“I am a Craft Worker, therefore I am”
Crafty Field, Craft Works Distillery and the Australian craft distilling scene
Craig Field, also known as Crafty, Australian independent bottler and distiller at Craft Works Distillery in Capertee, New South Wales, gives us an overview of how whisky things are going down in Australia. Creativity, passion and dedication is what we see and a bright future ahead.
Whisky is experiencing a worldwide success. What are the values Australians want to bring to the wider whisky world?
I think Australian distillers bring to the world stage an approach of “we can be very creative” in making whisky as we don’t have the restrictions placed on us such as in places like Scotland and as such, we use all our resources, our ingenuity, to make world-class award-winning whiskies, but proudly Australian style.
Our sunburnt land brings many challenges in whisky making, but with massive climate diversity, when combined with access to great malts, barrel and, in many cases, locally built stills, we produce a diverse range of whisky.
For me personally, the New South Wales (NSW) Distillers Collective was born out of the idea that, as small independent NSW distillers, we can work together to promote the diversity of our whiskies.
At this stage the group is small, but Black Gate, Joadja, Riverbourne and Craft Works Distillery are making their presence felt in the local scene (hopefully) as we showcase to Sydney what is in their own backyard.
We are also having a lot of fun!
What are the facts and figures of Australian whisky today?
The Australian distillation scene is growing at a rapid rate and nearly
every week you hear of a new distillery opening in Australia.
Currently, NSW and VIC are tied for the most distilleries.
Most craft distillers in Australia are very much influenced and, in some cases, taught by the godfather of Australian whisky – Bill Lark and Bills philosophy of “a rising tide floats all ships” is generally how we operate, we help each other because someone helped us.
The industry is still very young, but its passion, strength and diversity are fueling our success.
A lot of distilleries start with gin and then progress into the whisky, brandy, rum and beyond.
It’s truly an exciting time to be a distiller in Australia.
Whiskydo has its focus on whisky events, the moments where whisky is enjoyed and shared. How are things going in Australia?
Yes, there is significant growth in this sector and you are seeing big end events such as Whisky Live and at the other end smaller localized events such as The Oak Barrel Whisky Fair (one of my personal favorites), others such as Whisky Freedom, The Whisky Show, Whisky & Dreams… of course, I must mention that NSW Distillers Collective is also running events such as recently at World of Whisky (only dedicated whisky shop in Australia) and Where’s Nick (small bar event). Lots of events, too many to mention, but they “blood” a lot of new whisky lovers and put them on their journey. Also, there is a wealth of masterclasses, education sessions and most Australian distillers are keen to chat.
Passion, exploration, happiness: these are all key factors in your whisky making. What is your contribution as Craft Works Distillery to the craft distillery movement?
Ok, that’s the easy question.
Passion, exploration, happiness, yup you nailed it there.
For me it’s simple, I have a tag line, “I am a Craft Worker therefore I am …” basically, it means I make whisky and I am happy.
I get an immense sense of pride and satisfaction being part of the Australian craft distilling scene and using my distillery to craft whisky from the ground up.
I use local craft malts, my still was built in NSW, my spring water is local and for me the story is “be local be proud”.
I also love to promote the Australian craft distilling scene in general, as we are a bonded networked community that helps each other. We share not only our successes but, when things are not so good, there is always someone to talk to and help out.
I like to think in some small way I contribute to the Australian craft distilling scene.
How did you get into whisky?
Ok, this is a true story and in fact, my first bottle release is all about this story. The bottle release is called JUST DEREK…
I had a good mate Derek who tried to convince me to share his love and passion for whisky but, honestly, I hated it.
I purchased a bottle of a fine single malt whisky to appease him and I hated it. Derek passed away suddenly from a heart attack and when this happened his family gave me his six bottles, thinking I loved whisky (remember I did not). One night I poured one of each and it was then I realised that malts were like fine wine, all different in aroma, flavor and experience.
I was hooked and then my journey started down the rabbit hole of all things whisky.
We know starting a craft whisky business is tough. Any advice for people dreaming about setting up their own distillery?
Ask as many dumb questions as you can, be humble and a knowledge sponge. I have been fortunate that I have surrounded myself with good people and so had a lot of support.
In fact, I have 4 mentors and all good friends.
Mentor No1, Brian Hollingworth – Black Gate Distillery NSW
Mentor No2, Mark Burns – Aisling Distillery NSW and still maker.
Mentor No3, Martin Pye – Riverbourne Distillery NSW
Mentor No4, Pat McInerney – Willie the Boatman (brewery) NSW.
I also read a lot, asked a lot of dumb questions and networked and became friends with a lot of distillers in Australia.
I would also say, make sure you map out your plan and include a real honest review of what you can afford to build a distillery and, just as important, fund the ongoing running of the distillery.
Dreaming is important, have faith in your beliefs but talk to people and develop a support network that also is emotional support, as it can be quite a journey.
If you can do it and have your own distillery be proud, be humble, be creative.
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Take a look at The Craft Works Distillery official website