Researchers from the University of Adelaide are harnessing the versatility of agave to help produce an Australian agave spirit that represents a stepping stone to using it as a valuable sustainable and carbon-neutral fuel source.

Australian premium spirits company, Top Shelf International (TSI), will display its Australian agave spirit, named Act of Treason, at this year’s Tasting Australia presented by RAA Travel festival on Friday, 5 May.

Act of Treason will be made using 100 per cent Blue Weber Agave grown on a farm near Bowen in north Queensland. It can’t be called tequila due to Appellation of Origin protection, meaning this name can only be given to spirit made from plants grown in certain states in Mexico.

Professor Rachel Burton, Head of the University’s Food Science department, has been analysing the molecular properties of agave since 2010 in an on-going collaboration with South Australian based company AusAgave.

Agave plants in north Queensland, that will be used to produce an Australian agave spirit.

“Agave is a plant that will grow with very little love, but if you give it care and attention, it will grow much faster,” Professor Burton said.

“As a succulent it will grow in hot and dry conditions and so it’s ideal for huge areas of Australia. Using it to make spirits has been a really good way to establish large scale growth of the species here, and now we want to expand into the biofuel side of things.”

The agave plants are cooked in an oven before they are squeezed to produce a sugary juice that can be distilled to make the spirit.

“Instead of using the juice to make a spirit, you can use it to make hydrogen,” said Professor Burton, who is also working with Vircura, one of VALO’s sister companies, on an agave project at the Monarto Innovation Precinct.

“I’m interested in using the material once the juice has been extracted as it contains fibres that I think will make innovative building materials. Agave is a multi-purpose plant that has limitless potential.”

Professor Burton has been working with TSI on its Australian agave project since 2020. TSI has 500,000 agave plants in north Queensland, with plans to expand to one million plants by 2024.

“The project is using world-class agronomy techniques not previously practiced in agave farming,” said Trent Fraser, President, Australian Agave Project and International, TSI.

“It is also tapping into Australian knowhow through a working partnership with the University of Adelaide to test and track sugar level content in the plants to help guide and inform this crucial aspect in spirit creation.

“As our spirit will be made with 100 per cent Blue Weber Agave, we expect it will have the classic agave flavours seen in tequila with a unique Australian minerality.”

The Shots Fired – The Spirit of Australian Agave masterclass will be held at the University of Adelaide Masterclass Pavilion at Town Square, Victoria Square North/Tarntanyangga from 7pm-8.30pm on Friday, 5 May.

Participants will hear from Professor Burton about the agave research, along with tasting Australia’s first agave spirit, along with best in class tequilas and mescal, as curated by Trent Fraser from TSI.

Media contacts

Professor Rachel Burton, Head of the Food Science Department, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide. Phone: +61 (0)419 769 713. Email:

Lee Gaskin, Media Coordinator, University of Adelaide. Phone: +61 (0)415 747 075.

This article was originally posted by the University of Adelaide Newsroom on 27/04/23.

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