No whisky trip to Australia would be complete without a visit to Tasmania. The island off the bottom right hand corner of the continent is home to the tastiest and most lauded single malts Australia has to offer.
It’s also where the modern rebirth of whisky down under began. Bill Lark lobbied to get outdated liquor laws changed to allow the legal distillation of spirits to begin back in 1992.
Since those early amatuer days the industry has grown to produce many fine single malts. The pinnacle undoubtedly was Sullivans Cove winning Best Single Malt of the year in 2014.
My visit only scratched the surface of the stunning scenery, endemic wildlife, fine food and fabulous whisky that Tasmania has to offer – and the combination of it all left us – well – Thunderstruck!
The short flight from Melbourne soon had us looking down on the heavily wooded and indented coastline near Hobart. As the sun shone brightly – albeit with a cool breeze – we decided to head straight down the Tasman Peninsular to take advantage of the lovely weather.
Soon immersed in the awe inspiring landscape we quickly passed by some distilleries;
Nonesuch Distillery, makers of Dry Gin, Sloe Gin and Sloe Malt , had their closed sign up at the entrance.
Port Arthur Lavender, a distillery making perfumed products. Open but passed this by.
McHenry Distillery, actual whisky distillers! Along with gin and vodka – but closed due to construction of a visitors centre. Despite coming across their new single malt on Brooke Street Pier in Hobart it was only available by the bottle – so I never did get a taster of the contents.
We also came across a small flock of Green Rosellas feeding on the ground. These very colourful birds -along with about a dozen other species – are only found in Tasmania and it was a joy to see them.
Our destination of the day at Port Arthur Penal Colony encapsulated the historic beginnings of modern Tasmania in all it’s gory detail – yet set in stunning scenery. Gently ambling around we soon heard and later spotted our first Kookaburra of the trip.
Getting dark at about 5pm in the Australian winter came as a shock after leaving the Irish summer where 11pm was lights out. We still had to check in at our hotel. Phone coverage wasn’t great so we hightailed it back to Hobart – thankfully not encountering any wildlife along the way to add to the roadkill we saw in the sunshine.
The sparkling lights of Hobart glittering on the hillside beyond were a beautiful sight as we drove over the graceful Tasman Bridge. Very soon afterwards we felt the warm embrace of The Customs House Hotel.
I felt an even warmer embrace after enjoying a lovely meal in the cosy dining area heated by a homely open fire overlooking Hobart’s docklands – especially as the meal was washed down by some tasty Tassie whisky!
Having previously tasted the Hellyers Road Peated expression – which I enjoyed very much – I kicked off with their 10 year old Original bottling. Aged in ex-bourbon casks, non chill-filtered at 46.2% this is a lovely smooth and rich example of a decent single malt. It just didn’t have the peat bite I liked.
Overeem Sherry Cask was my night cap. Distilled in nearby Blackmans Bay – a suburb of Hobart – this offering also had a rich taste with a more heavy mouthfeel. It was less sweet than the Hellyers – which suited me fine.
The mania of Tasmania continued over the next few days. We crammed in as much sights and sounds as we could manage before rushing back in the dark to the warm delights of Hobart.
One of the crowning glories of our time in Tasmania – outside of the fabulous whiskies – were the wonderful breakfasts at The Customs House Hotel. These set the benchmark for the rest of our trip which was only matched by a hearty brunch in an eaterie up the wonderful laneway that is Centre Place in Melbourne.
When part of your itinerary is tasting Tassie whisky – you need something substantial to set yourself up – and a good solid breakfast certainly starts the day off on the right path!
Oh to be back in Hobart.