Tag Archives: Tasmania

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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N for New Zealand 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 N for New Zealand Whisky.

Well – to be honest – this is a blend of New Zealand and Australian whisky, but at least I’ve managed to try it!

Originally posted December 2016

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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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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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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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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The Mania in Tasmania was fierce

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.

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McHenry Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Green Rosella c/othewhiskeynut

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!

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Some Customs House Hotel whisky c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Breakfast at Customs House Hotel c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Slainte.

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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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