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A Short History of Tasmanian Whisky

Geographically, Tasmania lies about 150 miles south of the Australian mainland. It derives it’s name from Abel Tasman, a Dutch sailor who first sighted it on 24th November 1642.

Distilling can be traced back as far as 1822 when Thomas Haigh Midwood set up the first legal distillery. The industry flourished and within two years 16 distilleries were operating on the island, providing whisky for around 50,000 people (half of which were or had been convicts).

Lady Jane Franklin - Cradle Mountain Whisky

In 1838, Sir John Franklin, the State Governor outlawed whisky production in response to his wife Lady Jane’s plea:


"I would prefer barley be fed to pigs than it be used to turn men into swine”.


Lady Jane’s statement forced the closure of the distilleries and brought the Tasmanian whisky industry to a halt, which lasted over 150 years.

Tasmania's first commercial whisky distillery in the north of the island since 1838, began production of Cradle Mountain Malt Whisky in 1989, initially using the name Darwin Distillery. Later, after acquiring a small government grant to promote the use of the locally produced Franklin Barley, the company changed it's name to the Franklin Distillery. With the addition of shareholders, the company again changed its name to The Small Concern Whisky Distillery and with some early success continued the production of Cradle Mountain Whisky.

In the early 1990's a small group of Tasmanian "whisky pioneers" began lobbying the government to overturn the rules in relation to the size of stills which were considered legal. They were  successful, and the first licenses were granted  1992 to legally distill on the island after 153 years.

It wasn’t long before others followed. The number of whisky producers operating across Australia is growing, and Tasmania — with its abundance of natural resources — is now home to more than 30 producers.

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