0pinion/Features Geelong Advertiser March 21, 1990
Where there was smoke, there was …whiskey
Compiled by PETER BEGG
It seems difficult to imagine today that the wellbeing of an industry might be gauged by the extent of smoke emerging from its chimney.
But such was the philosophy in 1929, when the Corio distillery was officially opened on this day in March.
The opening was performed by Mr William H. Ross, the chairman of the parent company, The Distillers Company Limited, of Scotland.
Mr Ross, a Scotsman himself, opened the distillery with the Scottish phrase: "Lang may its lum reek", which roughly translated means "long may its chimney smoke".
The Geelong Advertiser reported the next day that Geelong could be proud of the new industry.
"It is truly an important industry for the district, as an inspection by various citizens made evident yesterday,” the Advertiser said.
"A special train brought 250 Melbourne and interstate visitors to the handsomely appointed works for the opening ceremony, while many others travelled by car from Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and other districts to participate in the function.
"There was a large crowd of official guests in attendance shortly after 11.30 am, when the music of the St Augustine's Band attracted them to a position in front of the Excise Department.
"There a display of bunting marked the importance of the occasion, and from that position the opening ceremony was performed.”
The actual manufacture of whisky at the Corio plant started three days before, with the first whisky to run off the line being a grain whisky.
Corio's first malt whisky was made in the week ending April 26 of the same year, and was stored in wooden casks to mature.
Because the whisky could not be sold until it was mature (it sat in casks of American white oak for five years) the distillery also made gin for immediate sale.
The first Corio Whisky was placed on the market in 1934, and the company boasted that it tasted more like Scotch whisky than any produced elsewhere in the world.
When Corio's 5‑Star whisky was first made in 1956, it won the first prize and championship at that year's Sydney Royal Easter Show.
The large pot stills which were constructed to specifications of the Distillers Company of Edinburgh, were installed in 1949.
These pot stills have been maintained at the distillery as a showpiece by the current owners.
Smoke no longer “reeks” from the Corio distillery, having been replaced late last year by radio waves from Geelong’s first commercial FM station, BAY-FM.