Established in 1994, Sullivans Cove Distillery is Celebrating our 25th Anniversary in 2019. Watch the video and read on below to hear more about everything we've achieved in the last quarter century, and everything we're planning for the next 25 years and beyond.
In 1994, Sullivans Cove Distillery, then known as Tasmania Distillery, was established on the shores of the River Derwent in Hobart – a body of water known as Sullivans Cove. Like many of the world’s great whiskies, ours is named after the place where it was born.
Sullivans Cove is the second oldest whisky distillery in the modern Tasmanian (and Australian) craft distilling era, the first being Lark Distillery, established in 1992. The original owners of Sullivans Cove saw an opportunity when Bill Lark had the restrictive Tasmanian distilling laws changed in the early 1990s and wanted to throw their hat in the ring making Tasmanian single malt whisky. So they commissioned a brandy-type still to be built in the north of the state and shipped down to the site of the original distillery in Hobart. That original still is the very same one we use today.
Back in those days, Sullivans Cove made and bottled all sorts of stuff – brandy, gin, liqueurs, etc. some of it made on site, and other products bottled from spirits produced elsewhere. The distillery itself, located near the old brick works in downtown Hobart, was a sort of living museum, with knick-knacks and historical displays to attract tourists, as well as being a working distillery.
Unfortunately, some of the whisky produced and bottled in those early days was of questionable quality, and like many fledgling Australian distilleries, they tended to bottle the whisky a bit too young. Consequently, that business failed, and in 1999 a new group of owners took over. The new owners of Tasmania Distillery hired Bill Lark, founder of the modern Australian whisky industry, to take over as distillery manager and help turn Sullivans Cove into a quality single malt whisky.
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When Bill Lark took over as distillery manager in 1999, he brought along his friend Patrick Maguire, who had worked with him at Lark Distillery. Patrick is still with us today as Head Distiller, and after 20 years with the business is the driving force behind Sullivans Cove’s success. Between the two of them and a few others, Bill and Pat refined the production processes of the distillery and were able to produce some very high quality single malt Tasmanian whiskies.
The 600-odd casks produced between 1999-2003, known as the “HH” series, would go on to win several major awards, and really put Sullivans Cove on the map. But unfortunately that wasn’t until years later, and the business continued to struggle. In 2003, the second group of owners gave up, and sold the business again. But Patrick wasn’t done with Sullivans Cove, so he decided to buy the place himself, along with several other investors.
In 2003, Patrick became owner, Head Distiller and General Manager of Sullivans Cove. One of the first things he did was move the distillery from its original site, which it had outgrown, to its current site in Cambridge, about 20 minutes outside of Hobart. While the new site wasn’t as picturesque as the original one, it was far better suited to commercial whisky production, and that was Patrick’s main goal – to make the best possible Tasmanian single malt whisky he could.
Pat also oversaw the redesign of Sullivans Cove’s packaging, and created the now iconic image of Sullivans Cove Single Malt Tasmanian Whiskies we know today. Not long after, Sullivans Cove started picking up some pretty major awards, including the first ever Australian whisky to be named “Liquid Gold” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. Over the next few years, the awards kept rolling in, and Sullivans Cove developed a small but loyal following both at home and abroad.
But it wasn’t until 2014 that things really changed…
In 2014, our world changed forever.
When Sullivans Cove French Oak Single Cask HH0525 won “Best Single Malt Whisky in the World” at the World Whiskies Awards in London, Patrick’s years of hard work finally started to pay off in a big way. This was the award that really put Sullivans Cove, and the Tasmanian whisky industry, on the map. Since then, demand for our whisky has gone through the roof, and many new distilleries, seeing an opportunity for success, have opened in Tasmania.
In 2018, we backed up that award by winning “World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt” at the World Whiskies Awards for American Oak Single Cask HH0351, and then again in 2019, winning the same award for French Oak Single Cask TD0217. In 2018, Patrick also became only the third Australian ever inducted in the global Icons of Whisky Hall of Fame, cementing his position as one of the most important whisky personalities in the world.
Today, Sullivans Cove is going stronger than ever. While we continue to win awards for our single malt whiskies, we’re never content to rest on our laurels, always improving and innovating wherever we can. In 2017, Sullivans Cove was the first Australian distillery to release a single malt whisky aged entirely in a white wine cask. We also moved away from using the word “Port” on our labels, instead using the more modern “Tawny” to refer to Australian fortified wine. In 2018, we released Sullivans Cove XO Brandies which have already won major global awards, as well as our first barrel aged gin, our Old & Rare series and our Cask Variations series.
In 2019, Sullivans Cove continues to innovate by moving away from any form of flocking or filtration in our Single Cask whiskies, improving on the sustainability of our packaging, and continuing to experiment with cask styles and production methods to create even better whiskies in the future, not to mention continually releasing the oldest whiskies in Australia. With a new generation of keen young distillers now bringing their passion for Tasmanian whisky to the table, Sullivans Cove continues as Australia’s premier single malt distillery.
The history of Sullivans Cove is not yet written. That is a job for future generations. And while 25 years is a long time by Australian standards, we reckon we're just getting started. It is in this spirit we celebrate our 25th Anniversary, and we can't wait to see what the next 25, and 250 years brings for us, and for the Australian whisky industry. Thank you for joining us on the journey.