Quit 20 years in the wine industry in 2010 with 1 FTE, now across 3 cask businesses has a team of 30, with 20 of those coopers. Grew from 80 casks initially to 20,000+ in FY19, while pivoting from 100% wine to now 90% spirit customers (Darren Lange)

australia distilling fte 21-30 podcast sales $5m-$10m aud May 18, 2020

In this episode, I interview Darren Lange, the founder and managing director of the Tasmanian Cask Co., one of the leading suppliers of casks to the Australian whisky industry. His entrepreneurial journey started in 2010 after 20 years in the wine industry and aged 41. He decided to go out on his own and form a company called Master Cask, which was on-selling casks coopered overseas solely to the wine industry in Australia. A cooperage manufactures the wooden casks or barrels that wines or spirits are aged in. A 3000+ year craft, it is still a very manual process to date. 

Starting out with one full-time employee, his mum soon joined him to help with the business administration and now his three businesses have a team of around 30, with just over 20 of those being expert coopers. In 2014, he formed the Tasmania Cask Company and a few years later acquired a customary competitor in South Australia now named Australian Coopers. He got money to fund his business from the 3Fs (Friends, Family, and Fools) until an investor bought into the business in 2015. That investment helped propel sales from 80 casks in 2012 to more than 20,000 in 2019, with 90% of those sold in the spirits industry. 

Darren admits that excellent communication, a kick-ass team, and an investment in R&D and innovation are at the heart of managing the three businesses’ success. He believes the hardest thing in growing a small business is cashing in on people, and the advice he would give himself on day one is, “Not to be hard on yourself. Take the time to celebrate the wins and celebrate them with the people around you. Remember when starting out, the bigger opportunity, the harder it will be.”  

This Cast Covers:

  • The first whisky in the Southern hemisphere to win the Best Single Malt Whisky in the world and the impact that had.
  • From representing coopers from around the world to owning his own cooperage producing barrels for various distillers of wine, whisky, and more.
  • The age factor in starting his own business and his business ownership backstory.
  • The cyclic nature of the wine industry, the challenge it presented for cash flow, and how he overcame that.
  • Their current cask output: Growing from 80 barrels a year to over 20,000 barrels just for spirits.
  • Investing and committing to continuous innovation in order to add a huge amount of value to the industry.
  • Funding the business through support from family, friends, trade credit, and investors.
  • Working with distillers to provide just the right application of oak in the maturation process to produce a great and effective product.
  • The challenge of investing in oak in terms of holding up capital for long periods of time.
  • Building the cooperage skill set in modern Australia and how the spirits industry helped in that.
  • The importance of communicating with the staff on how the business is doing and making sure they share in the dream.
  • Cash flow: The one thing that Darren enjoys the least about managing fast growth.
  • Understanding the numbers and not being too hard on yourself.
  • Darren’s hiring tips and advice on how to build a kick-ass culture.


“Every business owner must understand their numbers” – Darren Lange

“Employing the wrong person is not a fail” – Darren Lange

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