The Story of Adams Distillery
In 2013, Adam Pinkard and his dad, Iain, took a holiday to Scotland. In the storied, whisky utopia of Speyside, they notched up some serious father-son bonding time in the distilleries and whisky bars of the region. It was a good holiday. Adam came home with some fine Scottish single malt for the whisky cabinet, and a persistent thought in his head. ‘I could do that.’
So Adam started researching. To his delight, he discovered that whisky has only three ingredients – malted barley, yeast and water – which made Adam think that he might have just found himself a nice, easy hobby. So he kept reading, spent too much time on YouTube, and pestered anyone who’d talk to him about whisky making.
Then in 2014, Sullivan’s Cove won the World’s Best Single Malt at the prestigious World Whisky Awards, and Adam had an epiphany. It was time to get serious.
Early in 2014, Adam’s roommate, Adam Hill (there are a lot of Adams in this story, so prepare yourself…) put him in touch with Mathew Cooper at Fanny’s Bay Distillery in northern Tasmania. During their first phone call, Mathew invited Adam (Pinkard, not Hill) to the distillery, and Adam left that same minute, picking his dad up on the way. That day, over drams of New Make spirit from Fanny’s Bay, Mathew became Adams Distillery’s fist mentor, and Adam began learning the art of whisky making.
There would be many more trips Fanny’s Bay, with much ear-chewing from Adam. After a while, Mathew and Adam decided the time was right to start planning Adams Distillery. But they were going to need a builder.
Proof that life’s turning points can happen anywhere, one night Adam saw one of his oldest friends, Adam Richard Saunders (a.k.a. ARS), driving out of a Hungry Jack’s in his work ute. ‘That’s right,’ thought Adam, ‘ARS is a builder.’ It wasn’t long before the two Adams were meeting over McDonalds and Jim Beam cans every Tuesday night, thrashing out ideas for the distillery buildings and infrastructure. But so far, Adam Pinkard hadn’t found the right piece of land to put those buildings on. Then Adam Saunders came across a warehouse in Garfield Street, Launceston, and the distillery site had finally been found. Or so they thought…
Now that things were getting near the pointy end, Adam Pinkard began to see that his ‘hobby’ had grown to the level that it might be a bit more than a one-man show. So, on one of their Jim Beam-and-Maccas Tuesdays, Adam P proposed a business partnership to Adam S. And, as with all good stories, Adam S said yes.
Hurdles and hoops
The Adams were happily cleaning up their nascent distillery site in Garfield Street when they were issued a stop work notice by the council. A neighbour had complained, and as it turns out, the premises were on the wrong side of the town planning tracks. Undeterred, the Adams crafted a submission to continue the project – which was unanimously voted down, and the distillery hit its first real hurdle.
Who doesn’t love a turning point? The choice now was to press on or give up. After exploring many options, Adam S had an inspiration. The partner of his girlfriend’s mother (stay with me here…) was none other than Professor Berni Einoder (a.k.a The Prof.), owner of Glen Ireh Estate in Perth, Tasmania. The Adams were soon wondering about using one of the Estate’s existing farm sheds, or building a new one on the property. They put together a business plan, and then on a sunny January day in 2016, they took a walk with The Prof. through his garden and made their pitch.
And, they’re off.
The Prof. was agreeable to the plan and Adam and Adam began their venture. A flurry of plans and development applications were approved, and The Prof financed the building of a new shed and car park, which the Adams would rent from him.
Now that they had a location, the Adams needed equipment. They designed their own still and after a bit of trial and error, and much help from various friends and professionals, completed the 1600L still that they would use during their first year of production. With a little more equipment and a lot of hard work, the Adams were almost ready to begin producing their own spirits.
Mathew Cooper was still a close mentor, and the Adams were also spending time with Chris Thompson at Lark Distillery, to learn about the processes of quality whisky production. Chris soon became Adams Distillery’s second mentor.
(It’s worth mentioning that, during the building and fit out stage, Adam Pinkard was on a month’s research holiday in the USA. Adam was taking on the onerous burden of researching game techniques in Las Vegas, training his palate with wine tasting in Napa Valley, exploring cruise ship retail options around the Florida Keys, and exploring the stress-management benefits of driving a V8 convertible Mustang on Route 66 (a.k.a Adam’s New Hobby).
Adam Saunders, Jesse Gilliam and Craig Saunders were left to build and finalise the new Adams Distillery site. Around this time, Adam Saunders was quoted as saying, ‘In a way it was easier. Adam always has ideas; some good, some…um, well, different. This way, I could build the distillery in a way I knew would work and be functional.’
In reply, Adam Pinkard reportedly said ‘What was that? I couldn’t hear you over the roar of the V8…’)
The first batch
With the groundwork done, the Adams completed their first mash on October 28th, 2016, and with that, Adams Distillery whisky production had officially begun.
The first cask needed to be something special, so the Adams spoke to Adam Bone (I told there were lots of Adams in this story) at Tas Cask Company and chose a 300L 35 year-old French Oak Portugese port cask as the first cask to be filled.
On November 13, a grand opening party marked the filling of the first cask. Legendary distiller and God Father of Australian Whisky, Bill Lark, officially opened Adams Distillery, and joined with The Prof. to pour the final two litres that would fill Cask Number One.
Progress and partnerships
The next few months were spent ramping up production, ironing out bugs and finding continuing funding for the venture. The Adams initiated a partnership with Tim Duckett of the Tasmanian Heartwood Malt Whisky, arguably the most notorious and distinguished independent label in Australia. The Adams visited Tim with a cask strength sample of their new make. Tim, not one to stand on ceremony, simply said, ‘Yep, I like it. I’ll take some.’ We do like a man of few words.
This was the beginning of a great relationship between Tim – who became Adams Distillery’s third mentor – and the Adams, who have been producing spirit for Heartwood ever since.
In May 2017, the excellently-named Queensland company, The Art of Booze, asked the Adams if they’d be interested in producing whisky for them on an ongoing basis. Unsurprisingly, the answer was yes, and production has been continuing ever since. Since then, Adams Distillery has been approached to produce new make for several different companies.
The first expansion
With business going well, the Adams were ready to expand. They commissioned a second still for the spirit run, enabling them to reserve the first still for wash runs only instead of using it for both wash and spirit production. Further investment in equipment expanded the distillery’s capacity from 220L to 550L a week. The Adams were one year into their new venture, and this was a huge step.
Thoughts now turned to the future and the potential of Adams Distillery as a brand and a business. After much thinking, and long conversations with Tim Duckett and Bill Lark that focused heavily on survival, the Adams emerged with a clear vision for the direction of their distillery.
Extending the repertoire
In 2017, with the help and guidance of Rex Burdon at Nonesuch Distillery, Adams Distillery broadened its horizons to create a Dry Gin and Navy Strength Turbo Gin. These babies are bold and flavoursome, with 16 botanicals in the Dry and 21 botanicals in the Turbo. In 2018, a Green Apple Gin and a Sloe Gin were added to the range.
That same year, Adams Dry Gin won a gold medal at the Berlin International Spirits Awards.
Oh, and they also won Best Australian Gin Distillery at the same competition. The Adams had come a long way from Tuesday night Jim Beam and Maccas.
The second expansion
Now, back to the vision. The Adams wanted to go big. Very big. So, they formulated a multiple stage expansion plan that would take the distillery to 1,000,000 litres of whisky a year, with a first-stage 800L per day spirit production capacity.
Big dreams need backing, and after pursuing a few options for funding the expansion, the Adams accepted an offer by The Prof to become a one-third shareholder in the business for $1Million. To date, the three partners have invested close to $1.7M in the expansion.
The expansion has included a new 40m x 18m shed, and a new 5,500L spirit still and 12,500L wash still from Kolmark. The 12,500L still is 300 times the size of the first 40L still that the Adams had built just two years earlier.
The list also included grain silos, transfer systems, a grist mill, new mash tun and new 8,500L fermenters – which were personally inspected and purchased in China by the two Adams, Claire Saunders, Craig Saunders and Craig’s wife Sue.
With the infrastructure purchased, it was down to Tas engineering and Kolmark to undertake the huge project of building and installing all the new equipment for Adams Distillery 2.0.
A silver lining
The northern end of the shed was reserved for a beautiful visitors’ centre and cellar door, and a very inviting 55m2 deck. It’s an interesting fact that this deck is more than half the size of the entire site that was proposed as the original location for Adams Distillery in Garfield Street Launceston. Turns out the council did the Adams a huge favour when they delivered that stop work notice…
But wait, there’s more…
To add to the Adams story, three paddocks at Glen Ireh Estate have been planted with 140 acres of two-row Westminster barley. If the barley reaches malt one standard, their own barley will be malted in Spreyton at Joe White’s and trucked back to Glen Ireh Estate to make around 40,000L of estate grown Single Malt Whisky.
Never a dull moment
You’ve probably figured out by now, that the Adams are no slouches. They’re also easily bored. In fact, they’re a bit like blue heelers, if you really think about it.
With Adams 2.0 and the expansions to the distillery underway, the Adams, naturally, decided to try their hand at the craft beer market.
The Grand Angus Brewing Co. is named after the Angus cattle on the Professors’ estate; Adam and Adam sort assistance from Van Diemen’s Brewing and Will Tatchell to develop their first offspring, The Devil’s Advocate Choc Raspberry Stout and The Guardian Angel Pale Ale. The Adams are testing the market before committing to their own brewery, but don’t worry; there are already plans afoot for a brew pub in Launceston, sometime down the track.
‘Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.’ Oscar Wilde
Adams Distillery has taken its two helmsmen on a hell of a ride since that holiday in Scotland in 2013. On the one hand, there’s an empty-shed-to-empire story of massive expansion and development within two years of production. And on the other hand, there’s the story of the two Adams – the driving force and heart of the business.
And that’s what it comes down to. Two best mates who have followed their dream, and are now holding on for dear life as Adams Distillery goes from strength to strength.