Legislation vs Innovation: How Archie Rose is Shaping the Future of Australian Distilling

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When Will Edwards founded Archie Rose Distilling Co in 2014, the distilling landscape in Australia was still fresh faced and squeaky clean. 

“I think when we started there were maybe nine distilleries in the country and now there’s well over 170,” he says in conversation with Marcus Motteram and Nicole Haack on the Living Proof Podcast. 

That number is actually closer to 300 according to The Whiskey List, but as the first distillery in 160 years to call Sydney home, Archie Rose has been cutting a path for contemporary Australian distilling from day dot. 

At the core of Archie Rose’s philosophy is the concept of sharing - sharing their ingredients, their suppliers, their knowledge, their processes, and their distillery with consumers and creators alike. It’s this come-to-me attitude of the distilling community that Will attributes to the high standards that have been set. 

“I’d probably speak to at least a person a month who’s looking to start their own distillery,” says Will. “The fact that they can go out and talk to other people who’ve started it off and learn from how people have done things in the past, I think that’s done more to higher the quality [of] spirits.”

With the boutique distilling sector in Australia experiencing something of an explosive growth spurt over the past five years, it seems like each new startup has something different to say about what we drink and how we drink it. 

“For us, and particularly being in Australia, we don’t have a rigid history in production and we don’t have a rigid legislative framework that says whisky has to be a certain way or gin has to be a certain way,” explains Will.

“It means you’re operating in this environment that’s crying out for you to push boundaries.”

But for every good idea there’s a copycat, and in Will’s books, Australia currently needs to ensure it has the balance between innovation and legislation right. 

“We want to protect consumers so that when you go into a bottle shop you’re not buying something that you think is Tassie whisky but is actually not… Otherwise you’re eroding consumer trust.” 

However, Will also acknowledges the importance of allowing producers to continue challenging our understanding of what’s possible, without being stifled by laws that dictate what is and isn’t above board. 

“If you come out with something new, where do you put it? You [have to] give it a name that means consumers are actually going to understand it, and then you’re constantly fighting for the right to produce something unique.”

Here he adds, “I don’t think we need to go the same way as Europe or like in the States with bourbon. It stifles innovation.”

“If you can keep things as open and as flexible as possible, while still protecting the integrity of the product and avoiding products that are overtly misleading consumers, you’re better off.”