Excise control of distilled products in South Australia – Fact sheet 94

Excise duties in Australia

Excise duties are taxes imposed on the production of goods. The products most commonly subject to excise duty include wine and spirits, beer, tobacco and petroleum. Prior to Federation in 1901 the Australian colonies levied their own customs and excise duties. With Federation this responsibility passed to the Commonwealth.

The first Commonwealth excise tariff imposed duties on beer, spirits, starch, sugar, snuff and tobacco products. While an excise duty is usually imposed as a form of government revenue it has not been unusual in Australia for excise duties to be imposed to reinforce social mores or to encourage local industry. Further information on the history of the application of excise duties in Australia is found in the Clayton Roberts article ‘Excise and Australia’, Australian Customs History Journal, no. 4, August 1992, pp. 24–29.

South Australia and excise control

Given South Australia's leading role in the Australian wine and spirit industry both before and since Federation, excise control has been a prominent and longstanding practice in that state. The main product of South Australian distilleries has been potable spirit, but commercial distilleries also existed for the production of dry cleaning fluid, methylated spirit and eucalyptus oils.

Record holdings

Records relating to the distillation industries list many commercial organisations and, because of the distributed nature of the wine and spirit industry, also encompass a number of South Australian local government areas. Major wine producing areas were the residential and work base for excise officers who often became prominent members of their communities. Examples of records held by the National Archives Adelaide Office are listed overleaf. The records listed have been selected to illustrate the variety of information held.

Use RecordSearch to identify additional records relating to excise control. Keyword searches within the listed series using the names of particular products, producers or localities are likely to identify records of interest.

Distillery diaries and letter register for South Australian distilleries

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesRecord of letters received (distilleries)1887–1906D5087
SeriesRecord books of letters received (Excise Branch)1903–47D5085
SeriesDistillery and brewers diaries1902–69D2240
ItemSeppeltsfield distillery diary1902–04D2240, volume 209
ItemCoonawarra distillery diary1904–06D2240, volume 76
ItemAngas Park, Stepney distillery diary1908–11D2240, volume 293
ItemTolleys St Agnes distillery diary1914–33D2240, volume 270
ItemHardys McLaren Vale distillery diary1925–27D2240, volume 108
ItemSpringfield Brewery Ltd, Mitcham brewers diary1951–54D2240, volume 243
ItemAngoves St Agnes distillery diary1953–57D2240, volume 27
ItemHamiltons Glenelg distillery diary1964–68D2240, volume 106


Correspondence records

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesDocket correspondence files1889–1900D4868
ItemInformation requests re Vintage 19001900D4868, 1900/911
ItemDistillation licences1900D4868, 1900/1019
SeriesCustoms correspondence files1871–1962D596
ItemDistillation Act – allowance of 3% spirits1902D596, 1902/4621
ItemWarehouses, breweries, distilleries: licensed and manufacturing – supervision1902D596, 1902/4869
ItemDistillation of methylated spirits - licence necessary1904D596, 1904/2189
ItemBlending of wines, spirits in bond1906D596, 1906/2437
ItemApplicaton re apple and grape spirit tariff1916D596, 1916/4368
ItemTariff item 3(d) – rum distilled by pot1926D596, 1926/6107
ItemIllicit distillation detected – payment of rewards to police officers1936–38D596, 1936/2978
ItemExport Bounty Act1946D596, 1946/2126
ItemFormulae manufacture of Peach Brandy Liqueur – Berri Co-op Winery and Distillery Ltd1947D596, 1947/625
ItemTariff classification – gin distilled from molasses – Vintage Cellars Ltd1961D596, 1961/2073
SeriesCustoms correspondence files1962–D737
ItemEmu Wine Co Pty Ltd – labels1932–65D737, S1966/6504
ItemManufacture of prune wine1936–41D737, S1966/9918
ItemHistory of the wine industry in South Australia1958–60D737, S1966/9560
ItemStills, other – EB Jenkins, Kingscote – eucalyptus oil1956–63D737, S1966/6381
SeriesAdministrative and policy files of the State Prices Commissioner1939–48AP5/1
ItemTrading results – Murray View Irrigation Co Ltd, FH Metters – fruit growers and distillers1938–47AP5/1, 1944/5711
ItemTrading results – Alfred Laurence and Co Ltd – essence distillers, wholesalers and manufacturing chemists and cork merchants1939–44AP5/1, 1944/833
ItemTrading results – Emu Wine Co Pty Ltd, Morphett Vale – wine makers and distillers1939–48AP5/1, 1944/4488

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