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Kristy Booth-Lark

Headshot of Kristy Booth-Lark

Bachelor of Business 2008

You were raised in a famous distilling family (Kristy's father is Bill Lark, dubbed the godfather of Australian whisky after rewriting distillery law and establishing Lark Distillery) so you could be forgiven for thinking it was inevitable that you would learn the family trade. But how did you end up starting your own distillery?

Like most children, I thought my parents were weird and I just wanted them to be ‘normal’, but looking back, I’m so glad they weren’t.

I grew up with a still outside my bedroom door, I could hear it bubbling and smell it.

I started working at my parent’s business, Lark Distillery (which is no longer family owned) in the cellar door.

I worked my way up to Cellar Door Manager, then Production Manager and finally General Manager.

The business was taken over by investors in 2013 and I was made redundant.

This then gave me the opportunity to start my own fully independent distillery.

What were some of the challenges and benefits of being part of a well-known distilling family when it came to establishing your own product and brand Killara Distillery?

Some of the benefits were that I had already worked in the industry for many years so I had a good contact list and knew where to go to get things, like my still.

I understood how distilleries worked and what you needed to do to get established, as well as having learnt from my parents how to make fantastic spirits.

Though having said that, there were many challenges, including: stepping out of the family shadow and continually needing to educate people that Lark Distillery is not family-owned anymore- so I’m not in competition with my parents!

I certainly get judged by what my parents did and achieved.

I have high expectations to live up to and people can be very quick to criticise if I do something they perceive as less than perfect.

But, overall, the journey of starting my own brand has been a great experience and I’m excited to go to work each day.

Did your parents have any pearls of wisdom?

One of the main things I learned from my parents is the passing on of knowledge and helping other people through training and education.

While I was at Lark one of my roles was to conduct distilling schools and over the years I have helped many people start their own distilleries and I will continue to do this into the future.

How did your Bachelor of Business prepare you to run your own business?

My degree gave me a head start in understanding businesses and how they work. It was the framework that has helped me grow my business. 

You have just won a Churchill Fellowship, which will enable you to travel the world researching a topic of your choosing. Congratulations. Can you tell us about the aim of your Fellowship?

My Fellowship is about apothecary and medicinal gardens: how they can be established in Australia, in regards to distilling, education and tourism.

Physic and Apothecary gardens have been used for centuries in Europe in monasteries, estates and farm houses.

Many of the plants grown in these gardens were distilled and used for the health and wellbeing of those around.

Traditionally it was the monks who started with distillation and they have used herbs and other botanicals for centuries in their products. Some of the more famous ones include: Chartreuse, which was developed over 1000 years ago and uses over 130 different herbs in its recipe, Benedictine, which was created in 1510 by Dom Bernardo, Frangelico and Becherovka.

With the knowledge I will gain, I plan to establish a traditional apothecary garden in Tasmania.

I want to create a place where people can learn about various plants and how to use them in distillation to create safe and delicious spirits. It would also help inspire and educate other people who want to set up their own apothecary gardens.

You became the first Australian woman to be an owner-distiller and you set up the Australian Women in Distilling Association (AWDA). Can you tell us a little bit about what you hope to achieve?

In 2017 I established the Australian Women in Distilling Association (AWDA).

One of the main focuses of the association is to assist with furthering the education of women in the distilling industry.

We have recently set up two scholarships: one to help women who are wanting to learn more about setting up a distillery.

The other, which is delivered in partnership with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD), is to assist someone to get a distilling qualification by sitting a General Certificate of Distilling Exam.

You are now a highly regarded and experienced distiller, what do you enjoy most about your job?

I love being able to make things and share that with other people. 

Finally, given your occupation, we wondered what your tipple of choice is?

It depends on the time of day, time of year and the weather. When it’s hot I love an Apothecary Gin and ruby grapefruit juice. When it’s cold, I love a glass of brandy or whisky and I can’t go past a Negroni before dinner.

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