FNQ Spirits, a boutique distillery with big plans, is set to expand this year as demand for their spirits and liqueurs continues to grow across the FNQ region and beyond. When we spoke to Troy Read, who runs this family business together with his son Ike, the construction of their custom-built distillery was already underway.
“Our new distillery is currently being built in Deeral, about 15 minutes south of Gordonvale,” Troy says. “It’s right on the highway, so I think if people are doing a day trip to Josephine Falls or Babinda, they’ve got to drive past the door, so we might pick up that trade.”
FNQ Spirits is known for their Aussie larrikin approach to marketing their products, as well as their distinctive branding featuring that FNQ icon: the saltwater crocodile. Their line-up includes several vodkas, a coffee liqueur, a limoncello, a lime-based liqueur dubbed Limezello and, of course, their iconic rum-like spirit ‘Croc Piss’ – a play on their crocodile logo and the irreverent Aussie euphemism for alcohol.
"When we started, it was pre-Covid, and there were four million tourists coming through the domestic terminal and nothing to take home with you that really said, ‘Far North Queensland’,” says Troy.
“So, we thought let's make it ocker and we'll see how it goes and it's kind of taken off. We are back in the international airport now, in the duty-free, so that's pretty nice too."
Since beginning, they have won a slew of awards, showing that they could compete on the national level as they steadily added to their product range. They are also growing their reach across Queensland, and you can now purchase their products as far south as the Sunshine Coast.
Troy hopes that the new facility will enable them to go nationwide in the foreseeable future. This could happen sooner rather than later given Troy’s successful track record in marketing their products to the big alcohol retailers.
“Marketing; it was super hard to start with,” Troy says. “A friend in Melbourne told me to buy the biggest still I can afford, because you'll spend one day distilling it, and five days marketing it!”
Then, when one of the big retailers held a local favourites competition where people could vote for their favourite, FNQ Spirits blitzed it.
“Lots of people voted for us, because we've got a great Facebook following. Those people were fantastic and threw a lot of votes our way,” Troy says. “Following the comp, we got contacted by the retailer saying ‘we've been looking for you… we would like to put some of your products in our stores’. It made me super excited, and then suddenly, you've got a regular base where products can go in.”
Troy and Ike are dedicated to showcasing the unique flavours of their region and pride themselves on building strong relationships with local suppliers. One of their most successful collaborations has been with Skybury, Australia’s oldest coffee plantation, which has been growing coffee in the rich soil of the Atherton Tablelands since 1987.
“I don't have a single product, in a single bottle, that doesn't come from Far North Queensland, everything is from up here,” says Troy.
“Our lemons come from Skybury, the limes come from farms in the tablelands. The chocolate for our chocolate liqueur comes from Charley’s Chocolate in Mission Beach. The coffee comes from Skybury and the molasses for our core product comes from Tully.”
Their coffee liqueur has proven to be a hit with customers, and its success is testament to Troy’s dedication to perfecting his recipes.
"To make the coffee liqueur, I tried about 40 different combinations, everything from filter coffee to cold drip coffee, and eventually we got our flavour. It is made with espresso, because we just couldn't get the oils and flavours out of the coffee without using espresso.
“It's just won best coffee liqueur at the Royal Australian Spirit Awards. Our vodka has won a whole stack of awards, it's done amazing - it has won best vodka at Tasting Australia for two years running,” says Troy.
As they say, it's the story that sells, and the story behind FNQ Spirits is one of passion, dedication and a love for the unique flavours of Far North Queensland.