Antipodean Whisky

Since I've moved from Seattle to Australia for a while, my interest in locally-produced single malt whiskies has increased. I'll start posting more info as I get it, along with tasting notes, etc.

[Bill Lark and Still - April, 2002]

Lark Distillery, Hobart, Tasmania

Bill Lark was the first person to take out a distillation license in Tasmania in 1992, and has been distilling ever since. This picture shows him next to his current combination spirit / wash still, used for distilling his single malt whisky. (He has other, smaller stills for other products such as his Bush Liqueur.) Next month (May, 2002), he is getting a new, larger wash still, built by a local engineering firm. This will allow him to increase his output, since he currently has to run the wash still three times to generate a single charge for the spirit still. Current production level is approximately 130 litres of spirit per week. All the malt he uses is peated to a level of 20 ppm. Most of the output goes into 110 litre barrels, remanufactured from sherry casks (the inside is then shaved, to avoid "pink" whisky, then recharred). He occasionally uses new American oak barrels, in which he stores sherry for 3 months to get rid of the worst of the overpowering "new wood" flavors / effects. These are substantially smaller than barrels commonly used in the industry, which results in his spirit maturing much faster. At the moment, all of his whisky is released at 3 years of age; the small barrels result in it having a maturity equivalent to 7-8 year old scotch whisky. He has reached the point where he can start maturing some spirit longer, up to 10 years; until now, he has had trouble meeting the demand for his 3 year old product.

[Bottle of Great Outback]

Great Outback

Great Outback is an Australian single malt. I've heard that it was first distilled in 1982 at the old Milne Distillery in Geelong, Victoria. At one point, the Swift and Moore web site said that the Milne distillery was in South Australia (Note, Swift and Moore is no more, now it is Brown-Forman Australia.) This particular bottling is supposed to be an unpeated 15 year old that was matured in American oak. The Cawsey Menck website says "distilled in the southern states of Australia" and "carefully matured in the great Australian Outback." The bottle label is a little more precise, and states "Distilled in Tasmania" - so much for the Geelong connection. Any connection with Corior Distillery, in Corio Victoria, owned by Distillers Pty Ltd at one point?

We cracked the bottle open at a gathering of the usual suspects. We were all somewhat apprehensive, but ended up being pleasantly surprised (to the tune of ordering several more bottles between the lot of us.) First impression was of a sweet, candied nose; aspects of Brilliantine, lanolin, acetone, and mint along with spicy (cinnamon and nutmeg) notes. Seemed to be from a bourbon cask, with only occasional hints of sherry. Light and sweet (barley sugar) on the palate, with the finish showing a slight burnt toffee characteristic. When first opened, it was not at all rough, and rather reminiscent of Suntori, without the metallic overtones; after sitting, it became harsher - so drink it quickly! The mint notes remained, but the burnt / bitter flavors became more dominant.

Tasmania Distillery (formerlly The Small Concern Whisky Distillery)

Tasmanian makers of Cradle Mountain. The "single malt" is locally made; the "double malt" is made from a mixture of Cradle Mountain and Springbank. Note: don't confuse these with the "double single malt" Springbank bottled and distributed by Sam's of Chicago. The Sam's bottling consisted of two casks of Springbank, one distilled 1966, one in 1975, mixed together and bottled in 1994. While this combining of multiple casks is standard practice, and the term "double malt" has been used elsewhere, this Sam's bottling is the first one I am aware of to put the phrase "Double Single" on the label... The distillery stopped production (maybe in 1998??) and supposedly sold the distilling apparatus to Whisky Tasmania (see below).

[Sullivan's Cove]

Sullivan's Cove

Sullivan's Cove is an Australian single malt distilled by the Tasmania Distillery, located in the Sullivan's Cove section of Hobart, Tasmania (just up the road from the Lark Distillery). I haven't cracked open my bottle yet, so no tasting notes. We did, however, open up a bottle of their companion "Old Hobart Cask Strength Pure Single Malt Australian Whisky", and the rest of the group tasted it blind. One of our group immediately identified it very similar to Sullivan's Cove (this was without any hints being given, so the family resemblance is apparently there). More notes coming eventually.


Unfortunately, Lammerlaw is no more as a distillery. To quote from the Meenan Wines and Spirits website:

Wilson's Dunedin Distillery has been dismantled and the bits sold off in 2000. The second distillery in Dunedin's history is now a thing of the past.

Several years ago, when we created "The Spirit of Dunedin", it was done with an experimental batch of malt and grain whiskies, all of which have now be used up. The experimental nature of these whiskies was such that only a small batch was made. Those whiskies were made from peated and plain malt and both whiskies were given a period of 4 years finishing in sherry casks. By combining them with the standard Lammerlaw and a 15yo grain whisky, we were able to create the best blend this country has ever produced - "The Spirit of Dunedin 10yo". Sadly, the stocks are now virtually all gone.

The remaining barrels of Lammerlaw have been bottled into our own label - "12yo Lammerlaw (Special)" and "12yo Lammerlaw (Peated Malt)". These are both fine examples, displaying the typical coconut sweetness associated with this distillery. The Peated version has a much richer and complex flavour, as you would expect, finishing with that same soft sweetness that characterises Lammerlaw.

Milford (New Zealand)

Bottlers of single malt whisky in New Zealand. To quote from their website:

MILFORD... Is a single malt that was distilled and aged in New Zealand's South Island. It was produced at the Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin. This distillery was established around 30 years ago by some Dunedin businessmen of Scottish heritage. The distillery was latterly owned by Seagram who produced the New Zealand single malt that was originally sold under the "Lammerlaw" brand. Lammerlaw was discontinued when Seagram sold the stocks and the Willowbank Distillery around two years ago.

The New Zealand Single Malt Whisky Company have secured the remaining single malt stocks that are still ageing in barrels. The Milford Brand was created to showcase this fine, limited edition, single malt.

The distilling equipment at the Willowbank Distillery has since been dismantled.

The Hoochery

Western Australia distillery specializing in rum, although they do make a corn whiskey as wel

Great Southern Distilling Company

A Western Australia distillery producing a single malt whiskey - Limeburners.

Whisky Tasmania

Whisky Tasmania is a wholly owned subsidiary of Betta Milk, located in Burnie, Tasmania and owned by Laurie House, with Mark Littler as head distiller. For a look at what Jim Murray has been up to with some of the Whisky Tasmania product (DanTaz) - click here. Now apparently doing business as:

Hellyers Road Distillery

Bakery Hill

Bakery Hill is a relatively new distillery near Melbourne. Their line of whiskies was launched during the October 2003 Australian National Malt Convention in Canberra. Details from a Bakery Hill press release are included below:

Bakery Hill Distillery was conceived in early 1998 and after a long gestation period of 3 years produced its first precious drop of new made spirit. Through out those 3 years an immense number of obstacles were successfully traversed but first things first.

After being granted an Applied Science degree majoring in microbiology and biochemistry, David Baker found employment with Kraft Foods using his skills as a Scientific Officer and later Production Superintendent but the problem was always the same, David dreamt of being more creative than producing strawberry same.

After many nights of reflecting into a glass of Australian Red, David thought if this country can make wine the equal of that produced in countries such as France or Germany why canít we make an excellent single malt. Surely with the right ingredients, treated with dignity and carefully matured in wood a whisky as distinctive as any could be produced.

If the best spirit is to be produced, then the best equipment and materials need to be used. As a result of this, a still was commissioned from John Dore and Co, who were known previously as Anaeas Coffey Ltd, the designer and manufacturer of the first effective continuous still. Extended visits to other Australian Distilleries in Tasmania confirmed the decision and provided an invaluable source of technical knowledge and inspiration.

A building was secured in Bayswater, to the East of Melbourne and production commenced late in 1999 using Australian Franklin Barley for the first production of spirit. Because of his scientific training and uncertainty in the preference of the consumers, David decided to produce 3 offerings, an unpeated malt, a peated malt and a double wood where the whisky had contact with both French and American oak casks. The latter were ex Bourbon casks obtained from the Wilsonís Distillery in New Zealand before their recent demise. For the peated malt offering, the company searched for the best quality peated malt available and imported substantial quantities from Scotland.

Nant Distillery

A relatively new distillery located in the central highlands of Tasmania.

Rumours of new Antipodean Whisky

Highland Valley Whisky

Highland Valley Whisky is rumoured to be planning a new distillery near Mt. Beauty, Victoria. See here for a press release.

Historical Antipodean Whisky

Mountain Dew - Delaney's Nirranda Whiskey

Click on the link above to go to the Delaney's website, and learn more about their involvement in whisky making in Victoria in the 19th century. To quote the opening line, "In the 1880's, illicit whiskey making in the bush was common. Some of the Delaneys became involved and Tom at about the age of 30 became the main distiller in the district."

See also this related ABC (Australia) report on Nirranda and Delaney's Corner.

Corio Distillery

The Geelong visitor's centre is located next to a playground / park - which contains an old still from the old Corio distillery mounted next to the play equipment! A plaque on the base of the still stated:

This 2000 gallon steam jacket copper pot still was one of the original units imported from Scotland in 1928 by the Distillers Company of Edinburgh, when it established the Distillers Corporation at Corio. It was used to make the famous Corio Whisky until 1949 when it was replaced. The Corio Distillery closed in 1980 and the plaque commemorates the link between the shire of Corio and the Scottish Disillery Company over a period of 52 years.

News Articles and Websites about Antipodean Whisky

Also of interest is this ABC (Australia) report on whisky distilling in Tasmania from 2003.

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