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Will Edwards (Fr 2007)

Archie Rose Distilling Co. is the first independent distillery and bar to open in Sydney in over 160 years. The Distillery has won numerous international awards, including ‘Best International Bar’ and ‘Top Three Distilleries in the World’. The creative brains behind the Distillery is St Andrew’s alumni, Will Edwards (Fr 2007), who spoke to St Andrew’s Advancement Officer, Monique George, about why he decided to start Archie Rose, his experience at College and his advice for those wanting to start their own business:

“I’ve always had a passion for spirits. I used to homebrew, make some pretty terrible spirit based infusions and play around with oak maturation, but it remained a hobby and I went down a fairly standard corporate path for a few years.

In 2013, I reached a point where I knew I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing, and the distillery idea was constantly in the back of my mind. I took some annual leave and headed to NYC for a break and to check out some of the first distilleries since prohibition that had popped up in Brooklyn and the surrounding areas. After seeing their setups and hearing their stories, I just couldn’t figure out why no one had started up a distillery in Sydney in recent years. Like NYC, we have a unique history of distillation, amazing craft brewers, an incredible bar scene and people who are genuinely interested in where their food and drinks come from, and how they are created.

When I returned to Sydney, I knew there must have been people who had considered starting a distillery – but none had eventuated and survived. In my mind there had to be a reason, that I didn’t know, why you couldn’t start (or successfully operate) a distillery in Sydney. I thought if I did the research and found that reason, then I could put the idea to bed and get on with other things. I spent six months working on finding the reason, but never found anything I considered an absolute roadblock. So, it was then I committed to starting Archie Rose.”

Having grown up in Sydney, Will’s choice to attend St Andrew’s was driven by the opportunity to meet new people – some of whom he now considers his closest friends and one he has married. He describes the College experience as emphatic, saying, he met a variety of people from different parts of the country (and occasionally the world) with different backgrounds and life experiences.

The most valuable thing I drew from College, was an improved sense of empathy for people’s views, perspectives and feelings.

Will studied a Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Management at the University of Sydney. His favourite subject he studied was the ‘NEXT Innovation Program’ (formerly ‘FASTTRACK Innovation Challenge’), and which provided practical experience in business innovation and greatly aided the development of Archie Rose. Aside from academics, Will was highly involved in multiple aspects of College life, including soccer, athletics, B Lane Swimming and, of course, the Highlander.

For other Androvians seeking to start their own business, Will’s advice is to;

Be honest with yourself regarding your strengths and weaknesses, and find people or systems to support your weaknesses – the worst thing you could do is think you’re great at something and you’re not, or lack the self-awareness to know your own shortcomings. Also, be prepared to work insanely hard, but always strive not to. If it’s easy then, more than likely, someone’s already done it, or it’s not worth doing – you need to be able to put in the work when required, but constantly strive for a sustainable working environment, for yourself and your team, long term.

Will considers building the Archie Rose team his best accomplishment so far, describing them as incredible and quirky. “The Archie Rose team, from the distillers, to bar staff, to ambassadors and all those in between, have a genuine passion and love for the industry. This is what makes the brand what it is. We come to work loving what we do, so there is that authenticity and ingrained desire to do the job well – whether its creating our spirits, designing our bar menu or dealing with retailers. There is always a sense of pride in what we do.”

Currently, the Archie Rose team are focused on the release of their first whisky. The team were recently awarded, ‘World’s Best Unaged Whisky’ at the New York World Wine & Spirits Awards, and are looking forward to sharing the final, mature product. They are also excited to announce their limited edition spirits, to be released in the latter of 2018.

Monique George
Advancement Officer