Updated Distillery Lists for February

I don’t know about you, but I still can’t get used to the idea that it’s February already. I hadn’t got quite done with January frankly, still feel a few weeks behind schedule….

But what it does mean though is that my monthly updates of the lists are due and I’ve compiled these for well, over a decade or more from the beginning of the craft spirits boom here in Australia are due.  I keep tabs of new entrants to what is an already crowded market here and all power to them, but here’s an interesting statistic I was shown by an industry source.

In a normal year the value of retail sales of gin in Australia is $50 million. Given the sort of years we’ve had of late, it should be no surprise that it’s now nearly $100 million!

But of that $100m, only about 10% market share are Australian gins, of that 10% nearly half is one well know Victorian brand, then there’s everybody else.

Not a lot to go around then for the others, but they keep coming.  It is anticipated that the sales will grow about 10% year on year, so that’s good if you’re a distiller, but with more entrants every month, the status quo may remain…. and it’s challenges, not least the level of taxation on Australian spirits, some of the highest in the world. Here’s a comparison via the Australian Distillers Association of excise per litre.

So what that means for the consumer is that when you’re in your local store and see a bottle of Australian gin, sometimes double the price of an imported one, this is why.

Anyways, back to the lists.

I wasn’t able to get back to New Zealand again last year to judge their craft spirits awards, but they are so nice they email me to apologise about the travel restrictions due the Pandemic, meanwhile I keep tabs on the scene there and there’s another eight new distillers making gin, so there is nearly 100 listed now, go kiwis!   Pro-tip: the gins from NZ are excellent across the board as a rule with some very interesting botanicals.

If Aussie vodka is your thing, there’s quite a few to choose from (of course distillers making other products will make vodka along the way) and so there is 164 now in Australia. 

As for Australian gin, as I said above, it’s a boom, with usually multiple releases from the one distillery, so as we close onto 500 distillers (which I expect to reach next month as I know of several about to debut), there’s never been a better time to be a lover of gin.

Otherwise, I think rum is a much misunderstood spirit, and think it is due for a renaissance here in Australia (it has a lot of cultural and historical baggage for many), but there is lots of exciting creativity and sustainable expressions out there, which is why I love presented rum masterclasses to show folks the new wave of rum makers here, over 60 now around the country.

Finally, Australia now has now more Whisky distillers than Scotland by my reckoning, over 145, and expect to see many more releases. The reason we’ve seen so much gin on the market was to keep the cash flow coming in whilst distillers waited for their whisky to be ready for release. By law here it’s two years minimum ageing in barrels, but’s that’s a bit sharp to taste, whilst the oldest around is 21 years and it sells immediately on release.

It’s a big subject for another time, but again, I think Australian whisky distillers will struggle as they don’t have the economies of scale of the big, established international brands, nor the reputation more broadly. So they can appear to be very expensive by comparison. I think we make beautiful spirits, and love presenting them at masterclasses, plus the mind set of the whisky lover vis a vis price point is quite different from a gin drinker generally speaking and  not forgetting the collectable nature of some labels, so it will be interesting to see how this turns out. A brave new world indeed.

PS: look out for several more reviews, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for my regular live broadcasts and snap reviews along the way.

Stay well and thanks for your support as always.