It was pure chance that farming couple Stephen Beale and Rosemary Smith got into the distilling business.
In 2016, one of their daughters, Phillipa, returned from a trip to Mexico enthused after having sampled mezcal.
She thought the climate of the family farm, outside of Narrabri, was suitable for the growing of agave and the production of spirits made from agave plants; like tequila and mezcal.
With agave plants growing wild in the area, it seemed like a good bet.
“It had probably been imported for use as a decorative plant but had started to grow wild,” says Stephen Beale.
"The plant found locally turned out to be Agave Americana, one of 40 species used in Mexico to produce mezcal.”
So began the family’s journey to establish a sustainable craft distillery.
They had no previous distilling experience and when they looked around could not find anyone else making agave-based spirits on a commercial basis.
“As far we know we are the only paddock to commercial producers in the country,” said Stephen, who has an agricultural sciences background.
“The guiding principles were to have a minimal environmental impact while producing a quality product,” he said. “With this in mind we modified a 200-litre stainless steel food grade drum to produce the basis of the still.
“Since enjoying some success we’ve been able to upgrade the still and to power the still we obtained second-hand solar panels.”
The first test product from Black Snake Distillery was Pure Gin, which was followed by ASp, a smoky agave spirit made in the Mexican style.
An ASp is also a snake, which fits in with the distillery’s name.
Most of the ASp is made in a joven, or youthful style, but there will also be reposado (aged for at least two months, but perhaps as long as a full year, in oak barrels) and anejo (aged for 1-3 years in oak) lines available in the future.
Rosemary is also developing a pechuga mezcal (made when a finished mezcal is redistilled with local fruits, grains, and nuts).
Tasting notes to follow. To find out more or order online, visit https://blacksnake.com.au/
# This is a version of a story that first appeared in Ciao Magazine