Local Spirit, Family Defined.

Distillery & Website Launching Soon

Ian McRobert

Taste tester & The Big boss

Shane McRobert

Chief Distiller who makes it


THE McROBERT CONNECTION 

It can be an exciting venture, to trace ones family tree. The prospect of finding distant relatives who have lived exciting lives in exciting times can be reward enough. To discover a previous family member who not only shared one of your own passions but lived it, excelled at it and left their indelible mark on it, well that’s a confirmation of your chosen path that cannot be bought. When Ian and Shane cast into their lineage, they discovered that they are the direct descendants of a ‘Master Distiller’.
This man was William John McRoberts.


William John McRoberts (born 1824) lived in a time that exemplified Darwins survival of the fittest theory. From Ireland’s potato famine he fled, via the so-called “famine ships”, to the United States of America, where he settled in Cincinnati.

At around the age of 29 he started his career at Boyle, Miller and Co’s wholesale liquor house, working as a drayman. Incredibly this involved him helping in the ‘Underground Railroad’ smuggling of slaves from the Southern States of America to freedom in the North. As a ‘conductor’ smuggling slaves in whiskey barrels, he risked fines, jail, and at worst, physical retribution.

Having worked his way up and investing in the distillery, in 1865 after Boyles death he became principle owner with Hamilton Miller. Following the end of the Civil War he wasted no time in expanding, building a second distillery, known as the ‘Willow Run Distillery’. It began operating in 1866 with Thomas Hewitt (McRoberts' son-in-law) as manager. By now William McRoberts was known as a ‘Master Distiller’.

Unfortunately this success was tempered with the death of one of his five children and then, soon after, his wife. Having four remaining children to care for, he remarried, with his new wife the daughter of another distiller, who promptly made William a partner in his company. By now his eldest boy had also joined the liquor business.

At this point in time, McRoberts was a principal with the Boyle Distillery in Cincinnati as well as the Willow Run Distillery and in his own name the McRoberts Distillery in Peoria Illinois.

More drama was to visit in 1867 with a fire that destroyed his first distillery (the Boyle Distillery). Not one to be easily discouraged, William rebuilt at great cost only for a second fire to strike in 1869. His lack of resources and being burdened by (barrel excise) taxes, led to the Hamilton Miller partnership being dissolved in 1871 and loosing all other Distillery interests. He continued to work in the Industry and also to try and recover taxes from the Federal Government. Alas to no avail.

McRobert Australian Family CrestWilliam James McRoberts died in 1876, five months after falling under a train carriage.

Twenty-two years From draysman to successful distillery owner to tragic death. William McRoberts lived the kind of story from which novels are made……and now 141 years after his death a Distillery called the McRobert Distillery will rise in Armadale, Western Australia to continue the journey.

So it’s no cliché to say that Whiskey is in Shane and Ian’s blood. And we’re not just talking about most night of the week {and sometimes late into Sunday morning if it was a big session at the Gate} Optional. Cheers



Historian
The Honourable Mr Chris Newman.