Blanco Wolf from Patient Wolf Distilling Co. is an agave-based gin distilled from blue Weber agave nectar from Jalisco infused with classic gin botanicals. Courtesy photograph.

The craft spirits industry continues to grow in Australia and New Zealand. Despite Australia having the third highest spirits tax in the world, surpassing a tax rate of $100 per liter of pure alcohol in 2023, distillers are discovering new sources of inspiration and innovation.


While flavored and seasonal gins have previously dominated, more savory flavors have begun to emerge. Distilleries such as Never Never Distilling Co., Bass & Flinders, and Moontide Distillery are using oyster shells to add minerality and saltiness to their gin.

Inspired by their immediate surroundings, Kangaroo Island Spirits produced a limited release First Harvest Juniper Gin, made exclusively from single-source common juniper grown at the distillery.

Meanwhile, North of Eden Distillery has taken a “farm to glass” approach by partnering with local juniper growers Lucy Vincent and Bruce Campbell less than 100 km from the distillery.

“To be able to source juniper from just up the road is a key initiative in reducing the distillery’s carbon footprint,” says head distiller and owner Gavin Hughes. “We already make one of our gins using Lucy’s juniper, but the plan is to move all our gins to this more sustainable footing over the next 12 months.”


Australia’s relationship with wine-cask whisky maturation continues. Coastal Stone Whisky, for example, produced an Italian Luxe Series matured in ex-Montepulciano, Aglianico, and Sangiovese casks.

For smoky flavors, distillers are looking closer to home. Morris Whisky takes their red wine barriques to an extreme level of char over open fire to create expressions such as Smoked Muscat and Smoked Sherry Barrel. Archie Rose Stringybark Smoked Single Malt Whisky is an example of the distillery’s use of local native wood and their goal to replace Scottish peated malt with Australian wood-smoked malt.

Embracing their coastal provenance right on the ocean’s edge, Waubs Harbour Whisky in Tasmania has converted an old oyster hatchery into a distillery. Using the unique environment and microclimate to its advantage, Waubs Harbour Whisky produces maritime single malt whiskies with uniquely salty and mineral profiles.


Australian rum is an exciting category that is being redefined. “We are seeing a lot of interesting rums coming out of Australia. Distilleries aren’t afraid to deviate from the norm and are looking to other producers/industries for inspiration when crafting our rums,” says Samantha Stefani, distiller at Solander Rum Company.

While spiced rums have been popular releases, more flavored rums are now being produced such as Brix Australian Mango Rum, Husk Coconut Rum, and Capricorn Pineapple Rum.

Agave Spirits & Hybrids

In the lead up to the launch of Act of Treason Agave Spirits, Top Shelf International has released R&D agave spirits made from 100% Australian-grown agave in blanco and reposado. These expressions are part of the project’s extensive R&D program spanning over four years.

Cross-category spirits are also emerging. Patient Wolf Distillery produced Blanco Wolf Agave Gin Spirit, made from blue Weber agave nectar from Jalisco fermented and distilled in-house, then redistilled a second time and infused with juniper, coriander seed, and angelica root for a pared-back botanical profile. “We wanted the agave to be its own botanical and form part of the gin, not just be a gin layered over an agave spirit,” says Jordan Sheppard, production distiller.

Healey’s Blue Agave Gin from Echuca Distillery is made from agave nectar fermented in-house, then double distilled to create the base spirit before macerating juniper, then adding pink peppercorns and grapefruit and distilling for a third time.

Cocktails-in-a-bag, like this one from Sophisticated Cocktail Co., are a growing trend. Courtesy photograph.

Ready-to-Drink & Packaging

The ready-to-drink category is embracing sustainability practices. Sophisticated Cocktail Co. offers premium cocktails in eco-friendly pouches or large format “goon bags” made from recycled plastics with a pressure flow tap that prevents spoiling. The product has an 80% lower carbon footprint than the glass bottle equivalent. They have collaborated with B Corp–certified Cape Byron Distillery to create Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin Dirty Martini.

New Zealand

Andrea Marseglia, owner/operator of Teresa Cocktail Bar in New Zealand, offers insights into the local market. He says rum is showing signs of growth and innovation. The NZ Rum Co. is pushing boundaries by producing a funky white rum distilled from fermented jaggery sugar. Bayside Rum Co. ferments 100% blackstrap molasses using a kumara fermentation starter, then distills it twice in a Kiwi-made pot still.

Gin is on the decline, yet distilleries such as Elemental Distillers are pushing ahead and championing native botanicals such as wild-foraged kawakawa berries while Reefton Distilling Co. uses native forest pepper and tarata leaves.

Whisky is coming of age, and while most are matured in wine casks, Pokeno Whisky is using native totara casks, a straight-grained hardwood which, when toasted, imparts sweet and creamy notes.

As a wine country, another New Zealand category to watch is vermouth. One such brand is Agnese Vermouth, made from handpicked and foot-crushed Hawkes Bay Syrah grapes with 17 foraged botanicals and homegrown wormwood. The overall picture is of continued innovation and thinking more holistically about what it means to be local — even if that involves unconventional ingredients.