Why is Australian whisky so expensive?

Starward Two Fold Double Grain Australian Whisky
Starward Two-Fold Double Grain Australian Whisky

Why is Australian whisky so expensive?

It’s a question I hear all the time from drinkers, so I put it to both Sullivans Cove (Episode Seven) and Starward Whisky (Episode Four) on the Drinks Adventures podcast.

Unsurprisingly, both distillers had pretty different answers. They have both pursued very different paths in their production of Australian whisky.

Sullivans Cove remains focused on single batch releases with its single cask expressions American Oak and French Oak commanding $330 and $450 each respectively.

And they sell out in a matter of minutes, so fair play to them really!

Starward meanwhile has kept its core whisky releases Nova and Solera at the more affordable prices of $96 and $115.

Listen on Apple Podcasts   Listen on Google Podcasts   IMG_7782

More recently, Starward has released Two-Fold, a whisky distilled from Australian wheat and malted barley to create an approachable everyday whisky priced at $65 a bottle.

Scroll down to listen to the interviews with David Vitale of Starward Whisky and Heather Tillott of Sullivans Cove for their perspectives on Australian whisky pricing today.

Sullivans Cove Whisky production distiller Heather Tillott
Sullivans Cove Whisky production distiller Heather Tillott

Heather Tillott of Sullivans Cove

“Certainly there’s a few issues or reasons behind the cost of Australian whisky. Excise is a large one… We have quite high excise rates in Australia on spirits. That’s a big part of it. Even wages… We’re not in large scale industrial set-ups where you can have one person manning a huge distillery at one time. We’ve got a lot of people on the floor at one time. I mean in the case of Sullivans [whisky] as well, it’s bloody old. We’ve got costs to cover.”

“Barrels are not cheap. Running a still is not cheap. The electricity that goes in for all of that even warehousing costs, bonding costs, insurance costs, rent. All of those things they really add up. It’s not cheap to make at all.”

David Vitale of Starward Whisky

“My view is that — and this is not even regarding Australian whiskies, it’s just generally, any whisky that’s over about the $100 price point, you’re either paying for scarcity or marketing or probably a bit of both. And so, in the context of Australian whisky, there’s no doubt that all of the distillers, I’d be proud to have as my own and offer the world such as the quality of them.”

Starward Whisky founder David Vitale
Starward Whisky founder David Vitale

“But the challenge they are under is substantially constrained stock, so while they’re still trying to build inventory it just kind of means that the prices, the cost per litre is going to be a lot higher. We scaled up very early in the hope, not belief, in the hope that the market would meet us. And so a lot of that scale has been absorbed and we’ve been able to afford to reinvest on that basis. But it’s just based on the fact that we laid a hell of a lot of whisky away very early which meant that the cost per litre was a lot lower.”

Read more:
What gin to buy in Australia 2018?

Author: James Atkinson

Accomplished freelance journalist and copywriter specialising in the food, drink, travel and hospitality arenas. Australian International Beer Awards 2017 Media Award Winner and Certified Cicerone®. Founder Drinks Adventures podcast.

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