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It's not tequila, but spirit of Bowen brings touch of Mexico to our north


Top Shelf Holdings has hit the ASX boards with a uniquely Queensland flavour.

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The company, which makes high-quality alcoholic drinks, aims to produce a spirit from agave and is using a 430ha farm near Bowen, which already has 150,000 plants with another 100,000  in nurseries. Eventually, there could be as many as a million.

Agave is generally used in the production of tequila, but Top Shelf are marketing their product as Australian Agave because legally tequila has to be grown and distilled in Mexico to use the name. It also produces Ned Whisky and Grainshaker Vodka.

It expects the drink from the Bowen agave to be on the market in three years, but will have a limited batch from a plantation in Ayr potentially on the market next year.

This is good news for lovers of the drink because there has been a tequila shortage in recent years.

MSF Sugar has also been growing agave on the Atherton Tableland for potential use as biomass in energy generation because the plant yields about the same as sugar cane but doesn’t need irrigation.

Top Shelf raised $35 million from investors in a float at $2.21 a share and listed this week, but its shares have fallen to $2.04.

Top Shelf said it was aiming to be uniquely Australian and scaling of commercial production of Agave spirit has commenced at Top Shelf’s development hub.

“For an Australian Agave spirit this means starting from scratch. Setting out to buy a farm to grow 1 million Agave plants by 2024 is also reflective of our values in terms of boldness, authenticity and sustainability,” the company said.

“Our Agave farm between Airlie Beach and Bowen in the Whitsundays is a strategic asset that will allow us to create and define a first-of-its-kind spirit category – Australian Agave – and be a leading brand in the ever-growing and changing world of spirits,” the company said.

With Tequila and Mezcal earning an average compound growth rate of 7.51 per cent over the last six years in the USA, Top Shelf’s Australian Agave spirit and brand was being developed with international markets in mind. The project also has a R&D partnership with Adelaide University and an innovation hub with Anther Experimental Distillation in North Geelong.

“We’re aiming high and why not. Only 8 per cent of spirits sold in Australia are Australian by provenance. We have one of the largest capacities to source and distil spirits in Australia that allows us to create products that are accessible and attainable,” it said.

“We have the largest installed and integrated spirits distilling and packaging capacity compared with other Australian spirits manufacturers. This scale and integrated capacity provides us with immense capability to develop, launch and adapt products to meet the needs of the local spirits market.”

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