What happens when you put 420 Australian craft distillers in one room? ADA Conference 2022
Far from the battle royal you might expect from having so many distillers all together for three whole days, this year’s record-breaking Australian Distillers’ Association conference was inclusive, friendly and above all supportive. Here’s what went down.
Imagine an organisation that brings together all the craft distillers of Australia to give them support, education and a sense of community. That’s what the ADA—the Australian Distillers’ Association—is all about.
This year’s convention was the biggest in its history with over 430 folk from the industry attending.
Everyone—distillers, cellar door managers, suppliers, product manufacturers, wholesalers and media—all converged on Melbourne for this epic three-day event.
As both members and sponsors of the ADA, Nip of Courage and our subsidiary Women of Australian Distilling, we were there to represent.
Our goodie bags—painstakingly hand-packed by the NOC team—were a highlight of the convention.
Welcome drinks at Starward Distillery
Kicking off the convention was a fun evening at Starward Distillery’s impressive Port Melbourne cellar door.
We were met at the entrance by the famous Tap Dogs, beating welcome tattoo.
Cocktails made with Starward’s renowned Two Fold Whisky flowed freely while a magnificent charcuterie table and tasty goods from food trucks gave us sustenance.
The converted warehouse of this distillery and cellar door is well worth travelling for.
Lining the walls, racks of barrels go almost up to the towering ceiling while the bright sunlight though giant picture windows glints off the copper still that’s visible from the street.
We may or may not have taken advantage of being at Starward to grab a bottle of their superb cask strength Starward Fortis Whisky.
ADA Convention 2022
Things kicked off early this morning at the Pullman Mercure Albert Park Hotel—especially considering last night’s festivities.
But once we’d given out almost all of our 450 excellent Nip of Courage show-bags, we made our way into the main auditorium.
By the way, the bags were replete with gin from Little Lon Distillery and Archie Rose distillery, and tonics from Fever Tree and Long Rays as well as other goodies like TimTams, TicTacs, magnetic badges and our latest edition of 1992 Magazine.
The bag itself was also pretty cool.
The conference was led by outgoing ADA president Stu Gregor, who—in his usual rambunctious style—MC’d proceedings.
Speakers from all walks of the distilling industry entertained, informed and enlightened us.
Post-Convention Foyer Drinks
For most ‘normal' conventions, this part of the program is a small-time networking event where delegates decompress over shallow pours of bland wine and mainstream flavourless beer.
Not this convention.
Every attending ADA member distillery was invited to bring a bottle or two of their best spirits to be shared out to thirsty attendees keen to try their piers’ work (and perhaps do a little 'market research').
And with so many representatives at this record-breaking ADA Conference, the venue had to make up four separate bars: one for gin, one for whisky, one for rum and one for vodka, agave spirit and liqueurs.
It was very tempting to stay and work our way around them all, but we had to get ready for dinner.
ADA 2022 Gala Dinner
The gala is always a pretty big deal, but this year even more so. A huge three-course dinner was served in the Grand Ballroom to over 450 guests.
Hosted by none other than Hamish Blake and Wippa, notable moments of the evening were rum making pioneer Spike Desert of Hoochery Distillery being posthumously accepted into the Australian Distilling Industry’s Hall of Fame, followed by whisky legend Bill Lark, whose speech raised the roof.
It was courtesy of Bill’s palate and the ADA’s generosity that every dinner guest that night received a beautiful 100ml bottle of a special one-off blended whisky from 35 of Australia’s best distilleries, celebrating 30 years of Australian whisky.
After dinner, we were all glad to see the four bars of the earlier Foyer Drinks had been resurrected and more ‘market research’ was conducted long into the night.
Regional Distillery Tours
The following morning, we hauled ourselves out of bed to our respective coaches to be whisked away to visit distilleries around Victoria.
Nip of Courage founder Kathleen Davies and Sales Manager Jarrod travelled down to the excellent Bellarine Peninsula to visit The Whiskery and of one of our absolute favourites Anther Distillery.
Meanwhile, Christina and I were heading for the other side of Port Phillip Bay to the Mornington Peninsula.
Here we met with the lovely Holly Kintworth—head distiller of Bass and Flinders fame.
We’ve been enjoying Bass and Flinders gin for many years, but it was the first time for us to try their cognac-style brandy. Suffice to say we were suitably impressed.
Our next stop was up the road at the Chief’s Son. We had met the lovely Naomi McIntosh and her husband Stuart at Starward’s reception drinks, so it was great to see them again and their distillery.
Not that they’ll be there for much longer.
The McIntoshes are moving across the road to a much bigger facility; and just as well. Surrounded by beautiful barrels brimming with whisky, there’s not much room left here.
After hearing from Stuart about the workings of the distillery and a generous tasting led by Naomi, we couldn’t help but take home a souvenir of Chief’s Son 900 Sweet Peat.
The Last Hurrah
Back at the Pullman Hotel, there was just enough time to freshen up for our last trip of the convention.
The Distiller Melbourne in Northcote is a bar, distillery and experiential hub for Top Shelf International’s three Aussie spirit brands: Grainshaker Australian Vodka, NED Whisky and—soon to arrive on the market—their Australian Agave spirit.
Beer, wine and—of course—cocktails flowed as freely as ever, and the incredible charcuterie table, catered by Gathar, bookended our trip with a resplendent range of cheeses and meats.
The Australian Distillers’ Association has once again delivered on its promises of supporting and enhancing the Australian spirits industry, helping newcomers and veteran distillers alike with this year’s conference.
We can’t wait to see what’s next.