Robert Hosken, not Bill Lark, commercialised whisky in Tasmania
The first legal, commercial whisky distillery established in Tasmania during modern times was not the Lark Distillery, but getting that published proved impossible.
The Lark’s were the first to began making whisky—at least three years before any one else in Tasmania, but commercialisation is a different world and I discovered that they were not the first to have a commercial premises dedicated to whisky production, they were not the first with a commercial-sized still (as defined by the Distilling Act), and they were the third to release a whisky for sale.
So who built the first commercial distillery? Robert Hosken. He opened the Sullivans Cove Distillery in 1995. It was in its own, commercial premises. Its still was 2000 litres. And in 1997 it released the state’s first whisky.
Hosken was lucky. His bottling pipped the Small Concern distillery by a matter of weeks. The Darwin Distillery had commenced distilling in a commercial premise nine months before Hosken, but was at a smaller scale and never sold a whisky.
Bill was not happy to read my conclusion even though he himself was quoted in Drambox as saying '[our] first commercial premises were out in Richmond' and 'our first commercial release of whisky was in 1998'. Moreover, Bill's Whisky Hall of Fame citation states the year for Lark's commercial operations as 1998.
Bill Lark acknowledges that he and Lyn were not operating in a commercial premises—they were distilling underneath their home until 1997, he acknowledges that they distilled in an experimental, 20-litre still, not a commercial-scale still, and that they sold their first whisky in 1998—a year after Hosken. Bill also claimed never to have read the Hall of Fame citation, and stridently disagreed with my conclusion, claiming that he had commercialised whisky in 1992. He argued that the Spirit-Makers General Licence granted to him in 1992 had a commercial aspect to it, that he had a business plan, a liquor licence, and whisky in the bottle in 1995—before Hosken.
All true, but there is no mention of the word “commercial” in his Licence or in its enabling Act—and indeed the Lark’s had no manufacturing licence until 1998; business planning is not the same as commercial action, and the liquor licence and sales were not for whisky.
Notwithstanding all this, to mollify Lark, in the Distilling Timeline text on page 238–9, between the words "first" and "commercial distillation" the publisher added the vague, but restrictive word “large' and also added "-scale" to the word commercial.
NOT FAIR! Robert Hosken might argue.
A complimentary issue raised is the Establishment Date for the Lark Distillery. Lark claims it was est. in 1992 but, for the reasons cited at "Establishment Whisky" and above, I figured it as six years later: in 1998. The publisher countermanded the criteria suggested by Bill Lark himself and insisted that the Lark Distillery establishment date be given on the date Lark insisted upon: 1992.