Australian Made: Tamborine Mountain Distillery

The award winning Aussie battler


Interviewed by Sam Bygrave

We see more and more booze coming in from all corners of the globe at Bartender, so much so it is sometimes easy to forget that there’s plenty of good gear made right here in Australia – and no one wins awards for their booze like the guys at TMD.

It was a bit of a risk to take to make the move from chilly Tasmania to the more temperate Queensland but the lure proved irresistible. In the years since, Tamborine Mountain Distillery – a family affair run by Michael and Alla Ward and their daughter Sonya – has conquered many awards and appeared on the best back bars of the country. And that’s no surprise, either: their range extends to over 80 different spirits and liqueurs.

What did you do before you moved to Queensland?


Alla: Michael was a Property Developer.

Did you have experience distilling before?

Alla: No.

Did you envisage you’d have the successes that you have had when you started out?

Alla: No – it was a bit of a gamble really. It’s a highly taxed industry and we weren’t sure if we could hold up until the turnover began.

What tips would you give to bartenders who want to be distillers?

Alla: Make sure you have heaps of working capital to start with.

How much of what you distil comes from ingredients you grow? Do you buy in many ingredients?

Alla: A good 80% we grow.

You’ve been doing this since 1993. How have you seen the industry change over the years?

Alla: We’ve seen the industry change very much in our favour. It’s great to have a world view that values hand crafted spirits.

Sonya: I’ve noticed a greater focus and passion to use more locally grown and manufactured products.

How important are Australian ingredients to your products?

Sonya: We are very proud to use Australian ingredients.

Alla: We love using Australian products but we wouldn’t say it’s vital as many products we make require cold climate fruits & botanicals.

Why do you think Australians tend to neglect native ingredients in drinks and cooking?

Alla: Probably because they’re not aware of just how fantastic they are.


What is your favourite product from the range?

Alla: St Michael’s Wort – a great herbal eau de vie.

Sonya: Mum and I have the same taste as I also love the St Michael’s Wort herbal schnapps. The St Alushka herbal liqueur is my absolute flavour though, which has very similar herbal complexities to the St Michaels Wort as well as beautiful undertones of citrus.

Michael: Wild Citrus Vodka. I put 30 ml wild citrus vodka in a large glass filled with ice, 30 ml roses lime juice cordial and top up with soda water.

Could you outline a little of your process – how do you decide on a new product, what planning stages do you go through (if any)?

Alla: I’m not a planner. Much is created when say a farmer rocks up with a trailer load of interesting fruit. I love those moments!

How do you know when you’ve got a winning product?

Alla: When our cellar door customers give it the thumbs up.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

Alla: Probably fruit syrups, cordials, boutique jams etc. Often thought of keeping beehive – would really have gone to town with all things honey.

Michael: I am so happy doing this that I cannot think of anything else that would give me so much pleasure and happiness. It’s the best job in the world.

What do you think the booze industry in Australia needs more of?

Alla: Cocktail bars.

Sonya: Boutique Australian owned/operated ventures.

Michael: Lots more wonderful cocktail bars that would stock some of the eighty plus natural products created just for the Australian market by Australia’s most awarded distillery and liquor brand in the new millennium Tamborine Mountain Distillery.

What does it need less of?

Alla: RTD’s.

Sonya: Business’ being taken over by the multi nationals.

How many bottles do you produce a year?

Alla: Thousands!

What has bee the most successful product you have produced?

Alla: Wattle Toffee Liqueur.

After a hard day distilling what do you drink to unwind?

Alla: A cup of tea.

Sonya: Schooner of coopers pale at my local.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.