How Aussie business turned $1 into a mill
Few people can say they turned $1 into a million, but that's exactly what Dean Druce did.
Still, would he do it all over again? Probably not.
The founder of Corowa Whisky might have bitten off more than he could chew when he decided to buy an abandoned flour mill from the council in the NSW border town for $1.
"You just think, what have we done, this is absolutely sending me insane," he said.
"I still have those days now. We're still renovating the site to this day.
"I still have those days when I think maybe I shouldn't have done this."
But Mr Druce and his company have turned the site into the jewel of Corowa's crown. Ten years later, Corowa Distilling Co is now a $1 million business.
The council's directive was to restore the abandoned building of 40 years to what is was, and put the region on the map.
Rodent-ridden and falling apart, it was no mean feat.
"Every rodent known to man had taken residency in there," Mr Druce said.
"All the gardens had been overgrown and it was in need of a lot of work.
"It wasn't an attractive proposition for a lot of people but we were more than happy to roll up our sleeves and get into it."
Mr Druce said when he moved to Corowa he had just turned 21 and been living in Canada for two years.
His parents had made a similar business move in Junee, running the licorice and chocolate shop, so he had them on board to help.
"It was a massive undertaking and we knew that from the start," he said.
"You're away from everything that you know is normal. It obviously didn't happen overnight.
"It took eight months of getting it to a point where you could walk through the door. Would I go do it again knowing what I know now? Probably not."
Mr Druce said all kinds of hidden costs came up along the way.
But he said with plans to increase production and pivot the way the business operated after COVID, he hoped they had another decade of growth.
"It's something really unique," he said.
"You buy a building for $1 and that's great, but it's good for people to come along and see that journey and wanting to come along with you."
When his family got into the whisky business, the industry was still relatively new to Australia.
There are now some 350 distilleries across the country.
"Australia has turned the whisky industry on its head and we're producing some of best whisky in world, in my opinion," he said.
"What I like about what we do down here is we're very much a community focused organisation.
"People go, wow I want to work in a whisky distillery that's got a chocolate factory attached to it.
"Locals are really proud of this in their home town."
For World Whisky Day this weekend, Destination NSW is highlighting the incredible artisanal whisky distilling taking place in NSW's Riverina Murray region.
Another one on the map is Whitton Malt House, a sustainable world-class craft malting facility which first opened their doors in November 2020 and produce malt for distilleries.
Corowa Distilling Co. and Whitton Malt House collaborate to produce a truly local whisky product and are establishing the Riverina Murray as one of Australia's most exciting whisky producing regions.
But there's plenty more across the state to check out …
15 whisky distilleries in NSW to visit:
• Archie Rose Distillery, Sydney
• Corowa Whisky and Chocolates, Corowa
• Whitton Malt House, Whitton
• Manly Spirits Co, Manly
• The Aisling Distillery, Griffith
• Newcastle Distilling Co, Newcastle
• Amber Lane Distillery, Yarramalong Valley
• Goodradigbee Distillers, Balgowlah
• Tara Distillery, South Coast
• Black Gate Distillery, Dubbo
• Bluestill Distillery, Young
• Joadja Distillery, Southern Highlands
• Headlands Distilling Co. North Wollongong
• Craft Works Distillery, Capertee
• Otter Craft Distilling, St Peters
Originally published as How Aussie business turned $1 into a mill