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A Brief History of Australian Craft Distilling

Distilling in Australia is the way it is today due to the Distillation Act of 1901 which prohibited a licence from being granted to anyone with a wash still smaller than 2700 litres. While this act didn’t stop distilling altogether, with Bundaberg Rum being established in 1888 and continuing even today, this did put a stop to smaller distilleries starting up.

While other alcohol-based ventures continued, allowing for the formation of Australia's great breweries and vineyards such as Cascade Brewery and Dalwood Estate, both being Australia’s oldest brewery and vineyard respectively, the spirits industry stayed relatively stagnant. That was until one famed fishing trip in 1989 where Bill Lark and his father-in-law enjoyed a bottle of single malt whisky by the Clyde River in Tasmania when Bill remarked,

“I wonder why there isn’t anyone making malt whisky in Tasmania?”

It would be perfect conditions for making whisky, Tasmania’s climate is as close to Scotland’s as you can get in Australia and the hot weather that the rest of the country is known for can really put a damper on the whole whisky-making process. This question stuck with Bill after the fishing trip, and after some research, he discovered the forgotten and outdated 1901 act.

Bill introduced himself to his local MP who then got on the phone to a Federal MP, and the amending of the law was now in action. Within a few months, the law had been changed, granting Bill and his wife Lyn Lark their licence.

Lark Distillery was the first distillery in Tasmania since 1839. Not long after getting the licence, Bill got a call from John Grant of Glenfarclas Distillery (Scotland), the very same distillery that produces the whisky Bill and Lyn toasted when they received their licence, offering help with not only making whisky but making good whisky.

When asked about his hopes for the future of the industry he helped pioneer, Bill stated,

“As the modern Australian spirits industry has been built on a strength of collegiality and collaboration to the benefit of all, my hopes for the future would be that we continue to embrace that ideal and I can only see a bright future ahead for both the industry and the consumer."

Now, almost three decades after opening Lark Distillery, the Lark team not only produce and export high quality, award-winning whisky around the globe, they’ve added a remarkable selection of gin, rum, brandy and liqueurs to their ever-growing portfolio.


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