicals, right through to the bottling and labelling of spirits on-site. Their accompanying bar is the perfect spot to taste all their hard work, and do it in style. It has just been awarded Best International Bar at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, held in London. The fit out – completed by ACME & Co. – saw the transformation of a vacant shed into a drinking and educational space, housing an array of custom-made equipment, including the beautiful stills.

Passionate about their creations the distilleries encourage a community to build up around them – local people enjoying local products. Their devotion to their craft has given birth to increased interest as to where what we’re drinking comes from and how the notion of Australia can be represented in a delicious, alcoholic flavour.

Photo c/o Young Henrys