Excise control of distilled products in South Australia

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 record Date range Series, item number
Record of letters received (distilleries) 1887–1906 D5087
Record books of letters received (Excise Branch) 1903–47 D5085
Distillery and brewers diaries 1902–69 D2240
Seppeltsfield distillery diary 1902–04 D2240, volume 209
Coonawarra distillery diary 1904–06 D2240, volume 76
Angas Park, Stepney distillery diary 1908–11 D2240, volume 293
Tolleys St Agnes distillery diary 1914–33 D2240, volume 270
Hardys McLaren Vale distillery diary 1925–27 D2240, volume 108
Springfield Brewery Ltd, Mitcham brewers diary 1951–54 D2240, volume 243
Angoves St Agnes distillery diary 1953–57 D2240, volume 27
Hamiltons Glenelg distillery diary 1964–68 D2240, volume 106

Correspondence files

Title or description of record Date range Series, item number
Docket correspondence files 1889–1900 D4868
Information requests re Vintage 1900 1900 D4868, 1900/911
Distillation licences 1900 D4868, 1900/1019
Customs correspondence files 1871–1962 D596
Distillation Act – allowance of 3% spirits 1902 D596, 1902/4621
Warehouses, breweries, distilleries: licensed and manufacturing – supervision 1902 D596, 1902/4869
Distillation of methylated spirits - licence necessary 1904 D596, 1904/2189
Blending of wines, spirits in bond 1906 D596, 1906/2437
Application re apple and grape spirit tariff 1916 D596, 1916/4368
Tariff item 3(d) – rum distilled by pot 1926 D596, 1926/6107
Illicit distillation detected – payment of rewards to police officers 1936–38 D596, 1936/2978
Export Bounty Act 1946 D596, 1946/2126
Formulae manufacture of Peach Brandy Liqueur – Berri Co-op Winery and Distillery Ltd 1947 D596, 1947/625
Tariff classification – gin distilled from molasses – Vintage Cellars Ltd 1961 D596, 1961/2073
Customs correspondence files 1962– D737
Emu Wine Co Pty Ltd – labels 1932–65 D737, S1966/6504
Manufacture of prune wine 1936–41 D737, S1966/9918
History of the wine industry in South Australia 1958–60 D737, S1966/9560
Stills, other – EB Jenkins, Kingscote – eucalyptus oil 1956–63 D737, S1966/6381
Administrative and policy files of the State Prices Commissioner 1939–48 AP5/1
Trading results – Murray View Irrigation Co Ltd, FH Metters – fruit growers and distillers 1938–47 AP5/1, 1944/5711
Trading results – Alfred Laurence and Co Ltd – essence distillers, wholesalers and manufacturing chemists and cork merchants 1939–44 AP5/1, 1944/833
Trading results – Emu Wine Co Pty Ltd, Morphett Vale – wine makers and distillers 1939–48 AP5/1, 1944/4488