‘It’s best described as Willy Wonka’s Steam Punk Spirits Distillery.’


Manly Spirits Co Distillery Tasting Bar. Image Alana Dimou

Indie Spirits Tasting Sydney is back for its third year – this time at Restaurant Hubert on Sunday, 17th September from 1pm till 4pm. The event, which is also staged in both Brisbane and Perth, is all about great spirits and good times.

Tickets are just $55 (plus booking fee) online and include access to over 30 exhibitors showcasing more than 120 craft spirits, with master distillers on hand to chat and free seminars diving deep into the world of indie spirits. Click here to get your tickets now.

If you score a ticket to the Indie Spirits Tasting, you’ll get to meet this trio from Manly Spirits Co. Distillery — David Whittaker (Founder/director/distiller), Tim Stones (lead distiller), and Vanessa Wilton (Founder/Marketing Manager). Here, they tell us a bit about their own journey from dream to bottle.

Tell us a little bit about your distillery and your distilling process.
Best described as Willy Wonka’s Steam Punk Spirits Distillery. Lots of copper pot stills (4 in total), lots of copper piping (thanks to the founder’s background in oil refinery operations), lots of oak (wide selection of ex bourbon, port, sherry, shiraz barrels being filled with whisky), lots of aqua bottles and bar stools capturing our marine inspiration, lots of fun and hard work.

We distil, bottle and label by hand at our urban distillery, also laying down casks of our cornerstone single malt whisky range, North Fort, and limited release Australian whiskies. These are being matured and finished in a range of traditional ex-Bourbon, ex-fortified wine French oak and ex-Australian wine casks, a variety of whisky expressions will be available from 2019.

Head Distiller, Tim Stones, formally of Beefeater gin and Chivas Brothers Limited, adds: “The Manly Spirits Co. team are continually exploring the Australian botanical pantry and are drawing inspiration from the natural surroundings of Manly’s famed marine sanctuary. Our signature whiskies, gins and botanical vodkas, will be complimented by a rotating seasonal small-batch collection, The Distillery Expressions, that will be available exclusively at the Distillery Tasting Bar for industry and visitors to try”.

What are some of the highlights of a day in your life making booze?
Nosing the spirit when flowing from the parrot beak. Filling whisky barrels with our carefully constructed malt spirit…. highly satisfying.

The spirits industry has changed a lot in the last five years, making way for events like the Indie Spirits Tasting. Why do you think this is?
Consumers have become interested in the ingredients, how their spirits are made and the distillers who make them. They love hearing how we sustainably forage some of our ingredients from the beaches and rock shelves locally. People like to have and share their experiences…. let it be discovering a new gin in an interesting bottle to finding a distillery in their neighborhood. This is what is making craft distilling so interesting and pushing the growth.


Manly Spirits Co Distillery Tasting Bar. Image Alana Dimou

Where do you see the craft spirits industry heading in the next ten years?
In Australia, we can only see the industry growing as customers look for the experience, the story, premiumization, something different and unique with spirits. From the feedback we are receiving in our distillery tasting bar people just love being able to see where and how their spirits are made. They love that we use foraged ingredients to create our range that reflects our coastal location and lifestyle. People are so supportive of us having a go and starting an urban distillery which is accessible and a fun activity on the weekend.

David Whittaker, Manly Spirits Co. Founder and Director, comments: “with over 90% of spirits consumed in Australia imported from other countries, we believe there is a fantastic opportunity to showcase Australian craft spirits and are proud to be part of this movement.”

What do you think will be the hot new trend in the drinks world in 2018?
Vodkas with a twist…. bartenders are loving interesting base spirits with unique flavours incorporating them into their cocktails. It was feedback received from bartenders that inspired us to release our botanical vodka range. Gin is just going to keep growing following on from the explosion in the UK. Whisky is growing as a drink of choice for women with a lighter fruity character.

What are some of your favourite craft spirit brands (other than your own) and what do you like about them?
Iron Bark Distillery — Reg, owner/distiller is a great mate who really strives to new heights to make a great spirit; The West Winds — we love their bold gins which push the boundaries and have a similar marine influence as ourselves and an awesome distiller; Archie Rose — they are such a great crew that run the place and always do everything well… average is not in their vocabulary; and Starward — great whisky and so willing to share their knowledge and experience with the craft distilling industry.

Are you launching anything new at Indie Sydney? If so, what is it?
All our products are new as we only started distributing in May but we will also be showcasing our summer citrus forward gin called ‘Coastal Citrus Gin’.

What products do you have in your portfolio?
Manly Spirits Australian Dry Gin; Manly Spirits Marine Botanical Vodka; Manly Spirits Terra Firma Botanical Vodka; and North Fort White Dog Malt Spirit.