If you look through the items on the Aussie Spirits Auction list, it is a veritable who’s who of Australian distilling. Four Pillars, Starward, Archie Rose, Manly Spirits Co. and Never Never Distilling Co are among over 100 distilleries from around the country who have thrown down some liquid for the cause.
The thing worth noting is that a majority of these distilleries are local craft spirits. They are themselves small businesses that are based in rural or regional areas that can be under fire and drought threat. “We wanted this project to be a bit of a showcase for them too,” said Sarah Willcocks from Drink Melbourne, one of the many volunteers pulling the Aussie Spirit Auction together.
Designed to raise money for Rural Aid, an organisation that helps rural communities in times of natural disaster with financing, water, as well as donated good like hay bales and counselling, the project was originally the brainchild of Craig “Crafty” Field of Craft Works Distillery. Although he put the idea out in the universe, “it was a small rag-tag group of volunteers took up the cause,” she explained.
The auction has been divided up into two parts. The first is an online auction, which has over 200 bottles of craft spirits and related experiences on the site. Willcocks explains that many are rare, not commercially available or so new that the winning bidders will be among the first to try them. The second part is a live auction and dinner in Sydney on 28th February.
“The live auction’s the biggest part of this whole project,” explained Willcocks. “It’s going to be a celebration of the enduring Australian spirit – and spirits! Our 12 best items will be up for auction after pre-bidding for them closes online. 100% of ticket sales also go to bushfire and drought relief.
“Guests will even be able to buy the whole barrel of once-in-a-lifetime whisky to call their own, made just for this cause. There are actually 5 barrels; all in different sizes and unique cask expressions. They will have the chance to blend and bottle it with the “godfather of Australian whisky” Bill Lark. It’s history in the making.”
Willcocks points out that as well as the bottles of craft spirits, there are plenty of craft spirits experiences to win as well. There are private distillery tours, luxe tasting sessions, cocktail classes, ‘be a distiller for a day’ experiences, as well as art prints and much more.
Although Willcocks points out that most of the items are Australian, “we didn’t say no to a few international friends who wanted to lend a hand. We have some rare scotches and photographic art from Islay in the mix, also.”
Bidding is incredibly easy as well. Willcocks explained that bidding starts at about half retail price and there are still a few items that haven’t had any love yet. Our cheapest item is currently only $30. “Simply type in your bid. The auction platform will then prompt you to quickly sign up if you haven’t already. You get a text message if someone outbids you – it’s actually pretty fun. International bids are welcome.
“The online auction closes around 10pm on Friday 28th February,” she explains. “So pop a note in your calendar now so you don’t forget! The exceptions are our Top 12 items for which pre-bidding will close earlier at 6pm so that they can then go in a live auction at our huge The Aussie Spirit event that night.”
Willcocks explains that the dinner as being “a real party” but wants everyone to be assured that there will be no obligation to bid. What you will get is drinks and canapes on arrival, dinner and dessert, all beverages (beer, wine, soft drink and craft spirits), entertainment, a boozy art and barrel exhibition, a pop-up bar showcasing premium tastings from fire-affected distilleries and even more surprises.
The hero drinks menu will have some amazing tipples from Starward, 5Nines, Wandering Distillery, Cedar Fox and Four Pillars (neat or with Fever-Tree mixers) to serve to guests with dinner on the night. And guests also have a chance to meet the makers behind their favourite labels.
“We wanted to recognise that some distilleries are doing it tough as well, either through being evacuated or tourism downturn at their cellar doors,” Willcocks continued. “The fire-affected distilleries we’ll have at our event can show off their wares and get their name out there among a spirits-curious audience.
“Their products that we are serving have 100% been paid for, so it helps them financially too! And you know what? Even though they have been affected, most of these distilleries have still donated to The Aussie Spirit Auction to help others. Now, we just need everyone to support them and us by coming to the event!”
While Willcocks points out they have already sold over 100 tickets to the dinner, they can always squeeze in a few more, so recommends that you get online to book as soon as possible. “It’s all for a very good cause so our venue and caterers at Dockside Group have been very generous with us,” she said.