Drinks News

Australia’s first agricole rum distillery is opening its cellar door

At this paddock-to-bottle producer, the spirit is made from sugar cane that’s grown, pressed and distilled on site.

By Sarah Reid
From left, distiller Quentin Brival, bartender Mauricio Gamba co-founders Mandy Perkins and Paul Messenger, Edwina and Harriet Messenger (Photo: Supplied)
Husk Distillers, in Tumbulgum, northern NSW, is Australia's first producer of agricole rum, with the sugar cane grown on the distillery's property. On 15 June, the distillery will open its doors for tours and tastings.
"Most rums are made from molasses," says Harriet Messenger of her family's distillery. "Agricole rum is made from pure cane juice –it's all-natural, and like wine, the terroir is reflected in the taste."
Husk Distillery grows four varieties of sugar cane on the 150-acre property, and the harvest runs from June to October. The sugar-cane juice is then first-pressed, before being fermented and distilled into agricole rum.
Distiller Quentin Brival cutting cane at Husk Distillers
Agricole is predominantly produced in Martinique with strict regulations governing its definition and production (similar to those that apply to Cognac and Champagne). In Australia, Husk is not restricted by these rules, but Messenger says they keep to the unadulterated spirit of agricole. "It's the pure expression of rum," she says.
The result is a clean, pure rum with a sugary sweet taste and grassy notes. Husk's Pure Cane white rum has a wonderfully herbaceous profile, while the aged Spiced Bam Bam, spiced with native ginger and wattleseed, has a smooth, dry finish that could easily convert fans of whiskey. (It also took home a gold medal for spiced rum at last year's San Francisco World Spirits Competition.)
Husk was founded in 2012 by Messenger's parents, Paul Messenger and Mandaley Perkins. And a few years back, the family received their first taste of fame when actor Margot Robbie posted an Instagram photo of Husk's signature Ink Gin, which changes colour from deep-blue to pink when mixed with tonic. Sales took off.

Visitors to the cellar door will explore the cane-crushing, distilling and barrel rooms before ending where all good tours should: at the plantation-themed bar, decked out with rattan fans, chesterfield lounges and Caribbean prints, with cocktails and rum-tasting flights mixed at the counter. Outside on the lawn, there are uninterrupted views across Tweed River and towards Wollumbim (Mount Warning).
"Opening a distillery door was always the dream," says Harriet Messenger. "But the interest in Ink Gin definitely gave us the confidence to make it happen."
Husk Distillers copens on Saturday 15 June, 10am-5pm Wednesday to Sunday, with tours running daily. Dulguigan Rd, North Tumbulgum, NSW, (02) 6675 9149, huskdistillers.com