Archie Rose Distillery

At Archie Rose, the first distillery soon to open in Sydney in over 160 years, I am offered a glass of water. The water has been charcoal-filtered twice, run through reverse osmosis twice and UV-filtered. It is piped through to the bar, used for carbonated soda water and even run into the Hoshizaki Ice Machine.

This is the water that goes into making whisky.

Archie Rose Distillery
Archie Rose Distilling Co.

Archie Rose Distillery

Located behind Kitchen By Mike and Koskela, in Rosebery, Archie Rose takes its name from the time distilling was an illicit operation in the 19th century. Archie was a pseudonym for distilling hence Archie from Rosebery became Archie Rose.

We can thank Bill Lark, the grandfather of Australian whisky for the boom in Australian distilling for challenging the existing distilling laws and winning. Consequently,  Tasmania has now more distilleries than Islay, and there are over 30 distilleries in Australia mainly located in rural areas.

Archie Rose’s Founder, Will Edwards has swapped a corporate role and along with his team, is bringing to Sydney the first micro distillery since the 1850s. Joe Dinsmoor is Head Distiller, an ex Lark Distillery alumni who started working there at the age of 16.

The Distilling Process at Archie Rose

Today, in this metropolitan hub, brewing and distilling activities are taking place.

“Everything from grain to glass is done under one roof,” explains Nigel Weisbaum, Sales and Marketing Manager.

At Archie Rose, all processes are done by hand. The grain – in this case malted barley – goes into the grist mill for grinding. The mill is adjustable from fine or coarse depending on requirements.

Archie Rose Distillery
Nigel Weisbaum Demonstrating the Grist Mill

The barley is added to the mash tun with hot water, turning the starches into fermentable sugars. In large distilleries automatic paddles are used to stir but at Archie Rose, it is done by hand using a small paddle that fits into the opening.

Archie Rose Distillery
Mash Tun

Different water temperatures cause different chemical reactions with the grains which in turn produce different types of sugars.

The liquid is then drained from the mashing tun and collected in the underback, then drained leaving the “draff”, or the spent grain to be collected by farmers and taken as feed for farm animals. It is then run off into these silver tanks.

Archie Rose Distillery
Malt Extract

This is what the liquid is like, thick and syrupy before yeast is added and the malt extract is put into the fermentation tanks.

Archie Rose Distillery
Fermentation Tanks

The tanks are the only non-Australian pieces in the distillery. Made in Italy, they are fully sealed as the temperature and humidity in Sydney are challenging and fermentation is very temperature reliant. A water jacket measures the temperature. If any variance is detected, it pumps water to bring the temperature back down and logs every temperature so if there are any issues with the fermentation, good or otherwise, they can be tracked.

Look closely and you’ll see that all the fermentation tanks are named after rappers.

Archie Rose Distillery
Fermentation Tank “Drizzy”

This is single malt barley that has been fermenting for about a week. It tastes sweet and sour, and it’s the sourness that starts to produce all the good flavours.

After a week or so of fermentation, the liquid goes into the copper pot wash still. These food grade stills are handmade from 6ml thick copper which was mined in Australia and sent to Europe for processing. It was then sent to South Australia to be cut and to Tasmania, to be made by Bill Lark’s still maker.

Archie Rose Distillery
L-R: Wash Still, Spirit Still

It took Peter Bailey, the only still maker in Australia, 364 days from the date of ordering the stills to the date of delivery. At 3600 litre capacity, they are the largest single copper pot still in Australia.

While most stills in Australia are electric, all the stills at Archie Rose are steam powered which offer better linear control. They are more expensive to setup but better to run in the long term and better for the environment.

Much like grain is important to the end product, the distillate is also dependent on the shape of the still eg, the taller the columns, the lighter and cleaner and purer the spirit. Will Edwards has gone for a very short swan’s neck as the heavier alcohols get through and these contain the impurities that produce all the flavour.

The wash is currently being fermented, producing “beer” between 8 to 9% ABV.

Archie Rose Distillery
Spirit Still

The 3000 litres of wash or wort go into the first distillation producing the oily low wines with about 20 to 30% ABV. The run time in the wash stills is approximately 10 hours.

Low wines then get pumped into the spirit still which has a capacity of 1600 litres. Alcohol goes over the beam, heats up down the line arm condenser and comes out as liquid. The first ones coming off are called the foreshots, then the head, heart or middle run then the tails at the end.

Archie Rose Distillery
ARD Single Malt 01

This is the first batch of Archie Rose single malt to come off the distillery. At 80% ABV, it is over barrel proof. ARD single malt 01 tastes very sweet. It will be cut down to barrel entry proof and will come down to 65% ABV.

Chill filtration is not used at Archie Rose. The spirit undergoes “flocking” where it sits for about a month, during which the complex carbohydrates congregate, attract to each other and drop to the bottom leaving the oil and the flavour in the whisky. The spirit will then be taken from the top.

Archie Rose Distillery
100L Cask

The single malt whisky will be aged in ex Buffalo Trace barrels, sent to Tasmania to be cut down from 225 litres to 100 litres. The smaller size barrels ensure more wood contact with the spirit.

Rye whiskey and “Australian Sour Mash” will be aged in brand new 100 litre American oak barrel from Kentucky, charred to level 4.

The length of ageing is uncertain at this stage since no one has aged spirits in Sydney in so long.

Archie Rose White Spirits

While the whisky is maturing, Archie Rose will produce white spirits mainly vodka, gin and white rye.

Archie Rose Distillery
Archie Rose Gin Still

A short pot still is used to produce white spirits such as gin. Archie Rose uses base spirit made from wheat. Based on research undertaken by Dinsmoor, botanicals show their brilliance at different times hence he has chosen to distil them individually.

The still has a botanical basket where the harder botanicals (juniper, orris root, liquorice root) steep in the base spirit. The still also has a hook so that the basket floats above the spirit and is distilled using hot vapour infusion. Higher up, another basket is designed like the Carter Head Still.

Individual runs of botanicals are made, then the distillates are blended to a recipe to create the gin.

Archie Rose Distillery
Bottling Equipment

Bottling is to be done by hand. The bottles will be capped, labelled and sealed onsite, ensuring that everything from grain to glass is done under the one roof.

Archie Rose Bar

Adjacent to the distillery is the Archie Rose Bar. The aesthetics bring elements of the distillery to the space dominated by an impressive central copper bar. Semicircular booths are made from 100% oak and made to resemble barrels down to the charring on the inside.

Archie Rose Distillery
Archie Rose Bar

The bar will not only focus on Archie Rose spirits but on Australian and quality spirits. The aim is to educate consumers and raise appreciation. The bar will be a place to enjoy a cocktail, an aperitif or a flight of spirits.

The bar team will have Cameron Battley as Bar Manager with Lachlan Beange and Jonothan Carr as Archie Rose Ambassadors who will undertake distillery tours. Dave Withers is the Production Manager.

A mezzanine level above the bar can be used for meetings and master classes.

Archie Rose Spirits

Once the distillery is officially opened, Archie Rose gin, vodka and white rye will be the first spirits on sale.

Archie Rose Distillery
Whisky Barrels

Archie Rose Gin is a London Dry style (42 % ABV) that is juniper heavy made from 14 botanicals, 4 or 5 being Australian native botanicals that may not have not been used in other Australian gins. There are options to do Old Tom style, barrel-aged and navy strength gin in the future.

Archie Rose Rye is expected to be creamy and used in mixed drinks and cocktails such as Juleps, Old Pal, White Manhattans or simply with apple juice. To start, it will only be available on premise. Meanwhile the wheat-based Archie Rose Vodka is deemed to be a smooth spirit with a bright and light flavour profile with hints of apple and mint.

The spirits will be available in 700ml and 750ml to cater for different world markets.

Archie Rose will offer contract distilling where interested parties can put forward their requirements and discuss them with the team.

Australian Craft Distilling will soon have a home in Sydney, and that’s reason to get excited.

Archie Rose opens in mid-March 2015.

Archie Rose Distillery
Archie Rose

Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

For more distilleries, visit the Australian Distillery Directory.

Archie Rose Distilling Co.
61 Mentmore Ave, Rosebery

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.