by Vanessa Wilton, Co-founder and Marketing Manager of Manly Spirits
The idea for Manly Spirits came when my husband David and I were travelling around Tasmania on holiday in 2015, enjoying and appreciating some of the world’s best whisky and fresh produce. We still reflect back now and say it all came in a moment of madness – we were visiting some of the beautiful distilleries down there, looked at each other and thought – we could do this! There weren’t many distilleries in Australia or Australian craft spirits on the shelves, so we saw the opportunity to build a spirits business in Australia. We saw the opportunity across different spirit categories: gin, whisky, vodkas, liqueurs, even premixes – and that’s what we make today.
Distilling and creating a strong brand was a natural fit for us – David was a chemical engineer and I was a branding designer, so, using skills we had accumulated in our previous careers, we were able move over to creating spirits and a brand relatively easily. This was extremely beneficial in the beginning when budgets were tight – every aspect of brand design from bottles to labels, to websites, to interior venue design and recipe development were all done in-house. Starting a distillery is an all-in, 24/7 effort, but our complimentary left and right brain skills work beautifully together to support our common passion to make great spirits.
We sold our first bottle 18 months after that first trip to Tasmania. In that time, we built the distillery, created a unique custom bottle (something that proved to be challenging but well worth it!), created a brand and spirits inspired by the coast and the ocean - getting all of that done within 18 months was massive. Since then, it has been awesome seeing our gins win awards and garner international recognition. Manly Spirits is in bars & restaurants across Australia, and exporting to Europe, Singapore, New Zealand, and now the USA.
Education is an important aspect of the distillery – we want people to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the complexity and innovation behind how our gin is made. During our distillery tours, we teach people about spirits and how they are made. We recently built a Gin School where people can make their own custom gin – they choose their own botanicals and distill their own signature gin on a mini copper still. They get to walk out the door with their creation. It’s a really great experience for those who want to learn more about gin and want to do something a little different. We also offer cocktail making classes where we teach people how to shake and stir like a pro – they get to enjoy the fruits of their labor along the way, too!
Putting a cellar door & bar together was incredibly important for us – spirits aren’t usually served straight like wine or beer, so we wanted to showcase our spirits in cocktails and mixed drinks because that’s the way people will drink them! Our distillery cellar door, cocktail bar and gin school are an extension of our brand – the aesthetic is a coastal retro style with high back aqua chairs, converted whisky barrel tables, and a large steam punk fish sculpture made from recycled parts. We love introducing people to all the wonderful ways they can enjoy our spirits in mixed drinks & cocktails, and we love getting their feedback – that feedback is incredibly important in helping us learn and create spirits that people truly love.