Meet the maker who is producing completely original, deliberately different vodkas and gins and winning accolades worldwide.
‘Jack-of-all-trades’ could easily be applied to the long and varied path James Young has taken to distilling. Having studied maths, physics, chemistry and computer science, before finishing with a psychology degree at UWA, this is James’ fifth career in 20 years. But James said he finally found his calling when he started distilling what he calls "intelligently different" gins and vodkas.
In the 12 months since opening, James has breathed new life into the old Wild Swan Distillery site, developing award winning products and renovating his tasting room. It is clear the man is passionate about his distilling. Just recently, James won the title of best international vodka at the 2017 American Distilling Institute Awards and was extremely successful at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, sharing the Champion Australian distiller accolade with Hoochery Distillery, based in Kununurra.
James’ distilling philosophy is to focus on making new and innovative spirits without slipping into making novelty products, and to use premium local produce where he can, a philosophy which he says has contributed to his success so far.
“Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in the provenance of their products, they want to know where their food originates from and they want the producers to share real stories about their products, rather than simply relying on their brand as proof of quality and authenticity".
The Swan Valley region is renowned for its rich fusion of award winning wineries, fine food, fascinating history, amazing art, lively events and is home to nine fantastic breweries and cideries producing contemporary and creative beers and ciders. James considers the Swan Valley to be perfectly placed to respond to the emerging boutique beverages movement and believes craft distilling is where wine was 30 years ago and beer 15 years ago.
“When I visit the Swan Valley, I know I can meet a member of the Kosovich family at Kosovich Wines or if I go to Windarra Honey I will meet the apiarist, so at Old Young’s we strive to also deliver that experience. When you come to Old Young’s, you know that I am here, I’m either at the front tasting room or I am in the distillery. Every single bottle that goes out our door, I’ve made it, I’ve filled it, I’ve labelled and signed it and then packed it in the box.”
Old Young’s high quality product has seen exponential growth since launching. National expansion is imminent off the back of the recent awards and the business plan includes breaking into the notoriously difficult US market within the next 2 years.
James Young’s advice to being a successful business: “Stay authentic, know who you are and be able to sell your story.”