Tag Archives: Melbourne

Aussie Whisky For Australia Day

Australia Day is on January 26th.

What better occasion to celebrate by tasting a few Australian whiskies?

Now I must admit to downing these whiskies a wee while ago – but the memories of them and the great times I enjoyed on my visit down under still linger.

The Aussie whisky scene is built mainly around small batch runs of single cask single malt offerings which change on a regular basis. What I tasted may no longer be available – but the quality I found will undoubtedly continue.

Bad Frankie’s bar in Melbourne specializes in Aussie whisky. I was taken aback by the variety of styles, tastes & flavours of whisky on offer.  I had to return for a 2nd visit the day before my flight home. The experience was Out The Window – cue for a song.

For my 1st visit to Bad Frankie press here.

Again I availed of the 5 samples for $40 – it was 2016 – and chose the following.

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Bakery Hill c/othewhiskeynut

Bakery Hill Classic Malt, 46%

A fine sweet bourbon cask influenced single malt with a good smooth well balanced delivery.

Bakery Hill are one of the larger whisky distilleries operating out of Melbourne. They produce a core range of malts and have gained much appreciation. This whisky stands up very well with any comparisons worldwide.

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Belgrove Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Belgrove Rye Pinot Noir Cask, 63.4%

Just wow! Spicy rye softened by dark fruits in a powerful full strength mouthfeel. A wonderful experience.

Belgrove are a micro distillery in Tasmania using all home grown rye & barley distilled in home made kit by Peter Bignell. Out of this world.

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Southern Coast PX c/othewhiskeynut

Southern Coast PX Cask, 65.5%

A rich dark fruits tasting single malt of character & strength.

Southern Coast is a private bottling for the Odd Whisky Coy in Adelaide. There’s a bit of a story here. A story of money – or lack of it – whisky, fame, fortune & law courts. You can read more here.  All I can say is the whisky tastes fab.

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Iniquity c/othewhiskeynut

Iniquity Batch 004, 46%

A calmer smoother more balanced fruity & fresh whisky.

Iniquity are what came out of the court case above. Nice whisky – but lacked the power of the former cask strength expression.

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Redlands Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Redlands The Old Stable, 46%

A rich inviting nose had an odd taste in the middle but left a lovely spicy finish.

Redlands are another Tasmanian whisky distillery offering limited batch releases of fine quality. This one just didn’t sit right with me.

Having enjoyed the above selection – a full portion of Southern Coast Port Cask at 50% was ordered as the PX cask was such a winner.

This came with an unbelievably dark colour – all natural I was told – and an equally lovely dark & rich tasting experience. Just wonderful.

We also indulged in a Bad Frankie speciality – Lamington jaffles – but these proved a little too dry – unlike the juicy whisky!

Sláinte

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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.

 

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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From Whisky Bay To Starward Whisky

Our last night in the Wicked Camper was in the wonderful Wilsons Promontory National Park at Tidal River.

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Tidal River at Wilsons Prom c/othewhiskeynut

Being winter there were only a few fellow campers about but the abundant wildlife more than made up for that. We encountered Emu, wondering Wombat, Kangaroo and heard a calling Lyre Bird on our way in. Curious Kookaburra and colourful Crimson Rosella hung around everytime we had the dinner table out for a meal.

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Kookaburra c/othewhiskeynut

The bright sunny day turned into an equally bright – but chilly – starry evening and we celebrated with a bottle of champagne. The next morning it was back to Melbourne for a few days before the long flight home.

This track from up and coming Aussie band Jagwar Ma encapsulates how I felt in this beautiful place. Chillaxed!

We dilly-dallied in the morning – such is the beauty of the Prom. Taking a walk on Squeaky Beach together with a few photos at Whisky Bay.

By the time we entered Melbourne proper it soon became clear that finding the AirBnB in St Kilda and returning the camper to the hire depot would be tight. So tight in fact I had to abandon the vehicle near the closed depot and hightail it back into town for my evening Talk + Taste with Starward Whisky at Pilgrim Bar.

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Dogbolter – lager with a burnt taste c/othewhiskeynut

Pilgrim’s friendly staff greeted me like a long lost friend – remembering me from my last visit 3 weeks previously. With a half hour to spare I ordered a light snack together with a glass of Matilda Bay Dogbolter. This beer is a munich style dark lager which gives a lovely soft burnt taste to the lager and is as close as you can get to the peat influence in whisky for the beer world.

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Paul at Pilgrim c/othewhiskeynut

Safely seated inside Paul Slater – Starward Whisky brand ambassador – introduced himself and his whiskies with an informative history of Australian whisky distilling to date. From the illegal distilleries of early migrants in the 1800’s, through the mass industrial distilling and dubious quality of Corio Whisky in Geelong to todays award winning Tasmanian single malts.

Starward aim to be somewhere in the middle of of those 2 extremes. Neither poor quality nor hard to get hold of or highly priced. They have recently upped production to a continuous 7 day week at the Melbourne based distillery to satisfy demand for their whisky and help keep prices affordable.

So what do they actually taste like?

Well on show this evening were the 2 core releases,  Starward Solera and Starward Wine Cask.

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Starward Solera c/othewhiskeynut

Solera at 43% is a single malt aged in Australian fortified wine casks – that’s sherry to you and me but as sherry has a Geographical Indication attaching it to Spain it’s called apera in Australia. The whisky has a soft sweet nose together with a fruity medium body and slight spice at the finish. Very nice indeed,

The Wine Cask – as it’s name suggests – is aged in Australian wine barrels and bottled at 41%. This is a more satisfying single malt to me giving a more smoother yet richer body with a lovely dry finish.

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Starward Wine Cask c/othewhiskeynut

Both these whiskies being made in Australia using locally sourced water, barely, yeast and barrels have that terroir factor which is often missing in many a modern brand and truly give the drinker a taste of Oz.

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Fine whisky & tasty food c/othewhiskeynut

Paul then introduced us to a Starward made ready mixed Old Fashioned. Not particularly being a cocktail fan – despite it being all the rage right now – I found it too sweet for my liking. The rest of the audience enjoyed it however especially as it was paired with some deliciously tasty canapes freshly prepared by the Pilgrim chef.

The last sample came from a New World Projects bottling. This is part of a range of whisky expressions made on a limited release basis that push the boundaries of what a whisky is, should be or can be. Not being restrained by hard set rules like the Scottish Whisky Association – anything goes in Oz.

A very popular bottle was the Ginger Beer Cask finished whisky which very quickly sold out sadly meaning I missed out on a fun taste experience!

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New World Projects PX Cask c/othewhiskeynut

Tonights sample was a Pedro Ximinez finished single malt bottled at 48%. Even before I tasted this I knew it was a style I enjoyed. The rich tart fruity finish certainly had me enthralled. A winning whisky indeed. Pity the whole experience of importing PX barrels from Spain proved so fraught with bureaucracy – let alone cost – that Starward probably won’t repeat this excercise.

Starward are already making waves in the global market. Diageo have recently injected some capital into the project to help it’s growth and so far the creative and innovative flair of the New World Projects series is continuing.

None of the bottles had age statements. From 2 years onwards the new spirit can be called whisky in Australia although Starward only use the best casks from a variety of ages for their single malts. The climate at the Essendon distillery on the outskirts of Melbourne also helps give the spirit a faster maturation time period than is standard in Ireland or Scotland.

The distillery itself also has regular open days. What better way of enjoying a taste of the fine whisky on offer at Starward after being given a guided tour of how and where it is made whilst gazing at the racks of whisky barrels slowly maturing nearby?

Go on – give Starward a go.

They’ll be coming to a store near you very soon!

Sláinte.

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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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Belgrove Rye c/othewhiskeynut

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 a 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.

Slainte.

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