Category Archives: Australian Whisky

A for Australian Whisky

World Whisky Day is fast approaching on Saturday the 19th May 2018.

As part of the build up I’m featuring a series of blogs – both old and new – over the next month focusing on a country from each letter of the alphabet – if possible – that makes whisky.

Today is A for Australia.

 

WHISKEY NUT DOWN UNDER

An invitation to a wedding in Melbourne was just the hook to lure me into a 3 week discovery of the award winning world of Australian whisky.

To accompany this inaugural  blog of my travels down under – the musical interlude should come as no surprise;

The first couple of days were spent sightseeing in and around the city centre. By chance we ended up doing a river cruise down the Yarra River – which is a wonderful way to see the marvellous sights of Melbourne as well as listen to some historical tales and stories from the entertaining and informative captain of the river cruiser.

Light refreshments were in order afterwards so one of the many Federation Wharf cafe/bars provided the respite. Luckily for me they stocked some Australian whisky – along with a sprinkling of more familiar Irish brands too.

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Whisky selection by the Yarra c/othewhiskeynut

As we were meeting friends later I went straight for the sole Aussie whisky on offer – an award winning Sullivans Cove bottle.

The Double Cask release from Sullivans Cove wasn’t the bottle that won World’s Best Single Malt Whisky in 2014 – but it sure tasted fine to me. Matured in ex-bourbon and French oak casks this delightful single malt from Tasmania was a gentle introduction to the high standard that Australian whisky has reached in only a short period of time.

On leaving the wharf area I noticed one of the bars had advertised an evening with Starward Whisky – along with a small selection of yet more Aussie whisky – my mind urged me to return again soon.

My opportunity arose on the day of the wedding. Herself wanted to rest a while at the Airbnb allowing me to amble down to the Pilgrim Bar with the intention of sampling a few of the expressions on offer in the lovely surroundings overlooking the Yarra.

Of the 5 Aussie whiskeys on display I’d already tasted from 2 of the distilleries so a flight of the remaining 3 was soon arranged along with an entertaining food pairings of peanut butter filled pretzels and red hummus with warm focaccia.

The helpful and informative bar manager Michael soon had the bottles at my table and explained where, whom and how the various expressions had came about before leaving me to enjoy both the food and whisky in the lovely afternoon sun.

In no particular order my tasting trio consisted of;

Raymond B 100% Corn Mash Whiskey hailing from the Hoochery Distillery in Kununurra in Western Australia close to the border with the Northern Territory.

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Raymond B Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Belgrove Rye coming from the whisky heartland of Tasmania and the truly home made distillery of Peter Bignell in Kempton.

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Hellyers Road Peated Single Malt also from Tasmania but on the northern shores near Burnie.

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Hellyers Road Peated c/othewhiskeynut

Unlike my rather mixed feelings towards bourbon – Australians love it. They are even bigger consumers of the spirit than the USA!  Raymond B’s Corn Mash is a pretty sweet and smooth representation of this category which certainly went down well with me even although it wouldn’t be my preferred style.

Belgrove Rye however is a different kettle of fish altogether. Rye would be my go-to bourbon for it’s more robust taste and lovely spice finish. Belgrove is not like the more mainstream ryes I’ve had. Despite having a pleasingly soft sweet rye nose – there is none of the associated robustness. A more delicate bouquet of flavours swirl around the mouth before a gentle hint of spice wafts through on the finish. Very engaging. I must try out some more releases from this distillery.

Hellyers Road Peated proved to be a more familiar style of whisky in that a powerful peat punch assaulted the nose before the first taste. Despite Tasmania having it’s own peat bogs just like Ireland – Hellyers Road don’t have access to them due to a lack of a mining licence – and so have to import peated barley from Scotland. What makes this whisky standout however is it’s soft, almost fruity finish coming through the peat smoke. Very nice indeed.

Suitably inspired by the lovely whisky – along with the remaining tasty snacks and a pleasingly soothing backdrop of reggae-dub being played on the sound system – I ventured on to a measure of Black Gate Whisky.

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Black Gate Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Black Gate are a husband and wife team from New South Wales producing a range of distilled spirits. This rather young whisky – above 2 years and over in Australia is allowed to be called whisky – had a reassuringly non-peated whisky nose. There was a slight off note on the taste for me however and I wondered if the sherry casks used for maturation could have been the source of this. Pity – as it would have been thumbs up all round for my first Australian whisky tasting!

Michael the bar manager joined me for some more whisky chat and introduced a bottle of Starward Wine Cask by way of inviting me to the upcoming whisky Talk & Taste evening at the bar.

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Starward Wine Cask c/othewhiskeynut

The Starward Solera had excited me when I’d met up with friends in the 1806 Cocktail Bar so a quick taster of the Wine Cask release only confirmed me as a convert to the delights of this local distillery based at Essendon on the Melbourne outskirts.

Rich, full bodied with lovely fruity notes too – this expression is made with Australian wine casks to give it a sense of terroir – it certainly struck a chord with me.

My time at the Pilgrim Bar – being able to sit outside admiring the views, tasting some fine whisky and food, attended to by friendly and helpful staff as well as relaxing to the background music – made up for the 2 days of travelling to get here!

Only a short walk from Flinders St Station – it’s a haven of calm in the heart of Melbourne.

Sláinte.

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Since originally posting this in 2016, Starward have moved into bigger premises closer to the centre of Melbourne.

 

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Drinking Australian Whisky @ Bad Frankie, Melbourne.

Australian whisky has come a long way.

Not only in the physical distance it has to travel to reach outside markets – but also in terms of taste, flavour and style.

Fortunately for me an invitation to a wedding in Melbourne (a Tullamore lad & a Melbourne lassie no less) allowed me the opportunity to sample a few of these marvelous malts.

The option of bringing home some of these usually quite expensive bottlings wasn’t really on the cards – so a venue that had a large selection of the local distillate was in order.

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A wall of Aussie whisky & gin @ Bad Frankie c/othewhiskeynut

Bad Frankie – off Smith St in the bohemian suburb of Fitzroy in Melbourne – was recommended to me by the very helpful Pilgrim Bar. It didn’t disappoint.

The 86 tram does pass by – but another young couple kindly drove us there. A Melbourne lad & an Athlonian lassie who happened to be a next door neighbour & whose wedding we had attended back in Ireland. It’s a small world!

Bad Frankie is a popular spot. On the night we visited we only just managed to get a table. The atmosphere was very friendly & inviting. Bad Frankie specializes in Australian food, Australian Gin & the main reason it attracted me – Australian Whisky.  Lots of it!

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Which 2 to leave out? c/othewhiskeynut

Handily for me they did a tasting platter of any 5 whiskies of your choice for 40 dollars. (Prices in July 2016) Seb – the owner – & his staff were very attentive and allowed me to pick the ones I wanted.

I narrowed it down to 7 bottles initially. Despite doing my homework before I came to Oz there were still distilleries I hadn’t heard off! Yet here they were – all tempting me.

The final 5 that won my attention on the night were brought to my table. The samples poured and the back story to each bottle in terms of style, flavour, distillery & even the distillation method were explained by the knowledgeable staff.

A varied round of Bad Frankie jaffles were also served up. I went for the ‘Bangers & Mash’. Basically it’s a sealed toasted sandwich filled with a fabulous concoction of tasty fillings. It certainly made a great whisky food pairing!

So what did I sample?

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The final selection. c/othewhiskeynut

Bakery Hill Peated Single Malt 46%

In Australian terms Bakery Hill is quite a large concern. Based in Bayswater on the outskirts of Melbourne this is a local whisky. I found it a very easy going & attractive softly peated single malt.

Limeburners Single Malt Port Cask, 43%

With a name like Limeburners I couldn’t let this one pass me by.  Western Australia’s first single malt whisky distillery had me hooked! A lovely rich fruity number that only confirmed my prediliction to port finishes.

Cradle Mountain 17 Year Old Single Malt, 43%.

Said to be Australia’s oldest single malt from the fabulous island of Tasmania, this one just blew me away with it’s rich complex depth of character & flavours. Stunning stuff!

Mackey Single Malt, 49%

Another Tasmanian malt. After the full on flavour of Cradle Mountain this triple distilled offering came over rather softer & more subtle.

And finally.

Belgrove Peated Rye Whisky, 42%

Yes – that’s right – peated rye. The world’s first. Not only that. It uses rye grown on the distiller’s – Peter Bignell – farm as well as Tasmanian peat to give a truly unique taste. There is a gorgeous soft smoke with the merest hint of rye spice too. Fabulous!

I must admit the above selection truly stunned me. The quality & diversity of Australian whisky is simply amazing. I love it – just like these Aussie rockers!

I should also point out that these bottles were available when I visited. Many Australian distilleries release small batches or single runs in limited numbers. What is available now is probably very different. One thing that will not be different is the fabulous taste offered by the new releases – whether they are new expressions from the above distilleries or new expressions from new distilleries that hadn’t appeared when I was down under.

As is true in many countries – the range of whiskies available in the home market is usually far larger than that on sale outside that country.

If you really want to taste Australian whisky – you have to go there.

And Bad Frankie for me at least – is the prime spot to do that tasting.

Sláinte.

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Whisky At The End Of The Great Ocean Road

About a year ago it wasn’t the Wild Atlantic Way I drove around in search of whiskey distilleries – but the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.

We’d picked up the Wicked Camper late in the afternoon & left the Melbourne cityscape heading West. Our first stop was the industrial town of Geelong – which happened to have a whisky distillery in the 1960’s producing spirit of dubious quality – to stock up on provisions.

Being wintertime in Oz, it got dark around 5pm. We just managed to catch the sunset over Port Philip Bay from the campsite in Portarlington – well, so near so far as the saying goes. The original Portarlington is only a half hour from our home in Ireland but lacked the sandy beach & pier of it’s Aussie sister.

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Portarlington Pier c/othewhiskeynut

The next day say us join the Great Ocean Road proper at Torquay – and only then did the stupendous views of heavily wooded steep hills cascading down into the wide blue ocean below enthrall us with it’s rugged beauty with every twist & turn of the road.

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On the Great Ocean Road c/othewhiskeynut

An overnight stay at Cape Otway found us shivering during the night away – we had underestimated the cold of an Australian winter – so a cabin was booked in Port Campbell the next evening to warm ourselves up!

This marked the end of the Great Ocean Road for us as we intended to double back & head out to the Eest of Melbourne for the remainder of the trip – but there was one destination I didn’t want to miss – Timboon Distillery.

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Timboon Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Nestled as it is in the pleasant valley town of Timboon at the end of an old disused railway line – Timboon Distillery is part of the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail. We both sat down for a tasty mid-morning snack of locally produced artisanal foods. I also got chatting to Josh – the master distiller & owner of the distillery and friendly eatery.

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Meet the maker. c/othewhiskeynut

The still was rather small compared to Irish & Scottish standards – but it was attractively situated in the corner of the restaurant along with some quarter casks aging the spirit. The mash for the distillate was provided by a local craft brewery Forrest Brewing. I sampled Timboon’s Port Cask offering at 41% & found it a lovely rich, dark & slightly heavy single malt – well I am always partial to a port cask finish. So much so I bought one of their 200ml bottles to take home with me.

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Timboon casks & still. c/othewhiskeynut

There happened to be a booklet which caught my eye as well.

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The Whiskey Trail c/othewhiskeynut

The Whiskey Trail. Illicit Whiskey Distillers in South West Victoria. I had to have it.

Inside are the stories of hardy frontier men & women who had fled poverty & starvation in their home countries of Britain & Ireland of the 1850’s to carve out a new life in Australia. They often faced hardship in that venture & many turned to illicit distilling to keep themselves afloat. Descendants of these settlers have produced this highly informative booklet & placed plaques at historical sites to make up a whiskey trail.

It just so happened our intended route took in a few!

Obviously Timboon Distillery is part of the trail – with a display on the wall showing the history.

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Cobden Whiskey Trail Plaque c/othewhiskeynut

Next stop was the former Cobden Police Station where many of the raids started from. It now happens to be an ‘op shop’ – or charity shop – where we handily picked up a duvet & pillows to make our nights in the Wicked camper more comfortable!

Lunch stop was in the agricultural town of Camperdown with it’s fine wide avenue. The old Courthouse happens to have a whiskey plaque on it – but the very helpful tourist information officer inside was unaware of it’s existence!

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Rabbie Burns in Oz! c/othewhiskeynut

We took her outside to show her when I eventually found it – and in return she informed us of the lifesize sculpture of Rabbie Burns!

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Snout In The Trough c/othewhiskeynut

And a lovely spot to eat at the Snout In The Trough food, wine & beer emporium!  Marvelous. Like Natalie Imbruglia sings – I’m ‘Wishing I Was There’ again.

The randomness of finding a whiskey trail founded on illicit distillers – some of whom were from Ireland – followed by a Scottish icon who enjoyed a drop or two but was actually employed as a tax inspector himself – all washed down by some gorgeous Aussie whisky – now I wasn’t expecting that at the end of The Great Ocean Road!

Sláinte.

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Nant Whisky Bar, Hobart

Recent financial shenanigans in Tasmania only highlight the large stakes at play in trying to develop a whisky distillery.

Nant Whisky Distilling  – which had a somewhat troubled financial history – are currently in receivership whilst the sorry mess is sorted out.

It remains to be seen how this new development will play out for the very attractive looking distillery in Bothwell – which I didn’t manage to visit – and a trio of whisky bars – including the one in Hobart which I did call into.

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The Nant, Hobart c/othewhiskeynut

Situated in the wonderfully attractive quayside area of Salamanca Market in downtown Hobart, The Nant Whisky Bar offers punters a large comfortable space to enjoy an evenings libations.

I happened to be the only customer for an early morning – 11ish – visit on a beautifully sunny yet cold winter’s day – complete with a dusting of snow on the slopes of Mt Wellington which rises up behind the city.

There was a good range of whiskies behind the bar – Scotch, Japanese, Irish & some American too – but I did notice Nant were the only Australian representatives on show. Now OK. This is a ‘tied’ bar – but as Tasmanian whisky is promoting a friendly camaraderie & all the other bars in town had at least 2 or 3 Tasmanian distilleries products on show – it did make me ponder.

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The Nant Bar c/othewhiskeynut

There was a choice of 2 Nant whisky flights to enjoy. The cask strength at 63% – or the standard 43% offering.

Now there are some expressions that are perfectly drinkable at 60% and above – but they are few and far between. I also find adding water a rather imprecise exercise which would probably bring down the liquid close to the 43% level anyway – and as it was still the morning – the standard flight it was.

I think I chose well. Even at 43% there was a strong alcoholic kick on the nose of all 3 single malt expressions.

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Nant whisky flight c/othewhiskeynut

Starting with the American Bourbon Cask, there were the signature vanilla & caramel notes coming through. Very nice – but very familiar. I’d find it hard on a blind tasting to distinguish this Australian malt from the best Scotland or Ireland has to offer.

The American Sherry Cask brought added depth & fruity notes. Whilst the darkest coloured French Port Cask bottle gave the heaviest mouthfeel with deeper & richer notes. The Port Cask – as you may have already guessed – came out tops for me.

Oddly, the Bourbon Cask was the priciest to buy – at tear inducing prices – which when I questioned the bartender, she shot me a look which suggested I shouldn’t follow Kasabian’s advice & Shoot The Runner!

With the future of Nant Distilling now very uncertain – the labels, design & content of any further releases may change. There are barrels still maturing – but who knows what will happen to them.

Perhaps what I sampled back in 2016 are destined to become collectors items never to be repeated again?

I’m just happy to have had the opportunity to taste what I did at the time.

Whisky.

It ebbs and flows on the fortunes & failures of the time.

Catch it while you can.

Sláinte.

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My Top 3 Whiskey Events of 2016

Looking back on 2016 with my whiskey glasses on has been a wonderful journey.

Events without the glasses on leave a lot to be desired.

It marked my 1st full calendar year – Jan to Dec – of the blog along with a growing audience, new friends, new events and above all – some lovely whiskey.

Picking out a few highlights from the many is no easy task. I’ve distilled it down to 3 events that were not only enjoyable at the time but I think will have an impact in the following year.

1 The launch of Galway Bay Irish Whiskey

A collaborative team from the 11 venues of The Galway Whiskey Trail selected this Gold Medal winning 10 year old single malt made at West Cork Distillers to be sold on the trail. I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the trail during an otherwise dull January day.

The launch night itself in May aboard the Aran Islands ferry on the stunning Galway Bay with wonderful company & beautiful scenery certainly deserves a Whiskey Nut Award for the best new whiskey launch of the year!

I’m definitely looking forward to a growing list of whiskey trails around Ireland. Especially as the Irish Whiskey Association aims to be a world leader in whiskey tourism.

And perhaps some new whiskeys specific to each trail?

2 The rebirth of rye in Irish Whiskey

Brian Nation’s speech at the Irish Whiskey Awards in Tullamore highlighted innovation within the industry.

I had tears of joy when he mentioned Irish Distillers are currently growing 140ha of rye near Enniscorthy for potential use in recreating old John Jameson recipes uncovered by the archive department that included rye in the mix.

Later in the evening some whiskey friends from America were sharing a bottle of Emerald American Whiskey.

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The Emerald c/othewhiskeynut

Well I say American Whiskey as that’s where it was produced and matured.

But the recipe is based on an 1865 Irish Whiskey recorded for posterity by a British excise agent and includes both malted and unmalted barley along with some oats & rye.

It tasted divine.

Not long after that I came across Prize Fight Irish Whiskey at Whiskey Live Dublin.

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Prize Fight Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Another West Cork Distillers produced whiskey that has been finished in ex-rye barrels from Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the dry mouthfeel and rich spicy punch associated with a rye whiskey came through in this delightful blend. Wonderful!

To top it off Fionnan O’Connor wrote an excellent piece in the inaugural Irish Whiskey Magazine which delved in to the history of mash bills commonly used in Irish whisky production in the 1800’s and what do you know? Rye featured quite a bit to the extent that a certain Andrew Jameson went to the trouble of importing the grain as Irish sources were hard to come by .

My mouth is already watering in anticipation of future Irish rye releases.

3 My trip to Tas

My Australian adventure was ostensibly for a wedding but I used it to sample & taste as much Aussie whisky as I could come across on my travels.

The variety of styles, tastes & flavours had me enthralled.

Tasmania was undoubtedly the jewel in the crown. It’s home to a growing number of whiskey distilleries including Lark, Overeem, Hellyers Road and the wonderful Belgrove Distillery which produces some astounding rye whisky – well – what else would you expect? – combined with fabulous scenery, wildlife & fine dining.

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Bruny Island Tasmania c/othewhiskeynut

The trend of countries not normally associated with whiskey production will continue as witnessed by Italy’s highly praised Puni Whisky.

My future holiday plans will always try and seek out new and exciting whiskey in whatever destination I end up in.

So what would be your whiskey highlights of 2016?

Drop me a line or post on my facebook or twitter accounts.

Many thanks for reading and a shout out to all those I’ve met along the way.

Happy dramming for 2017!

Slainte.

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Bruny is Bonzer

Trying to drive up Mt Wellington and then take a ferry ride to an off-shore island in the middle of a winter’s storm probably wasn’t our finest hour – but it was our last day on Tasmania.

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Mt Wellington c/othewhiskeynut

The snow covered top of Mt Wellington eluded us as the access road was blocked by fallen trees due to the high winds that made walking along O’Gradys Falls Track a bit hazardous. We were rewarded however by some stunning views of the Mt above us and Hobart itself below.

A reviving mid-morning snack had to be delayed as the nearby cafe – and surrounding area – had no electricity due to broken power lines. A detour to Mt Nelson satisfied us with some tea & cakes looking over the indented coastline framed by a permanent rainbow that lay off to the east.

Heading in that direction down the Huon Valley we passed by suburbs with names like Kingston, Margate and Blackmans Bay, home to a lovely sandy beach…

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Blackmans Bay c/othewhiskeynut

And Overeem Distillery. Sited in the owners back garden the distillery isn’t open to visitors but does produce some stunning single malt whisky which I managed to sample later on in my trip.

Nearing Kettering signs for Bruny Island appeared and on a whim Mrs Whiskey suggested we go there. Despite the high winds and squally weather the ferry ride was very smooth. Half an hour later we were driving on Bruny itself and rounding a corner came across House Of Whisky.

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House Of Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Sat on a slight rise overlooking a sheltered bay House Of Whisky isn’t what you expect on a small island. It’s a treasure trove of Tasmanian whisky containing a myriad of bottles from all the distilleries – allegedly the largest collection of Tasmanian single malt whisky in the world!

I could have stayed all day!

But one look from herself reminded me I was the driver and that WE were on holiday together to explore the scenery and had an island to see whilst the weather was still reasonable!

I quietly arranged to call in on our way back for a snack.

At over 100km long Bruny Island is made up of North Island and South Island separated by a picturesque narrow isthmus called The Neck. We chose to head North to Dennes Point on the appropriately named Storm Bay. Very quickly we left the tarmac behind and drove on dirt roads which ran through pleasant pasture land interspersed with some forest & scrub.

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Foaming seas on Bruny c/othewhiskeynut

A picnic table beside the beach was being lashed by salty spray from the foaming sea whipped up by the winds and I feared for the state of the hired car on our return.

A row of distinctive post boxes by the roadside in an otherwise deserted forest area hinted to a sparsely populated island.

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Post boxes on Bruny c/othewhiskeynut

The crowning glory of the island has to be the stunning vista of The Neck which despite the grey skies, rolling seas and brooding storm clouds still captivated me with it’s rugged beauty. Home to thousands of Fairy Penguins and Short-Tailed Shearwaters, The Neck marked our turning point as we headed back for the ferry.

A bowl of award winning hot & tasty chowder duly warmed us inside House Of Whisky after our bracing walks. Herself enjoyed a fine Tasmanian wine whilst I had some difficulty choosing which whisky to taste from the bewildering display.

I went for one of only 2 Tasmanian Whisky Bottlers – Heartwood, The Revelation.

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Heartwood The Revelation c/othewhiskeynut

Tim Heartwood matures casks of Tasmanian single malt to his own particular style and requirements which he then releases at cask strength. At 62.5% this Tasmanian sphagnam peated expression distilled at Lark Distillery certainly packed a punch. Rich & full bodied with a 50% peat influence I was expecting a bigger peaty hit rather than the soft afterglow of a barbie by the billabong.

‘Aha’ added the very helpful owner who also is the proprietor of Trapper’s Hut whisky.

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Trapper’s Hut Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

‘That’s because it’s Tasmanian peat, it tastes more soft than Scottish peat.’

It certainly is a different taste experience to a traditional peated Scotch.

It got me wondering what an Irish whiskey would taste like containing Irish barley infused with Irish peat?

At present, peated Irish expressions use Scottish peated barley. There are historical and economical reasons for this – but I’m pretty sure there would be a slight taste difference if it was tried.

Heartwood The Revelation had it’s own characteristics in contrast to similarly peated Scotch expressions which endeared itself to me.

Locally produced with ingredients sourced locally – Heartwood has provenance and terroir in abundance.

Alas a ferry awaited us so I couldn’t indulge in more whisky tastings. Oh for a more elongated and relaxed visit!

It took just over an hour to get back to Hobart. The heavens opened up in almost biblical proportions on the way, washing the car of all the sea salt and dirt track mud acquired on Bruny.

Our memories of Bruny and House Of Whisky will not be so easily discarded.

If you ever get the chance, give Bruny a visit.

It’s bonzer.

Slainte.

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Diggers & Ditch, Double Malt, 45%

Australian whisky doesn’t do blends – as yet.

Single malts are their speciality.

In my brief visit down under I only found one blend that contained Aussie whisky.

Diggers &Ditch could be more accurately called a blended malt.

It’s a mixture of an unnamed Tasmanian single malt with a Dunedin Distillery malt from New Zealand.

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Spirit Of The ANZAC’s c/othewhiskeynut

The collaboration is to honour the ANZAC – Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – who fought and died in World War 1.

The antipodean relationship with the former colonial master and royalty is still very much in evidence today. Perhaps a vote to finally break all ties would be as divisive as Brexit.

What is not divisive is the quality of this spirit – nor this lovely New Zealand songstress –  Lorde.

Bottled at 45%, Diggers &Ditch has a welcome heavier rich malt feel than the generally lighter Tasmanian whiskies I tried. It may be the ex red wine French Oak influence or simply the New Zealand style. Either way it certainly tickled my tastebuds and opened up a new country for me to explore whisky wise.

Lovely to see New Zealand re-enter whisky production.

Sláinte.

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Whisky Live Melbourne 2016

By fortuitous chance – and a little rearranging of travel plans – my trip to Oz coincided with Whisky Live Melbourne.

I couldn’t let such an opportunity pass by so booked my ticket online even before the flight plans had been finalised!

Held in the fine looking St Kilda Town Hall – I arrived early to find a queue of fellow whisky fans eagerly awaiting the delights inside. Having previously attended a similar show in Dublin last year I made sure I was well hydrated and fed before the event.

My original plan to sample as much Australian whisky as I could had to be revised as browsing the pre-show website it became clear not many Aussie distilleries were attending. They didn’t need to! Their limited releases usually sold out very quickly leaving little stock leftover for sampling at shows.

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Paul at Pilgrim c/othewhiskeynut

The only representative of the new crop of Aussie distilleries happened to be Melbourne’s own Starward whisky where I reacquainted myself with Paul Slater who had so eloquently guided me through their portfolio during his Starward Talk &Taste evening at Pilgrim Bar the night before.

The lovely Apera and Wine Cask releases were on display at Whisky Live – but Paul had something under the table new to me – New World Projects X .

The contrast between your minds perception of what a clear spirit should be like – and want you actually experience on tasting – is certainly an interesting experience. It’s definitely whisky – if a little more oily and sweet than the Solera release on which a 3rd distillation has removed the colour to obtain Project X.

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Project X c/othewhiskeynut

In a similar vein, Glendalough – one of 3 Irish stands at the show – had their Sherry Cask Irish Poitin which I tried in an almost mirror effect to Starward. In this case the unaged spirit has rested for a short while in sherry casks to give a lovely rich brown colour to the liquid which upon tasting gave a sweetness to the rather young spirit in the bottle. I found both these expressions a rather novel approach which would certainly be a talking point if offered to guests from the drinks cabinet!

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Glendalough Poitin collection c/othewhiskeynut

Leaving Australia behind, India was the next nearest whisky producing country to exhibit with Paul John Distilleries being the sole representative.

I’d read lots of rave reviews about their whisky so eagerly accepted an invitation to be guided through the range by an enthusiastic ambassador who passionately informed me of the manufacturing process as well as the greedy angels in Goa which result in the wonderfully rich fruity & very tasty single malts before me.

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Go on! Try a Goan whisky! c/othewhiskeynut

After 4 of these fine malts were tried I found it hard to pick a favourite between the Bold Edition at 46% or the stunning Select Cask Peated at 58%!  Both we’re delicious and deserve all the praise they have attracted.

Following on from my 4th of July blog I thought I’d further explore the American contribution to whiskey by starting with 2 distilleries new to me.

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Appalachian Gap in Melbourne c/othewhiskeynut

Appalachian Gap Snowfall is an unaged Vermont spirit made with a corn,barley and rye mash. The sweet corn influence took the edge off the 54% ABV together with a pleasant rye spice which I liked and a slightly oily mouthfeel. Their Kaffekask 44% release whereby the whisky is filtered through coffee beans in a Lincoln County Process style certainly brought a coffee kick to the table but was too sweet for my tastes. I declined the Kaffekask Liqueur.

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Dry Fly dispensing! c/othewhiskeynut

Dry Fly Distilling from Washington State had a slightly more traditional selection using 100% wheat mash offerings at both 40% & 60% cask strength as well as a Port Finish at 43%. The combination of vanilla sweetness together with a slightly harsh finish didn’t endear them to me but the Triticale Whiskey I found much more appealing. Triticale is a hybrid grain derived from wheat and rye varieties and Dry Fly claims to be the first using this type of grain in a whiskey. The sweetness was still there but softened by a smoothness and slight spicy rye finish.

Woodford Reserve had a stall – but I found nothing of note.

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A pair of Jacks c/othewhiskeynut

Jack Daniels were next door with 5 releases for the Australian market. Not being a fan of Old No.7 I went straight for the No.27 Gold. At 40% this expression took me by surprise. The lovely pronounced spicy finish had me hooked. Even better than the Gentleman Jack release which I’m partial to. The Jack representative on the stall reliably informed me the double mellowing through 10 foot of sugar maple as well as additional barrel finishes provided the flavour boost. In this instance Sinatra didn’t sing for me!

Having called in at Glendalough I thought I’d better say hello to both Hyde and Tipperary.

Hyde had 3 offerings which I have tried before and enjoyed very much.

Tipperary meanwhile had eluded me with their Rising release so I gave it a go. Oh dear! Far too sweet for my liking.

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Tipperary Boutique Distillery at Whisky Live Melbourne c/othewhiskeynut

My last port of call before turning to the largest contingent of the show – Scottish whisky – was to Sigrun, an Australian importer of Scandinavian malts. Mackmyra & Box from Sweden, Floki from Iceland and Teerenpeli from Finland were in attendance.

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Floki Young Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Sheep dung is used to dry the 100% Icelandic barley Floki is made with. It’s an unaged offering at 47% which gave a characteristic oily mouthfeel together with a slightly off-putting sour note for me. Pity – as I really enjoyed my visit to Rekyavik a few years ago. Maybe further ageing will mature it to my tastes.

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Teerenpeli Rasi c/othewhiskeynut

Teerenpeli Rasi appealed to me instantly with it’s lovely well balanced light smooth taste. I must try out more of these Scandinavian expressions!

My remaining time at the show – along with staying hydrated from the water coolers placed handily around the hall and partaking in some tasty snacks from the centrally placed canteen buffet – consisted of Scotch.

I challenged my peat tolerance by going for the peat monster that is Octmore 7.1. Wow! Peat then spice and an explosion of flavour. Now I get it.

I ventured into NAS territory with Ardmore Legacy, Talisker Skye, Jura Superstition and Laphroig Quarter Cask. Only the Jura I found disappointing with it’s over sweetness.

A trio of Finlaggan expressions from an unnamed Islay distillery – or even distilleries – were all very engaging with the cask strength coming out tops.

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Finlaggan Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

The Glenrothes  rep impressed me very much by keeping a large audience enthralled with his sales patter as he went through a series of releases AND topping up all the glasses at the same time. By this point in the evening I couldn’t quiet keep up with him and my tasting notes were becoming illegible! Suffice to say the one that stood out for me – Glenrothes Vintage 1992 2nd Release had the most balanced nose complemented by a complex cacophony of taste – happened to be one of the priciest.

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Glenrothes in action c/othewhiskeynut

Despite there being a large shop at the back where eager whisky geeks could purchase rare or hard to find expressions – I simply immersed myself in the wonderful opportunity Whisky Live events provide in sampling a wide variety of styles, strengths and regions of whisky production throughout the world. Conversations soon flow as to the merits of NAS vs Age Statements, Bourbon vs Whisky, to chill filter or not and even to add water or not.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Whisky Live Melbourne.

If ever a Whisky Live event comes your way – make a beeline for it.

You won’t be disappointed.

Oh! Don’t over do it.

The combination of drinking plenty of water inbetween samples as well as topping up with a lovely goat curry from the wittily named iCurry restaurant on St Kilda Road afterwards ensured I woke up relatively bright and cheery to face yet another day of adventure in Melbourne.

Slainte

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‘Twas Lashing In Launceston

Despite being July – it’s winter in Tasmania and a heavy depression was forecast bearing snow. We decided to head North out of Hobart for the day to avoid the white stuff.

The spectacular scenery of the Derwent River Valley soon had us in awe prompting many stops for photos. Very quickly we passed by road signs naming towns I knew harboured whisky distilleries. Alas – being the driver for the day meant I had to pass them by!

Cambridge – Home to the Lark Distillery after moving out of it’s Hobart base.

Kempton – The whole farm to bottle ethos of Peter Bignell certainly produces some excellent rye whisky.

Redlands Distillery is also in the town.

Bothwell – The Nant Distillery has it’s picturesque base here.

There were also a myriad of signs beckoning the wine lover to vineyards. Tasmania is truly full of wine, whisky and beer production to please all tastes.

The rains soon came down after we had crossed over Spring Hill Tier which at nearly 400m / 1300ft is one of the highest points on the Midland Highway. Rains so persistent and heavy that it reminded Mrs Whiskey of driving to work in Galway!

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Pert Post Office c/othewhiskeynut

I only got out of the car for a brief photo opportunity at Perth. Partly as the Post Office corrugated iron work architecture appealed to me and also in homage to Perth in Scotland – once a hotbed of whisky distilling and blending being former hometown to Bells, Dewars and Famous Grouse.

By the time we reached our destination of Launceston there were flood reports on the radio. It reminded us of Midlands 103 back home and the flooding in Athlone – although we both had to laugh at the irony of Dangerous Dave on Heart 107.3 as he tended to play the most inoffensive  middle of the road rock ever. We did sing along though – despite the downpour outside! Shame he didn’t play this exciting slice of Aussie pop.

Launceston also happens to have a new whisky distillery in the making – Launceston Distillery – as well as housing the James Boag Brewery of which tours are available.

We chose some lunch however.

Pierre’s Restaurant Brasserie seemed to satisfy both of our requirements. Fine food for herself and some fine whisky for me.

We weren’t disappointed.

The warm sumptuous interior contrasted with the wild wet weather outside. There were quite a few lunchtime diners delaying their departure until the deluge subsided.

I ordered a bowl of hot tasty soup along with a Nant American Oak Sherry Wood Single Cask – well – we had passed by the distillery on the way. The sherry finish gave a sweet body to the rather light yet well balanced single malt.

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Nant American Oak Single Cask c/othewhiskeynut

Hesrelf had a lovely wine and Thai fish cakes.

Tasmania seems to excel in it’s gastronomic delights. Our meal was only a light snack yet was bursting with flavours – much like the Tassie whisky!

I got chatting with some of the friendly helpful staff. They have quite a range of Tassie whisky on show at the front bar. Whisky and gin tasting evenings have been held which were  very well attended and enjoyed. More events supporting locally produced food & drinks are always being explored.It’s a pity we wouldn’t be around for the next extravaganza.

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Pierre’s whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Luckily by the time we had finished our lovely meal the rains had eased allowing us a visit to Launceston Cataract Gorge which was our intended tourist spot of the day.

The heavily wooded steep sided slopes drop down to a raging river below swelled by all the recent precipitation. A cable car ride across the ravine is a high point but sadly it happened to be closed. We made do with a walk along the forested trail. Dusk wasn’t far away and some of the local wildlife made their presence felt.

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Tasmanian Pademelon c/oMrsWhiskey

A quick snap of the animal confirmed it to be a Tasmanian Pademelon. A small type of kangaroo only found in Tasmania and normally nocturnal in it’s habits. Seeing it certainly made us happy to have spotted a few of them in their natural environment.

Not a bad way to end our trip to Launceston – despite the lashing rain!

Slainte

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MONA And The Art Of Distillation

After a morning sampling Tasmanian single malts at the Lark Cellar Door Bar and Nant Whiskey Bar, Mrs Whiskey rang to say I had 10 minutes to make the pier for the ferry to MONA – Museum of Old And New Art- and our cultural afternoon out.

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Amoosing cow! c/othewhiskeynut

The ferry itself is a funky catamaran which has it’s own art installations in the shape of painted plastic sheep & a cow on the aft deck which amused the passengers very much.

Talking about funky – who remembers this slice of 80’s Aussie pop?

I was even more amused to find out the museum also produces it’s own wine and beer – how cool is that? – so what better way of enjoying the scenic boat trip up the Derwent River than with a glass of Moorilla wine or Moo Brew beer?

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Moo Brew Dark Ale c/othewhiskeynut

Coming in a very stylish wine-bottle shaped glass container with a trendy design – I just hoped the contents were equally as good. The Dark Ale didn’t disappoint. Rich, black & heavy with a noticeable malt content and sweet caramel notes on top – just my kind of art. Herself enjoyed the wine too!

Arriving at the rocky peninsular the museum is set on the rains luckily abated to allow us to view the outdoor exhibits. A life-size sculpture of a low loader truck & trailer complete with cement mixer on top stole centre stage. Having driven the real thing for my living the detail amazed me – along with my curious mind wondering how many tonnes of steel rod went into making it and how did they get it here?

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Intricate Iron Work c/othewhiskeynut

Moving inside we descended down into the sandstone bedrock of the small hill the museum is sat on. A spectacular underground gallery awaits your exploration housing all sorts of weird, wonderful and thought provoking art in it’s myriad of forms.

A waterfall display spelled out random words against the bare walls using a giant inkjet type assembly –  but with water – impressed us for starters. Very simple design – yet stunning to see and hear.

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The labyrinth of MONA c/othewhiskeynut

We wondered the labyrinth of rooms & spaces alternately gazing in awe – or being nonplussed – by the variety and cornucopia of art within. Some we loved – others we didn’t – but either way it instilled a reaction or questioning of what it was all about.

As usual a break was in order. This is where MONA excelled itself – at least in my eyes. The Void Bar on the basement floor set at the foot of the sandstone dungeon had a fine array of Tasmanian whisky to try!

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The Void Bar @ MONA c/othewhiskeynut

Not what I was expecting in a museum.

How could I refuse?

Having driven past Peter Bignell’s distillery at Kempton the other day I just had to try his Belgrove White Rye expression. It’s an unaged new spirit – hence the clear liquid. At  40% the young alcohol content is noticeable but the nose is full of rotting fruit notes, sweet but enticing, and a slight rye spice too. The rye comes through more on the taste along with pleasing fruit & spice. Not what I’d expect from a new spirit. It’s different, it’s unique, it’s got terroir and provenance in abundance and it’s utterly enticing. I could have sat for the rest of the afternoon in this fabulous setting enjoying the fruits of Peter Bignell’s art of distillation!

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Belgrove White Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Herself – despite enjoying the wine & nibbles we had – insisted we see some more of the real art before catching the ferry home.

The fat Porsche did take my eye – but most of the others passed me by as the cumulative affect of art overload together with some lovely whiskies was beginning to take it’s toll. I did wonder though how the human model remained so still displaying the tattoo art on his back and would have gone up to ask him were it not for the museum attended close by. 

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Human art – looking forward to a glass of Tassie whisky at the bar below? c/othewhiskeynut

By the time we exited darkness was already falling. There was much to discuss on the ferry home as to what we had viewed and experienced at MONA.

The ferry ride?

The art?

The scenery?

For me it was a combination of all those things topped off with a Moo Brew ale and a stunning Tasmanian  whisky that made the day.

What a fitting venue to enjoy the art of whisky distillation in!

Sláinte.

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