The Corio Distillery
Today Geelong is known for making some great craft beer, but did you know we were once home to one of the world’s biggest whisky distilleries.
Corio Distillery was established in 1920’s by British Distillers in North Shore, not far from where the Shell Refinery stands today. The distillery building that still exists, was opened by the chairman and managing director of the Distillers Co-Operation Pty Ltd. Mr William H Ross in March of 1929. Mr Ross made the then extremely long journey from Edinburgh just for the occasion.
The first product produced at the distillery was Burnett’s Dry Gin, a copy of a product originally imported from Britain. Production volume soon started to ramp up and by the end of 1929 they were producing Corio Whiskey at an amazing 500,000 gallons a year. The whiskey didn’t hit the market until 1933/4 as it needed to rest for 5 years gaining its flavour in oak casts.
The finished product was very similar to Scotch Whiskey and was sold as Corio Whiskey. By 1938 production was at around 12 million gallons of Corio Whiskey and another 5 million gallons of Gin. This made up around two thirds of the Australian whiskey trade and half of our gin market. The Corio Distillery was regarded as the biggest in the southern hemisphere.
1956 saw Corio’s 5 star whiskey launched, but in later decades the whiskey lost its reputation partly due to the easy availability and the drop in import duty of imported whiskeys. Corio Whiskey soon became known as an unrefined, cheap and somewhat nasty product when compared to many of the Scotch whiskeys from Scotland.
The Corio distillery closed in 1989 and later become home to radio stations 3XY and Bay FM. Today the old distillery complex is recognised as historically significant and is currently used by Cheetham Salt.