Former grazing land near Bowen is set to host an Australian agave tequila spirit distillery in what its proponents say could one day be a $100m turnover export business.

Melbourne-based whiskey and vodka distiller Top Shelf International is the company behind the project and has launched the proposal to industry and media.

A $25m distillery, production facility and visitor centre is planned at Eden Lassie station fronting the Bruce Highway about 30km south of Bowen.

To support its environmental credentials, the company hopes to power the distillery with world-first hydrogen and solar technology.

 

A concept image of Top Shelf International's distillery, production facility and visitor centre at Eden Lassie in the Whitsundays.
A concept image of Top Shelf International's distillery, production facility and visitor centre at Eden Lassie in the Whitsundays.

 

Top Shelf CEO Drew Fairchild told the Bulletin they were excited to be involved in a project to produce a premium Australian agave spirit in such a beautiful location.

"This has the potential to be a $100m turnover business, predominantly an export business. It's going to be a substantive play," Mr Fairchild said.

Top Shelf already produces its flagship NED Whiskey and Grainshaker Vodka at its Campbellfield distillery in Melbourne with $4m in sales in the first half of 2020-21.

It listed on the Australian stock exchange in December and has a market value of $100m.

The company acquired Eden Lassie in December where its Blue Agave (Agave TequilanaWeber Azul) crop is already well established.

Top Shelf bought the agave from a sugar cane farm in Ayr where about 2000 plants had been planted more than a decade ago as an experimental crop.

Mr Fairchild said the crop was about to be ploughed in.

They conducted a series of distillation trials producing what Mr Fairchild said was a spirit of "softness and elegance".

"It's a very, very high quality product. I sent some to the CEO of a tequila company in New York. They were most impressed," Mr Fairchild said.

 

The Eden Lassie farm in the Whitsundays where Top Shelf International is planning its agave spirit distillery.
The Eden Lassie farm in the Whitsundays where Top Shelf International is planning its agave spirit distillery.

 

So far the 430ha farm has 420,000 plants in the ground and in nursery.

Mr Fairchild said, potentially, the farm could support a million plants, producing three million litres agave tequila spirit a year and placing the company among the top 25 producers.

He said Australians were the third-biggest consumers of tequila per capita, behind the US and Mexico and consumption of the spirit was booming.

In the US it is a $10b a year industry.

 

A concept image of Top Shelf International's distillery, production facility and visitor centre at Eden Lassie in the Whitsundays.
A concept image of Top Shelf International's distillery, production facility and visitor centre at Eden Lassie in the Whitsundays.

 

Mr Fairchild said they had entered into discussions with H2 Energy Company for the construction of a purpose-built renewable energy facility at Eden Lassie.

The proposed design incorporated PV solar, potential resource recovery through an agave biomass to energy plant and a green hydrogen electrolyser.

Being so close to the Great Barrier Reef, they wanted to show their environmental credentials, Mr Fairchild said.

Tractors could also be powered by hydrogen, he said.

"We really are in a privileged position to be growing a premium spirit on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef," Mr Fairchild said.

Mr Fairchild said they were still refining the final concept and working with process engineers and architects on design.

He said they wanted to commission the Eden Lassie distillery in March 2023.

 

tony.raggatt@news.com.au

Originally published as Plan for $100m distillery on NQ farmland



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