Rochfort distillery in liquidation

A distillery outside Victor Harbor may be forced to sell off its stock of valuable inaugural whisky after being placed into liquidation with potentially more than $400,000 worth of debts, according to the liquidator.

Jul 09, 2020, updated Jul 09, 2020
John Rochfort in the distillery in 2019.

John Rochfort in the distillery in 2019.

Rochfort Distillery was established in 2018 by John Rochfort, the former CEO of Tasmania’s Lark Distillery.

 InDaily reported last year that Rochfort had opened a whisky lounge bar and 200-seat restaurant on the Hindmarsh Valley property.

But a year on, ASIC documents show Rochfort Distillery – trading as De Bourbel Pty Ltd – went into liquidation on March 27.

Liquidator Robert Naudi, director of Rodgers Reidy, told InDaily it followed the termination of the tenancy after the landlord had distrained for alleged debts reaching $308,000.

He said the date of insolvency was contingent on matters before the court.

“There are legal issues about whether the rent is due and payable, as to whether there was a lease on foot or some other arrangement – which is what will be argued before the courts,” he said.

“It’s my current view that the distraint was not correct, it was a wrongful distraint.”

He said the company had racked up other debts in the past year of more than $168,000, with creditors including unpaid employees.

Rochfort previously managed Tasmania’s Nant Distillery and was CEO of Lark Distillery before returning to South Australia.

A bottle of Rochfort Distillery whisky is estimated to be valued between $400 and $2200.

According to the company’s website, the inaugural whisky was not due to be ready until “around 2021 but the first whisky bearing the Rochfort Distillery name was made from the family’s private collection of barrels and released in February 2019”.

“The whisky was aged in casks procured from the famous Australian winemaker Geoff Hardy which were brought to Australia in the 1890s by his great-great grandfather Sir Thomas Hardy, originally holding brandy and later Muscat,” it said.

The company’s assets were intended to be sold at a live-streamed auction through Mason Gray Strange Auctioneers and Valuers (MGS) on July 1 as part of the distraint process.

But MGS managing director Jamie Codling told InDaily on Wednesday a temporary injunction issued the day before the auction had prevented the whisky sales.

He said nearly 400 people from across the world had registered for the auction.

“There were 280 bottles of Rochfort whisky – ranging from $400 to $2200 a piece – and I’m guessing there was about 60 bottles of gin and 56 barrels,” Codling said.

“Some of these were ready to decant, or very close to being ready to decanted, and some had a bit more work to do on them.

“I spoke to probably 10 distillers from Tasmania to New South Wales and South Australia, and there are conflicting reports on how much it is actually worth a litre – it was a little bit of a guesstimate.

“A 100-litre barrel could bring $2000 to $4000 and a 300-litre barrel could bring $8000 to $10,000.”

Naudi said he was seeking a permanent injunction on the auction.

“That auction, as it is at the moment, rests with me – but it’s not advertised anywhere – and I’m pursing other assets to then look for buyers as a whole and then, if that fails, to put everything to auction,” Naudi said.

“I do have a lot of interest in the assets of the company.

“I think that has a lot to do with the fact there is a lot of new stuff, new equipment. The Rochfort brand – while the goodwill may carry no value – the produce they produce is of very high quality, it’s won world awards.”

Naudi said he expected the matter to be before the federal magistrate’s court for the next month.

“I challenged the auction process and the distraint that led to it and now we will enter into a process of negotiations with the landlord or litigation, depending on their attitude, depending what comes of it,” Naudi said.

“I’m now examining the landlord and that process is commenced, it will take at least a month and there are other actions I will be bringing on to challenge the distraint.”

InDaily contacted John Rochfort for comment.

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