South West distillers make waves on global whisky scene

Cameron Syme, founder of the Great Southern Distilling Co and the Margaret River Distilling Co, says consistency and maintaining a hands-on approach to production are vital to his growing business.
Cameron Syme, founder of the Great Southern Distilling Co and the Margaret River Distilling Co, says consistency and maintaining a hands-on approach to production are vital to his growing business.

The partner distillery to Margaret River Distilling Company has been named Australian Distiller of the Year in a prestigious competition that recognises the best in the global whisky industry. 

It is the second consecutive year the Great Southern Distilling Company has taken out top spot in the UK Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky Awards; nominated by its peers within the industry before being voted winner.

Founder Cameron Syme put the company’s success down to a commitment to quality and a long-term vision for creating an iconic WA brand.

“We’re not interested in quick returns or making a quick buck. We’re looking at how we provide a product that West Australian’s can truly be proud of. I think we’re well along that path,” he said.

Founded in 2004, today the company has grown to encompass three distilleries: Albany, Porongurup and Margaret River; producing single malt whisky, bourbon-style whiskey, and gin in the respective locations. 

Mr Syme said another key to its success was its commitment to recruiting people who shared its vision and its mission to attract only the best talent to the organisation.

“We’re also investing in growing our production capacity, and our newest distillery in Porongurup will allow us to meet demand for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Mr Syme said the evolving consumption habits of whisky and spirits consumers helped to propel the demand for its products. “People are definitely drinking less, but drinking better quality,” he said.

“That’s exactly what we’re about - quality production. We’ve had people travel from the other side of the world to visit us. For us, for the future, it means we’ve got lots of hard work ahead to keep up production to meet this demand.”

Having forgone a career as a lawyer to take up the craft of distilling, Mr Syme said an outstanding moment was when his parents first said they were proud of what he was doing. 

Since then, his company has achieved ample success, having been named Telstra WA Business of the Year, World’s Best International Craft Whisky, Champion Australian Distillery, Champion Australian Whisky and gained a Whisky Bible Title.

“It reassures us that our method of distilling and bottling our whisky only when we believe it’s ready and no earlier, is the best way to consistently release premium world class whisky,” Mr Syme said. 

“That’s been our ethos since the beginning and is certainly paying off now. As someone said to me recently, don’t fear competition as Limeburners and Giniversity have something special. I guess now we’re being recognised from the other side of the world for that too.”