Our Team

David Whittaker

Co-founder / Director / Distiller

A creative Chemical Engineer, David’s design, project and operations expertise has seen him build the distillery of his dreams. This has also provided David with the opportunity to commission his innovative new still design and see it come to life.

Vanessa Wilton

Co-founder / Marketing

Vanessa’s passion, enthusiasm and never-say-die attitude sees her 25 years of experience in marketing and design glide through the process of building a brand identity for Manly Spirits Co. Always striving for excellence in all aspects of the business from customer service & experience to product development. 

Reg Papps


We have great pleasure to welcome Reg Papps to the Manly Spirits team as our Production Manager/ Distiller of our fine range of spirits. We are stoked to have Reg as part of our spirits program, with Reg coming from a long history in distilling including starting up, operating and selling his own successful distillery in Sydney, producing award winning and much loved products.  Get to know Reg:

Thiago Lopes

Lead Distiller

With a background in Mechanical Engineering and enthusiasm like none other, Thiago has been dubbed the hardest working member of Manly Spirits. Always working out how to improve distilling systems and creating delicious products.  Get to know Thiago:

Rob Sutherland

National Sales

Following a long and successful career in sales, Rob considers himself very privileged to now be responsible for bringing Manly Spirits, a product which he passionately believes in, to alcohol connoisseurs everywhere.


Export Development

Mal has operated at all levels of the retail liquor industry for over 40 years. He has owned and operated more than 20 retail liquor stores during that period. He has a strong passion for the industry.

Beth Justice


Affectionately known as ‘The Hand of the Queen’, Beth has joined the Marketing team alongside Vanessa, bringing with her a passion for all things Communications and Gin.  Get to know Beth:

Peter Barker


With over 15 years experience in the industry, Peter Barker brings a whole lot of passion to the NSW Sales team.  Get to know Peter:

Tom Sramek


With a passion for mixology, extensive experience operating cocktail bars and restaurants, and a flair for designing cocktail menus, Tom is all about making Manly Spirits shine.

Roland Grain

Austrian Distributor

As a whisky aficionado with a wealth of experience Roland distributes the brand throughout German speaking companies.

David Whittaker

David has the design, project management and operations management expertise & experience necessary to successfully design, construct and operate the Distillery. David is formally educated as a Chemical Engineer, attending Melbourne University, achieving top graduate in his year. He has a MBA (Technology) from the Australian School of Business (AGSM). David’s professional career spans 26 years working for blue chip domestic and international companies. David has worked in Victoria, Queensland, NSW & the UK. David is a member of the Institute of Chemical Engineers, a member of the Australian Institute of Engineering and a professional Chartered Engineer.

David has a strong background in process design, construction, commissioning and project management in the petrochemicals and oil industries. He has extensive production and operations management experience in major hazard facilities in the Sydney area, and a proven track record of operational excellence in environmentally sensitive locations such as the Kurnell Refinery adjacent to the Kamay Botany Bay National Park and marine wharf facilities in Botany Bay.

David has achieved awards recognising his design of innovative facilities with low environmental impact in a location on the edge of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Vanessa Wilton

Vanessa has the marketing communications and design experience necessary to develop and build the ‘Manly Spirits’ brand into a premium spirits player in both the domestic and export market. Vanessa is formally educated with a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Marketing and Design, attending University of Technology, Sydney. Vanessa’s professional career spans 25 years with roles as Account Manager with Young Rubicam (CUB, Suntory, Pepsi), Marketing Manager for Bell Shakespeare Theatre Company, National Promotion’s Manager for Greater Union Cinemas and running a successful Digital Design and Marketing business, Billy Boy Design. Vanessa has a strong background in brand building and social media strategy and implementation, along with business operations skills.


Content coming soon.

Thiago Lopes

Home town, age?

Brazil, 29 yo.

When you’re not at the distillery, what do you get up to? Hobbies?

Bass player since I was 12 yo playing in all sort of band’s styles such as classic rock, jazz, blues, samba and also originals songs.
Crossfit for about 3,5 years to keep my health and fitness and keep always moving (and to be strong enough to lift barrels and etc hehe).

What does your job involve? And what does a normal day at Manly Spirits look like for you?

The distiller’s role involves skills such as understanding about brewing and distilling processes, technical knowledge (understanding of hydraulic circuits, operating machinery such as: boiler, chiller, compressors, pump, valves and etc), solid understanding of basics concepts of chemistry and physics, and more than knowledges, to be a distiller requires to have strong attention for details, patience, organization, precision and be very, very good with multi-tasking and timing.

What did you do before joining Manly Spirits?

Graduated Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineer with an additional year of exchange studies in France, focused on Production Engineering and Strategic Management.  Two years of professional experience as a Product Engineer and Production Planner, 6 Months as Sales rep of craft breweries in brazil and just before Manly Spirits, I spent 10 months as Packing Coordinator/ Brewer assistant and Bar Manager at Nomad Brewing.

Becoming a Distiller was the best way I found to use my engineering skills and my professional experience to make something interesting, exciting, with quality, an also, by the end of the day, produce something that makes people happy!

What your favourite thing about working at Manly Spirits?

Great work environment, awesome team and also, one of my favourite things at Manly Spirits is the high quality of our products! Every Manly Spirits products are create to be unique, full of character and always made with high quality and fresh materials.

What’s your favourite spirit produced by Manly Spirits?

Whisky! Even without having launched our whisky yet, I personally love the result of what comes out from our stills and specially the result that is coming from our older barrels. To produce whisky requires so much care, patience and time, that definitely makes whisky my favourite spirit at Manly Spirits. Can’t wait to have our variety of barrels mature enough, ready to be served and drink!

Rob Sutherland

Following a long and successful career in sales, Rob considers himself very privileged to now be responsible for bringing Manly Spirits, a product which he passionately believes in, to alcohol connoisseurs everywhere.

Rob is a true citizen of the world having lived on 4 continents and in more than 10 cities. He is excited to be back in Sydney and very enthusiastic about the Australian craft spirits movement, which he believes is world class.

Rob has worked in distilleries in Australia and Europe and holds qualifications from the International Institute of Brewing and Distilling. He also holds a Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) from the University of Texas (Austin) and an MBA from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.

Rob has always enjoyed fine liquor. He has a particular interest in molecular gastronomy and mixology and enjoys experimenting with our range of premium spirits. Rob loves to talk about distillation and is a self-avowed “Booze Geek”.

Mal Higgs

Mal has operated at all levels of the retail liquor industry for over 40 years.  He has owned and operated more than 20 retail liquor stores during that period.  He has a strong passion for the industry.

Mal was the founder of Porters Liquor, a franchise group which provides buying, promotion and marketing services to independent liquor stores. At its peak of operation, Porters Liquor had 120 franchised outlets across Australia

His experience has seen him involved in every aspect of the liquor industry from owning and operating retail liquor businesses, consulting on store design and layout, merchandising, promotion and marketing. Mal has developed a deep understanding of consumer needs.

Mal has recently developed a new concept artisan liquor store – The Drink Hive in Roseberry.

This retail outlet has been designed to capture the growing trend by consumers to ‘trade up’,
as well as satisfy the increasing demand for artisan products. Mal also owns another liquor store at St Ives – Porters Liquor St Ives Village

Mal was involved with the liquor store industry association – the Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) for more than 30 years, including occupying the role of National President for 25 years. He was also President of the NSW of ALSA division for 15 years.

Mal was also a Founding Board member of Drinkwise Australia, an independent social aspects organization established and funded by the alcohol industry to change the drinking culture in Australia.

Mal is an Advisory Board Member of WX Brands, a Californian based wine company specializing in the development of brands for large Domestic and International retailers.

Mal is very proud to have been associated with Manly Spirits since its inception and is very excited to be working with David and Vanessa and the rest of the Manly Spirits team!

Mal lives on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with his wife Kerrin and has two grown up children, Sam and Jess.

Beth Justice

Hometown, age?
Northern Beaches, 26

When you’re not at the distillery, what do you get up to? 
I live by the beach, so I love walking along the beach when I get a chance. I love listening to a good podcast or audiobook – particularly can’t get enough of Sam Jones’ “Off Camera” or anything by Brene Brown, appreciate a well-directed film, love early morning gym sessions, and most of all… finding the best bars and restaurants – I’m a passionate, non-professional foodie.

What does your job involve? 
I’m officially the Digital Communications & Marketing Assistant at Manly Spirits, and unofficially ‘The Hand of the Queen’ and second-hand woman to Vanessa, co-founder and marketing manager.

What is your favourite thing about working at Manly Spirits?
It’s all happening here! As we are a small business, you can find yourself doing anything and everything – one day I’m setting up an event, or pulling together a photoshoot overlooking the beach… and the next I’m helping pack orders or revamping furniture. It’s wild. Oh, and the cocktails on a Friday afternoon!

What’s your favourite spirit produced by Manly Spirits?
Hands down, Lilly Pilly Pink Gin. Not because we launched it in my first week here… but it’s absolutely the perfect balance of a classic gin with a hint of sweetness.

And what’s your favourite Manly Spirits serve?
I love classics, so a simple G&T will do me any day of the week. But I also can’t say no to a Pink Colada – Pink Gin, Coconut Syrup, Lime Juice & Pineapple Juice – All the good flavours!

Peter Barker

Home town, age?
Sydney, 33

When you’re not at the distillery, what do you get up to? Hobbies?
I’m a motorbike enthusiast with an eye for customisation, love a good looking watch and i also dabble in hot sauce making

What does your job involve? And what does a normal day at Manly Spirits look like for you?
My job involves engaging with retail and on premise customers, discussing our range and looking for opportunities to grow our relationships.
My day is split between visiting current customers as well as checking out new opportunities to grow our business & friendships – I usually finish off my day with a cheeky citrus gin martini

What did you do before joining Manly Spirits?
I’ve been part the hospitality industry for the past 15 years – my most recent Hospo role was working with an industry leading Hospitality group.

What your favourite thing about working at Manly Spirits?
Manly Spirits is a company that embodies the local spirit ( pun intended ) – they are a fun loving & progressive bunch of people with a great goal.

What would be your advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Find something your passionate about and do it

What’s your favourite spirit produced by Manly Spirits?
The coastal citrus gin is amazing, but I have a feeling that their soon to be released Whiskey will be a cracking drop

And what’s your favourite Manly Spirits serve?
A cheekily shaken Lilly Pilly Sour

Tom Sramek

Before becoming a Manly Spirits Co. brand ambassador and sales account manager Tom spent 12 years operating cocktail bars and restaurants predominantly on the Northern Beaches. During this time he had the opportunity to work with some of the World’s biggest brands, met with many of the great people behind them, and acquired crucial knowledge in the world of spirits. At the same time, Tom developed a passion for mixology. He has helped set up several bars, designed cocktail menus, and has been successful in competitions. Today, Tom helps spread the Manly Spirits love by looking after sales accounts across Sydney and NSW and by crafting sumptuous cocktails that make our spirits shine for various venues across the state and for events such as degustation and cocktail-food pairing dinners.

Roland Grain

Formally educated as an IT specialist and business consultant, Roland has a strong background in business controlling and merger & acquisition business. He is also a dedicated whisky lover and took the opportunity to be a part of this venture as a shareholder.

His role is helping Manly Spirits grow in Europe with his distribution networks in the EU. 

Running his own IT and business consultancy business spanning several countries in Europe for 23 years. This included several M&A activities over the years.


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Name of Licence: Manly Spirits Co Distillery Licence No. LIQW880014856
Licence type: Producer wholesaler, Premise details: 4A/9-13 Winbourne Rd, Brookvale NSW 2100
WARNING: Under the Liquor Control Act 1988. It is an offence to sell or supply liquor to a person under the age of 18 years on licensed or regulated premises; or for a person under the age of 18 years to purchase, or attempt to purchase liquor on licensed or regulated premises.

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