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debra spence

We put a call-out to the women in Australian distilling to give us an insight into who they are, and why they chose this industry, here’s some of their responses!



debra spence

CEO & Master Distiller at Conrad Distillery ,QLD


HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE INDUSTRY?


Less than 1 year

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN THE INDUSTRY? "My connection to the distilling/spirits starts with my grandfather - Arthur Fredrick Smith, and his love for excellent scotch whisky and his stories of his Scottish father - Thomas Smith (who was killed in World War 1) and how his brave widow mother (Lydia Beatrice Flack) packed up her three grieving boys and brought them to Australia to give them better opportunities in life. My Great-grandmother was a pillar of courage and style. “It is better to have quality than quantity, especially regarding Pearls, Perfume and Gin”.

My journey started when studying and working as a cosmetic chemist enabling me to study both in Australia and France, where I learnt the skill and importance of extraction of essential oils plus the understanding of how each combination must be selected to delight and express the mood/personality of the wearer. The same principles apply to the alcohol world. Deep diving into how refined spirits are produced and how to extract flavours and aromas that delight the taste buds and connoisseur passion connected me to my ancestors and passions. Making spirits excited my creativity and science mind; this, coupled with my belief in sustainability, the evolution of becoming a master distiller was inevitable - it is in my DNA and Soul."

YOUR MOST PROUD MOMENTS IN THE INDUSTRY? "Winning 'Australia's Grape-Based Distillery of the Year' at the 2022 Melbourne International Spirit Competition and multiple medals in its first 3 months of operation. The wins confirmed that I could take Unloved Wine and turn it into Excellent Spirits in a sustainable way."


ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU'VE FOUND IN THE INDUSTRY?


"There are two challenges in this industry. I have never shied away from a career that is traditionally male-dominated, but in 2022 it still shocks me how many reporters and suppliers that want to meet "CONRAD, the master Distiller". The second is restrictive contracts that many pubs, clubs and bottleshops have with the large wholesale suppliers that reduce their opportunity to stock independent distillers and embrace the growing craft distilling industry."

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE THAT KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT AUSSIE CRAFT SPIRITS?

"If you think our wines are great, you will love Australia Craft Spirits. We are kicking goals and producing spirits that are among the best in the world."

WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

"Never be afraid of getting out of your bed and remake it - never settle for second best. Life rewards people that are not afraid to learn, grow, and pivot until they find the right path to their passion and calling. P.S. You can do it."

WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT US TO KNOW?

"I love getting to know and promoting this industry. Watching people's faces when they taste a spirit that pleases, excites and surprises them is a fantastic reward for a craft distiller."


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