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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Australian Whisky

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Broaden your horizons and discover something new with this selection of sublime world whiskies! We love the history and tradition of whisky, from the many classic expressions to the legendary…

Broaden your horizons and discover something new with this selection of sublime world whiskies!

We love the history and tradition of whisky, from the many classic expressions to the legendary old distilleries. But whisky is also an ever-expanding category that’s ripe with innovation. It seems like everyday new nations are joining in the fun of distilling the good stuff while adding their own spin on what it is that makes great whisky. We’re deeply fond of this development and are delighted to champion the many wonderful producers that make whisky all across the globe. Which is why we’ve made this handy little list of some of our favourites, so you can indulge in an expression from India, South Africa, Sweden and more!

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Amrut Fusion 

Amrut Fusion is truly a world whisky as it was made from a mix of 75% unpeated Indian barley and 25% peated Scottish barley. These were distilled separately and aged for four years, then ‘fused’ together for a further three months. That’s why it’s called Fusion. See? Anyway, the whisky is delicious.

What does it taste like?:

Rich barley, fruity, citrus, gentle peat, coffee, dark chocolate, marmalade, baking spices and creamy sweetness. 

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Lot 40 Rye Whisky 

Canadian whisky deserves a bigger spotlight, so why not enjoy a legendary expression from Lot 40. A Canadian rye whisky that is produced in a single copper pot still, Lot 40 Rye Whisky was named after the plot of land home to the historic Ontario farm of Canadian pioneer, politician and distiller Joshua Booth, the ancestor of one of Hiram Walker’s distillers.

What does it taste like?:

Earthy rye is backed up by caramel, cardamom pod, peppery coriander, brown sugar, fresh vanilla pod sweetness, fig and flamed orange peel.

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Mackmyra Äppelblom 

Äppelblom, which means apple blossom, is distilled at Mackmyra and matured initially in bourbon and new American oak casks before it was finished in oak casks which previously held Calvados from Christian Drouin, one of the world’s leading Calvados producers. It’s recommended that you serve the fresh and spicy whisky alongside a warm apple dessert or even apple sorbet, which sounds amazing.

What does it taste like?:

Toasted oak, orchard fruits, pear, lemon, delicate floral notes, sweet vanilla, toffee, cedar, aniseed, caramelised almonds, white pepper and ginger spiciness.

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky 

South Africa’s first-ever single grain whisky and the winner of the Best South African Grain at the World Whiskies Awards 2019, Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky was named after the chap who built the first roads in Wellington. It was distilled in column stills at The James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington and matured in first-fill American oak casks previously used for the maturation of bourbon, first for three years before being finished in a fresh set of casks for a further 18 to 30 months.

What does it taste like?:

Grapefruit peels, custard creams, icing sugar, nutmeg, fresh pear, banana, cardamom, meadowsweet and vanilla sugar. 

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Starward Two-Fold 

From the wonderful Starward in Melbourne, Two-Fold takes its name from the production process of this delicious Australian whisky, which combines spirits made from malted barley and wheat before the two are matured entirely in Australian red wine casks. It took home the prize of Best Australian Blend at the World Whiskies Awards 2019, continuing our winning theme.

What does it taste like?:

Banana bread, caramelised dates, nutty malt, soft vanilla fudge, brown sugar, cinnamon, pepper, coffee and walnut cake, summer berries and stewed stone fruit.


Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Smooth Ambler Old Scout American Whiskey 107 Proof 

Smooth Ambler Old Scout American Whiskey 107 Proof is a variation of their Old Scout American Whiskey bottled at 107 proof (that’s 53.5% ABV for those of us here in the UK). Expect a full-bodied, spicy and tasty expression from those delightful distillers in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.

What does it taste like?:

Roasted coffee beans, burnt caramel, a good kick of cumin, floral vanilla, fresh ginger, fragrant oak, fiery cinnamon, fudge, mango and sponge cake.

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The Nightcap: 21 February

This week on the Nightcap: a packed programme from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a record-breaking private whisky collection, and a gin that’s so green it’s both ‘carbon negative’…

This week on the Nightcap: a packed programme from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a record-breaking private whisky collection, and a gin that’s so green it’s both ‘carbon negative’ and made from peas.

It’s Friday, which is always a good thing, especially given that it’s Margarita Day Eve (definitely a thing). There’s no better way to enjoy a fresh batch of boozy news than with a good cocktail in hand, so get making those Margaritas and prepare yourself for the weekend. A weekend which may entail more Margaritas. Perhaps with margherita pizzas. Now that’s a Saturday. But before all that there’s Nightcapping to do, so get together your lime, salt and Tequila and proceed. It’s a corker this week.

On the MoM blog, Adam revealed the exciting news that Midleton Distillery had launched Ireland’s oldest ever whiskey collection, before chatting with Patrice Pinet about Cognac’s prospects in 2020, recommending some delicious agave-based spirits in time for World Margarita Day tomorrow, and enjoying a Dominican rum finished in casks that formerly held a peated Speyside whisky for our New Arrival of the Week. Kristy, fresh from her American adventure, presented 10 great bars to check out in the Big Apple, before Annie explored how pre-mixed cocktails turned premium. Henry then showed off our sublime video footage from our visit to the Isle of Wight to meet the team behind Mermaid Gin, before picking a drink for Cocktail of the Week that’s neither French or really a Martini: The French Martini!

But there’s still more boozy brilliance to come. On to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Tickets are now on sale for the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival!

Spirit of Speyside whisky festival unveils its programme

This week tickets went on sale for the fabulous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. As you’d expect from Scotland’s richest whisky region with over 51 distilleries, there’s a lot going on. The programme contains over 700 events (see the festival’s website for more details). Highlights include an archive tasting at The Balvenie, a blending masterclass with Billy Walker at Glenallachie, and an event called ‘The Silent Stills of Speyside’, put on by Gordon & MacPhail.  For us, perhaps the most exciting thing is a chance to look round and taste at famous distilleries like Mortlach that aren’t usually open to the public. There are also food events, tastings galore, chances to fill your own bottle, and no less than five ceilidhs from Wednesday 29 April until Sunday 3 May. If you’re feeling really active, there’s a run around the region ending up with a well-earned tasting and brunch at The Macallan Distillery. For lazier folks, there are tours by train or chauffeur-driven car. Something for everyone.

The Nightcap

The Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami was the undisputed star of the show

‘Largest’ private whisky collection breaks records

Perth-based Whisky Auctioneer saw the first part of its ‘The Perfect Collection’ sell for £3.2 million, with a Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami bottle setting a new record. The “world’s largest” private whisky collection to be offered at auction contains more than 1,900 bottles of mostly single malt Scotch, which was built up by the late American private collector Richard Gooding. The auction, which saw 1,642 bidders from 56 countries take part, achieved US$4,277,000 and featured more than 1,932 bottles before it closed on Monday (17 February). The highlight was the bottle of the highly coveted Macallan which sold for £825,000, breaking the current world record for the bottle set at £702,347 in October 2018. The bottle attracted bids from 11 countries, with the winning offer hailing from Europe. A bottle of The Macallan 1928 Anniversary Malt 50 Year Old achieved a hammer price of £92,000, overtaking a previous record of £72,246 in October 2019, while a large offering of 201 bottles from The Macallan reached a total hammer price of £1,979,555. So it was a good auction for Macallan, as usual. “We always knew that The Perfect Collection by Mr Gooding could make whisky history, but with auctions, anything can happen,” said Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer. “Not only was the highest ever sale price for Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami achieved at over a million dollars, but Whisky Auctioneer became the first online whisky auction to sell a million-dollar bottle, with multiple other lots achieving hammer price world records.” The remaining bottles in The Perfect Collection will be sold during the second part of the auction, which will run from 10 April until 20 April. Bottles include The Macallan 1926 Fine & Rare, a Glenfiddich 1937 Rare Collection 64 Year Old, and The Balvenie 1937 Pure Malt 50 Year Old.

The Nightcap

The colourless Mirror Margarita collection from specialist agave bar Hacha

London celebrates International Margarita Day

Tomorrow, Saturday 22 February, is International Margarita Day, and London’s bars will be celebrating in style, mainly by offering lots of variations on this much-loved cocktail. To help you navigate around all the excitement, Patron Tequila has created a special Margarita map. Simply put your postcode into the computer thing, and the magic of science will direct you to an establishment serving special Patron Margaritas. You can also enter a prize draw for the chance to win a trip to Mexico! If you don’t win that trip, and let’s face it, you probably won’t, then don’t worry as there’s a little bit of Mexico in East London. You’ll find it at specialist agave bar, Hacha! Bartender Deano Moncrieffe has come up with a series of twists on the classic cocktail, like the colourless Mirror Margarita, plus there’s food from Mission St Tacos. There will also be special Ocho Tequila cocktails at Callooh Callay in Old Street and the Racketeer in Kings Cross. And finally, you don’t even need to leave the house to get in on the action. Jose Cuervo is offering a free Margarita delivery service today and Saturday. You can enter here and if you’re lucky, a special Jose Cuervo Margarita Rider will come to your house (London only, sadly) and mix up some cocktails for you. You don’t even have to get dressed!

The Nightcap

It’s certainly been a good week for the discerning collector!

Rare rum found in Charles Metcalfe’s cupboard is sold for £12,000

Top wine writer and collector Charles Metcalfe made a pretty penny this week after he sold 11 bottles of rum for £12,000. Metcalfe inherited the 11 bottles of Lemon Hart rum, bottled in the 1940s, from his late father who saved them as a souvenir from his time spent working with Lemon Hart & Sons in 1946-48, following his return from a prisoner of war camp where he was held during the Second World War. The famous British brand has a long history and is best known for its appointment by the Admiralty as the supplier of rum to the British Royal Navy in the late 18th century. The rum had been kept in a cupboard for years after his father died, but Metcalfe recently made the decision to sell the majority of the collection and had bottles valued by a specialist team at www.whisky.auction. Each bottle has sold for around £1,000, some as high as £1,450, in the online auctions since September. There is one more bottle to sell which will be made available on 1 March. “As a wine collector, I’m well aware of the value that old wine can fetch at auction, but I hadn’t imagined that my father’s rum would be worth quite so much,” Metcalfe told the West Sussex County Times. “It shows how valuable a quick look into the back of your spirits cupboard can be!”

The Nightcap

100% of funds raised from this online charity auction go straight to Rural Aid

Australian distillers donate spirits to raise money for bushfire relief

The Australian bushfires still burn, with over 18.6 million hectares of land destroyed to date. However, over 100 Australian distilleries have joined forces in order to help Bushfire Relief, donating over 200 bottles of Australian spirits, including whisky, gin, rum, moonshine, vodka, liqueurs and more. You’ll find tasty spirits from brands such as Four Pillars, Starward, Archie Rose, Brookie’s Gin and Manly Spirits among the names. It’s not just pre-existing bottlings either, with a new whisky having been crafted for the cause dubbed The Aussie Spirit. The “godfather of Australian whisky”, Bill Lark, will oversee blending and maturation of five different casks of whisky at Old Kempton Distillery utilising new make from 13 distilleries around the country. If you want to get your hands on some of this while supporting Bushfire Relief, then you can head over to the online charity auction, with 100% of funds raised from going straight to Rural Aid, one of Australia’s largest rural charities.

The Nightcap

The Big Drop Brewing Co. founders showing off the colourful new design

Big Drop Brewing Co. Reveal New Design

The wonderful folks at Big Drop Brewing Co., dedicated solely to bringing delicious alcohol-free brews to our doorsteps, have gone and revealed a brand-new design for their tasty creations! It’s bold and colourful, with each expression’s design taking inspiration from the liquid within. Each of the designs is based on an environment that is linked to the individual beers’ style, and which inspired the names, illustrations and colourways. To create the new designs, the folks at Big Drop teamed up with London-based design agency Foundation, rolling out the new packaging onto the full range including Uptown Craft Lager, Paradiso Citra IPA, Pine Trail Pale Ale and Galactic Milk Stout. For example, Uptown Craft Lager‘s design is inspired by hot summers in London, with the pattern taken from a section of concrete at the city’s Barbican Estate, the colours reflecting a dramatic orange sunset. Meanwhile, Paradiso Citra IPA’s green design mirrors the depths of a jungle, with green leaves and exotic fruits, reflected in the flavour profile as well. “Working with Foundation on this re-packaging project has been brilliant and the results speak for themselves,” says co-founder James Kindred. “2020 is a big year for the brand, and this bold new design direction starts us off in a fantastic way.” We know you can’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but we can’t argue with bright colours and tasty booze-free beer!

The Nightcap

The finalists from 2019’s World Class GB Final make it look like a lot of fun

Diageo Reserve’s World Class competition returns!

Diageo Reserve’s World Class is back and open for entries in the UK. Organisers expect to receive the highest number of entries yet from the country’s bartending community following a record attendance for the UK-wide bartender training tour. The annual competition, which is now in its twelfth year, encourages bartenders to submit a digital entry of one or two serves to be in with the chance of making it into the top 100. The two modules bartenders have been asked to submit to are ‘Acid House’ and ‘Heritage Highballs’. The former challenges contestants to replace the fresh citrus that forms an integral part of Diageo’s gin brand, Tanqueray No. Ten with an alternative acid of their choice and the latter challenges entrants to produce their own highball serve using Johnnie Walker Black Label and a range of ingredients with an interesting backstory. Bartenders will need to submit a cocktail to one or both of the challenges by midnight 9th March at www.theworldclassclub.com and share a photo of the drink on social media using #WorldClassGB2020. Competitors will then be invited to share a Ketel One ‘One Square Mile’ serve online for the judges, consisting of previous GB winners and Diageo BAs, to taste-test. Just 20 of these contestants will then be shortlisted to compete to be crowned GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 at the final which is taking place in the New Forest in June at the first ever GB ‘Camp World Class’. The overall winner will get opportunity to tour with the World Class team hosting events and workshops and Diageo-owned distilleries across Scotland, get a budget for bar tools, equipment and custom serve creation and a guest bartending shift at one of Europe’s best bars, as well as the obligatory nationwide exposure and dedicated PR throughout the year. Oh, and a place to represent GB in the World Class Global Final hosted in Sydney, Australia this autumn. Entries for Diageo Reserve GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 are now open, closing on 9 March. 

The Nightcap

The collection features artefacts that have never been available for public viewing before

Historical Johnnie Walker artefacts to go on display

A collection of Johnnie Walker artefacts are set to go on display before the public for the first time, thanks to a partnership with the Dick Institute museum in Scotland. The John Walker exhibition in Kilmarnock, Scotland, will feature historical ‘crown jewels’ from the Johnnie Walker archives that have never been available for public viewing, until now. Visitors can also see a John Walker stock book from 1857, a hand-written inventory from John Walker’s grocery store dating back to 1825. It’s the oldest existing record from the shop and details things such as teas from China, spices from Jamaica, and Scotch. There’s also an 1819 hand-written inventory from the sale of Todriggs Farm near Kilmarnock, which is the oldest item in the Johnnie Walker Archive collection. It records the sale of the farm after the death of John Walker’s father, which funded the founding of his grocery store. “These items really are the crown jewels of our collection. They are remarkable historical documents that give us a fascinating insight into the roots of Johnnie Walker,” says Christine McCafferty, chief archivist at the Johnnie Walker Archive. “I’m delighted that to celebrate the 200th anniversary of John Walker starting out in his business we are able to put these items on display to the public in the town where the story began.” The Johnnie Walker exhibition will be a permanent feature at the Dick Institute, with artefacts rotated on a regular basis. The current loan items will be on display at the museum until October 2020.

The Nightcap

Diageo agreed to pay a US$5m penalty and to cease and desist from any further violations

Diageo pays $5m fine over ‘misleading’ sales

It was a difficult week for spirits giant Diageo, which was fined US$5 million by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after its North American arm created a “misleading picture” of its financial results. According to the US securities regulator’s charges, the North America division at Johnnie Walker and Lagavulin owner Diageo  “pressured” distributors to buy excess inventory in order to meet internal sales targets in the face of declining market conditions in its 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Diageo failed to disclose the excess stocks to investors which created a “misleading impression” that it was able to achieve their sales targets through normal customer demand. The charges found Diageo failed to disclose the positive impact “over shipping” had on sales and profits, but also the negative impact this would have on future growth, according to an SEC statement. “Investors rely on public companies to make complete and accurate disclosures upon which they can base their investment decisions”, Melissa R Hodgman, an associate director in the SEC’s division of enforcement, explained: “Diageo pressured distributors to take more products than they needed, creating a misleading picture of the company’s financial results and its ability to meet key performance indicators.” Diageo hasn’t admitted or denied the SEC’s findings but has agreed to pay a US$5m penalty and to cease and desist from any further violations, which the SEC has accepted. “Diageo is pleased to have resolved this legacy matter, which relates back to fiscal years 2014 and 2015,” commented a Diageo spokesperson. “Diageo regularly reviews and refines its policies and procedures, and is committed to maintaining a robust and transparent disclosure process.”

The Nightcap

‘Carbon negative’ and made from peas. You don’t get greener than that!

And finally… There’s now a ‘carbon negative’ gin made from peas

Arbikie Distillery in Scotland has just launched what is claimed to be the world’s first carbon-negative gin, and it’s made from peas. Can’t get greener than that. It’s called Nàdar, meaning ‘nature’ in Gaelic. According to the accompanying study, the amount of carbon produced during its distillation and packaging is more than offset by using peas as a base instead of wheat. Not only do the clever green vegetables fertilise the soil, thus saving on nitrogen fertiliser, but leftovers can be used to feed animals too, thus saving on livestock food, predominately made from soya beans. It’s the product of five years of research by master distiller Kirsty Black in association with Abertay University in Dundee and The James Hutton Institute. She commented:  “Peas are a part of a unique set of plants known as legumes that are able to source nitrogen, which is critical for plant growth, from the air. This removes the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and, therefore, avoids the negative environmental impact its production and use has on our waterways, air and soils.” According to Arbikie each bottle produced means 2.2 kg CO2 that won’t be released into the atmosphere. John Stirling, director of Arbikie Distillery added: “Our ethos at Arbikie from our inception has been to try and create world-class premium spirits where all ingredients are grown on our single estate farm. Minimising our carbon footprint and working with the wonderful homegrown ingredients to create one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries. Our Nàdar Gin goes one step further and looks to make a positive, instead of neutral impact, in terms of long-term sustainability.  It also tastes fantastic, which is a credit to our distilling team.” Let’s raise a glass to peas in our time.

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The winner of our Starward competition is…

It’s about time we announced the winner of our competition to visit the spectacular Starward Distillery in Melbourne, Australia! Drum roll at the ready… Sitting here in 2020, it may…

It’s about time we announced the winner of our competition to visit the spectacular Starward Distillery in Melbourne, Australia! Drum roll at the ready…

Sitting here in 2020, it may feel like a lifetime ago, but think back to November 2019. Before that New Year’s thing occurred, and before that Christmas stuff took place, a different incredibly exciting situation happened – we announced that someone would win a trip of a lifetime to visit the Starward Distillery in Melbourne, Australia! The prize included a seven night stay in Melbourne, a private tour and drinks at the distillery, a distillery bottling of their phenomenal Australian whisky, and £500 spending money. “A cool prize” would be an understatement. Crack out the thesaurus (or just Google “other words for rad” like we all do since no one owns a physical thesaurus anymore) and whack in a few other fun adjectives and you’ll be more on the right lines.

The Starward Distillery – where our winner will be headed!

To be in with a chance to win, all you had to do was snap up a bottle from Starward’s lip-smacking range and your name would be in the hat. Many names went into the aforementioned headgear, but only one name has been pulled out, and they are our winner. That name is…

Andy Woods!

Much applause and many congratulations to our winner, Andy! We very much hope you enjoy your trip! We’d also like to give a big thank you to everyone who took part as well!

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Win a VIP trip to Australia’s Starward distillery!

If you’ve ever wanted to make that trip Down Under, then we have great news! We’re offering you (and a lucky plus one) the chance to win a once in…

If you’ve ever wanted to make that trip Down Under, then we have great news! We’re offering you (and a lucky plus one) the chance to win a once in a lifetime trip to visit top Australian distillery Starward during a week-long stay in Melbourne plus £500 spending money!

How can I win this amazing trip, we can hear you asking? Well that’s easy! Buy a bottle from the super tasty Starward distillery range (why wouldn’t you anyway?), and you’ll be *automagically* entered into our prize draw!

Australia may not be the first spot that immediately springs to mind when you think of great whisky, but Starward is working hard to change all that. It was founded in 2007, the brainchild of David Vitale, a Melbourne born and bred whisky lover.

Starward Competition

It’s David Vitale enjoying some tasty Starward whisky!

Now, it may well be wine that’s at the forefront of your mind when thinking of Australian boozes, and this is something Vitale embraces, as Starward is known for its awesome red wine-matured whiskies. That’s right, it’s not merely finished in red wine casks, the whisky spends its entire maturation in them. Vitale wanted to create whisky which felt right at home around the dinner table, and these rich, juicy expressions are exactly that.

Starward refers to its ageing in ‘Melbourne years’, thanks to the ageing phenomenon in the city’s ‘four seasons in a day’ climate. That pretty much means what is says on the tin, because the temperature fluctuations for the barrels are huge. This means that the spirit interacts more with the rapidly expanding and contracting casks. Interestingly, this also means that, unlike some countries, as Starward whisky matures its alcohol content increases!

Sounds like a pretty amazing place, right? Well, the best is yet to come. We teamed up with the awesome folks at Starward to give you (and an equally lucky plus one) the chance to win a seven night stay in Melbourne, known as the foodie capital of Australia! Plus, you’ll enjoy a private tour and drinks at the Starward distillery itself! And that’s not all. You’ll also get £500 spending money and, naturally, a tasty distillery bottling thrown in too. Pretty amazing, if we may say so ourselves.

Starward Competition

Say hello to Starward Nova

Starward Nova

In classic Starward style, Nova spends its entire maturation in casks which previously held Australian red wine. Unusually, the casks aren’t recharred or any of that whatnot before the new make goes in, so all of those rich wine notes are retained in the whisky. Expect lots of red fruits, honeyed nuts and spices in this single malt.

Starward Competition

It’s double grain trouble with Starward Two-Fold!

Starward Two-Fold

Two-Fold is something a little different from Starward, combining malted barley and wheat (hence the name). The new make is filled into Australian red wine casks to age, so all of those caramel and big fruity notes are back in this bad boy, with some more baked bready notes from the duo of grain types used.

Alongside these two awesome bottlings, treating yourself to a bottle of the Apera (an Australian fortified wine)-matured Starward Solera, the Starward 10th Anniversary bottling drawn from the eight varieties of cask used by Starward over the years, or even the Starward (New) Old Fashioned will also get you in with a chance to win!

Good luck, everyone! We won’t be super jealous of the winner at all…


MoM Starward Competition 2019 is open to entrants 18 years and over. Date and travel restrictions apply. Entries close 23:59 24 December 2019. Postal route available. See full T&Cs for details.

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Sullivans Cove celebrates 25 years with an historic release

Tasmanian whisky maker Sullivans Cove has released a rather unique bottling to mark its 25th anniversary. Not only is it the oldest drop the distillery has ever released; it’s the…

Tasmanian whisky maker Sullivans Cove has released a rather unique bottling to mark its 25th anniversary. Not only is it the oldest drop the distillery has ever released; it’s the oldest distillery release Australian single malt whisky has ever seen. We take five with head distiller Patrick Maguire…

Between 1994 and 1999, Sullivans Cove produced 162 casks of whisky, each one bottled and sold years before in one form or another. Their contents lost in time, or so the team thought – until a chance phone call earlier this year reunited the distillery with four of these historic casks. 

Just a few miles away in a warehouse in Hobart – Tasmania’s capital city and the home of Sullivans Cove – the 200-litre American oak ex-bourbon casks had been quietly maturing for more than 21 years; the liquid among the distillery’s earliest single malt. What an incredible find. 

Thrilled by the complexity of the liquid, the team married all four to create its “intensely creamy and incredibly textural” anniversary release, which counts pineapple, passionfruit, honeydew melon, among its tasting notes, along with Chantilly cream, mixed berry jam, sweet pastry, vanilla custard, toffee and caramel fudge –  backed up by “a deliciously warm barley grain note”. 

Patrick Maguire with all that lovely Tasmanian whisky

Yielding just 500 bottles at 49.6% ABV, the whisky carries a 21 year old age statement and is presented in Glencairn crystal decanter styled on Sullivans Cove’s first Tasmanian single malt from the late 1990s (it’s only available directly from the distillery). A fitting tribute indeed. We chatted with Patrick Maguire, head distiller, to find out exactly how this remarkable bottling came to be…

MoM: Huge congrats on the release – a milestone occasion for Sullivans Cove and Australian single malt! Could you share a little more detail about how your oldest whisky came to be bottled?

Maguire: I got a call from a storage company that was storing the whisky for some long-lost private owners. They were closing down their bond licence, couldn’t find the owners, and didn’t know what to do with the barrels. As they were produced at the old Tasmania distillery back in 1997, I was curious to see if there was any spirit left in them and if there was, what it was like. So I jumped in the car and went to the warehouse where we weighed the barrels and tasted the spirit. There wasn’t much left in them but the taste was much better than I expected – the years had done wonders to the spirit. Back at the distillery we had records of who these barrels were sold to by the original company. After a prolonged search we eventually found the owners or their families and arranged to buy them back. We moved them back to the distillery with the idea of bottling them some day. After experimenting with them it was decided the best thing to do was to blend them together – singularly they were good, but together they sang.

The Australian climate is quite unique – it’s difficult to age whisky for that long without it evaporating. Could you give us an idea roughly how much liquid was left in those casks and where the ABV settled on average?

Some of the 200 litre casks were as low as 48 litres. The best was 73 litres with ABVs up to 80% – strong stuff.

Sullivans Cove Distillery

Sullivans Cove Distillery in Cambridge, Tasmania

Sullivans Cove changed hands in 1999 – has the DNA of the distillery transformed since those formative years?

In the early days of the distillery, there was no real knowledge or experience in the art of making good single malt. It was highly experimental, to say the least. The original distillers did a great job, considering the situation. Everything was a challenge – from sourcing the barley, the wash, how does the still work, where to get the casks from, complying with the rules around excise and the production of alcohol. There’s nothing like a pioneering spirit to make good spirit! In the years since, not much has changed. Yes, we now know what we are doing, we know the rules and how the still works, what casks to use, however it’s still very early in this new era of whisky distillation. We are still learning every day. So the DNA of the spirit is the same today as it was then.

In 2004,you moved to a site in Cambridge. Why the move, how long did the transition take, and how has it shaped the spirits you produce and bottle today?

Unfortunately, no one was interested in Tasmanian whisky at that time. It was hard to sell a bottle, so the company was liquidated in 2003. I got together with a couple of partners, bought the plant and stock, moved to a small warehouse at Cambridge and started again with just two of us. A fresh start was needed. We moved from the city site at Sullivans Cove to Cambridge mainly because the city site wasn’t big enough or suitable for a distillery. Distilling was very difficult there – we had to find somewhere more suited to production rather than sales, which was the main focus of the city site. We did everything, from distilling, bottling, sales, trade shows and distribution. We slowed the production down and produced what we could only as the money came in. Today we are still using the same still, good Tassie barley and local water. The main changes have been in the packaging – new labels, new bottle, new image. That was one of the things that got sales going. We knew we had the quality of the spirit; what we needed was better packaging and distribution. It took about eight years to grow the brand from very little sales to not having enough stock to supply demand. During those quiet years, I tried experimenting with different cask types from wineries around Australia – only a few, just to see what they could do for the spirit. They are reaching maturity now and are very good indeed. Other than that, we are still only bottling a barrel when it is ready, not just because it reaches a certain age. It must tick all the boxes for me and our distillers before we consider bottling any barrel. That is the most important thing.

Sullivans Cove

Sullivans Cove 21 Year Old

Looking across the entire production process, is there a particular moment you enjoy more than the rest? From brainstorming ideas, distilling new make, overseeing maturation, and so on, which bit, if any, is your favourite?

It’s all part of making good whisky. It’s a good feeling to be running a still when it’s running right, flowing well, smelling good… Tasting the matured whisky years later when we find a cracker of a barrel. But the best thing is when someone tells me how much they enjoyed their glass of Sullies, you can’t beat that.

New World Whisky is getting people excited, and as one of the longest running craft single malt whisky distilleries in Australia, you’re perfectly positioned to ride the wave. What does the next year or two look like for you guys in the distillery?

There is growing interest in New World Whisky, however there’s a lot of work to do to persuade whisky consumers to try alternatives to Scotch and Irish. Most people don’t realise Australia makes single malt. Many don’t know that a number of other countries do as well. Collectively, we have a lot to do to change perceptions and be accepted as credible whisky-making regions. We’ll be busy doing that – there are good times ahead.


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Five minutes with… Cape Byron Distillery’s Eddie Brook

Head to the hinterland of Australia’s Byron Bay and you’ll find Cape Byron Distillery nestled among 96 acres of lush greenery and macadamia orchards. Here, co-founder Eddie Brook talks about…

Head to the hinterland of Australia’s Byron Bay and you’ll find Cape Byron Distillery nestled among 96 acres of lush greenery and macadamia orchards. Here, co-founder Eddie Brook talks about distilling the sub-tropical pantry on his doorstep in collaboration with former Bruichladdich master distiller Jim McEwan…

More than 30 years ago the Brook family bought a run-down dairy farm (see photo in header) in Australia’s Byron Bay region and set about regenerating the rainforest that once stood there. Today, Cape Byron Distillery co-founder and CEO Eddie captures native flavours from the incredible natural larder he calls home and sends his bottlings across the globe for our drinking pleasure.

Sustainability, community and regeneration are the core principles that underpin the distillery’s approach to spirit-making. Brookie’s Dry Gin came first, co-created with mentor and master distiller Jim McEwan, featuring 26 botanicals – 18 of which are native to the Byron Bay area, followed by Brookie’s Slow Gin, made in the traditional English sloe style using native Davidson’s plums.

Eddie Brook, Cape Byron

Roll out the barrel! Eddie Brook in action

Cape Byron’s most recent creation? A roasted macadamia nut liqueur called Brookie’s Mac.  Roasted macadamia nuts, macadamia nut shell and wattleseed are steeped in wheat-based spirit before Mount Warning spring water and natural sugar cane syrup is added, resulting in a moreish butterscotch, cacao and coffee-flavoured sipper that tastes incredible over ice with a squeeze of lime, stirred through an Old Fashioned, or mixed into affogato.

We called Cape Byron Distillery co-founder and CEO Eddie Brook for the 411* on potent botanicals, rejuviated rainforest, and soon-to-be Australian whisky…

Master of Malt: Hey Eddie! Congrats on the launch of your latest product, Mac. Let’s start by talking wattleseed. Can you give our readers a little introduction to this botanical? 

Eddie Brook: Wattleseed is from the world of bush food. If you look at Australian food culture we’ve got the most incredible pantry of native flavours to pull from and wattleseed is one of my favourites. The best way to describe it is ‘bush coffee’ – the beautiful aroma of roasted coffee meets dark chocolate and semi-burnt popcorn. It’s like coffee in that the quality is only as good as the grower that grows it and the roaster that roasts it. Mac is macadamia and wattleseed, simple in its own right but showcasing those flavours in the best way possible. The macadamia shell in particular has never been used for production before which is pretty exciting. We don’t use any colourings or flavourings, it’s all down to steeping freshly-roasted macadamia and wattleseed in wheat spirit when they’re at absolute optimum flavour for around three months on average, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.

Rainforest, Byron Bay Region

Just a bit of local rainforest

MoM: Cape Byron distillery is surrounded by a macadamia orchard and a sub-tropical rainforest. Did you always intend to forage a large portion of your ingredients, or did this idea develop over time?

EB: When my family bought the 98-acre farm it was completely run-down, there was barely a tree growing on the land, so my upbringing was regenerating rainforest. We hacked away weeds and replanted trees so I suppose I had a connection to our landscape, which is an area called Northern Rivers. We are blessed with this densely-populated thriving ecosystem of incredible native flavours and that was the world I was brought up in. Every year mum and I would harvest Davidson’s plums from the rainforest and made jam with them. When my journey through the food and spirit industry led me to meet my absolute idol, and now mentor and business partner Jim McEwan, I learned how to bring those products together. We’ll go walking through the rainforest and harvest native ginger and raspberries, we’ve got rye berries growing, we’ve aniseed myrtle and cinnamon myrtle – it’s honestly like having a massive pantry, you’ve just got to work a bit harder to get the ingredients. 

MoM: Having previously worked for a spirits importer and distributor, did you feel daunted about being a newcomer in the industry? Or was the idea a no-brainer because of the incredible Australian ingredients growing in, quite literally, your back garden?

EB: Oh for sure, of course you can’t help but look to see what other people are doing. I’ve always been in awe of these great products, in particular I was lucky enough to be an ambassador and brand manager for The Botanist. The story of that spirit represents more than just product in a bottle, it came about by working with botanists to showcase the flavours of Islay. Through knowing those brands and also working with Jim, I knew our foundations were real and strong, too. The world of native Australian flavours, especially rainforest botanicals and ingredients, is mind-blowing. When I take people through the farm and they taste native raspberry or I pick some aniseed myrtle, you can see that child inside them come to life; it opens up their eyes to the flavours and that’s what I wanted to bring through our spirit. We want our gin to taste like gin, but by bringing in those native Australian flavours we’ve created something new and exciting.

MoM: As a distiller, what are you especially proud of? Was there a botanical or ingredient that was harder to work with, for example?

EB: Finding the initial balance for our dry gin was an exciting challenge. When we’re talking about native Australian ingredients, the reason they’re not in the pantry or on shelves is that they are extremely potent flavours – incredible in their own right, but you’ve got to know how to use them. Take dorrigo pepperleaf, for instance, which is like Sichuan pepper meets an Earl Grey tea leaf. When you balance that in rye, it completely pops. But the one that I’m most proud of is our Brookie’s Slow Gin. As a country we don’t grow sloe berries, they’re very much cold climate, but we do have the Davidson’s plum – the same one mum and I would pick when I was a young boy to make jam – a type of bush food that only grows in Northern Rivers through small farmers. In our first year we purchased three tonnes, last year was 12 tonnes, and next year we’re looking to purchase 24 tonnes. With the success of this product we’re growing the local industry and connecting people around Australia with native ingredients and the land.

Mac. by Brookie's (2)

Brookie’s Mac liqueur with real macadamia nuts to the side

MoM: Let’s talk about the new make spirit you’ve laid down. Which natural resources lend themselves to distilling in the Byron Bay region? How will the climate impact the resulting whisky?

EB: There’s something quite magical about whisky and the way the barley, the malting process, the yeast, the fermentation time, the distillation, the cask and the environment all have a huge impact on the liquid. We’re quite lucky with the whisky production laws in Australia which give us a bit of flexibility and creativity in how we can approach this incredible category. One of the major ones is that we don’t have to produce our own wort – we’re very lucky that our dear family friends own a brewery just down the road which is Australia’s number one independent craft beer company called Stone & Wood. Jim and I worked with them and selected a certain Australian barley strain and two yeasts, one of which has never been used for the production of whisky before, to make our new make spirit, which has flavours of lychee, kiwi, pear and apple skin. The wash is fermented and twice-distilled with no computers, it’s all down to sensory from the teachings with Jim, and then it goes into full-sized ex-bourbon casks which rest in barrel houses on our distillery located in the hinterland of Byron. You’ve got the sea air mixing with the rainforest, it’s a really unique climate. It’ll take the heat out of summer and the rainforest takes the cold out of winter so that’ll have an impact on our spirit. We’ll see a faster maturation in Australia, the equivalent of maybe a five year old in Scotland we’ll see in about three years. It was a pretty special moment when we found the heart of our spirit – I was running the still with Jim, who was nosing [the new make]. He closed his eyes and when he looked at me a grin peeled across his face and he said, ‘Eddie, hand on heart this is one of the finest spirits I’ve ever produced’. We have to wait two years until it becomes whisky, but there are some very exciting times ahead.

MoM: If there was one thing about you’d like everyone to take away from Cape Byron, what would it be?

EB: I would love to see people reconnect with nature. When people come to our distillery they get a sense of what nature used to be. We had the greatest rainforest in Australia in our backyard and that was destroyed. Regenerating the world might be greater than you and I, but every little bit can make a difference. We’ve brought our land back in 28 years and now it’s a thriving rainforest – giving that sense of empowerment to people is my end goal; to change people’s perceptions and open their eyes to the land.

*slang for information from the American directory enquiries number. In Britain you could say 118 118 instead, though you will get some blank looks. 


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New Arrival of the Week: Starward Nova

This week we shine our special Master of Malt spotlight on a new release from Melbourne’s Starward distillery. It’s a single malt whisky aged entirely in Australian wine casks. Founder…

This week we shine our special Master of Malt spotlight on a new release from Melbourne’s Starward distillery. It’s a single malt whisky aged entirely in Australian wine casks. Founder David Vitale was in town to tell us all about it.

We’ve followed all of Starward’s spirits with great interest, not least one cask that was part-matured on a ship from Australia to Southampton. The latest release is called Nova: it’s the big brother of Starward Wine Cask Edition, which couldn’t be called whisky because it was too young. Nova, however, has spent three years maturing in Melbourne, so it has come of age and it can finally be labelled whisky. It’s like a booze bar mitzvah. Mazel tov!

David Vitale

David Vitale enjoying a dram

It was matured in a mixture of wine casks from some of Australia’s greatest wineries including Yalumba, Penfolds and Wynns. The barrels are a mixture of American, French and a little East European oak that previously held mainly Shiraz, Cabernet and Pinot Noir. Vitale emphasised that the spirit is entirely aged in wine casks: “it’s not a finish, the casks are not shaved and toasted, no recharring. This is full maturation with minimal intervention, the wine goes out and whisky comes in.” The spirit which is made entirely from Australian malted barley goes into cask at 55% ABV, Starward describes it as “more like an eau de vie than a heavy Scotch new make spirit.”

The warmth of the Melbourne climate means that it matures much faster than Scotch whisky. But it’s not all plain sailing: “After six months of strawberries and cream, it goes through this adolescent phase of not being that great to be honest”, Vitale said. It’s worth the wait, though, as it comes out the other side as a riot of red fruit. He also pointed out that because these casks had only ever held table wine (as opposed to other spirits or fortified wine), they have more wood tannin left which is perceptible in the feel of the whisky in the mouth (full tasting notes below). 

It’s a delicious sipping whisky as well as a cocktail spirit par excellence. We tried it in an Old Fashioned and a Highball but Vitale likes it best in a Manhattan: “If a whisky matured in red wine barrels can’t make a decent Manhattan then we’ve done something wrong,” he joked.

Starward Nova

On its own, on the rocks or in a cocktail, Starward Nova is an easy-going sort of whisky

Last year, Vitale moved from Melbourne to Seattle to capitalise on the US market (at the moment Starward is only available in America, Britain, Australia and selected travel outlets). “Starward is currently available in 20 American cities. The US is such a huge opportunity for us. It’s our focal point for the time being in terms of growth. Progressive bars and retailers understand that the new world whisky category is growing”, he said.

The next thing in the pipeline is a much-anticipated blended whisky. Called Two Fold, it will be made from 60% wheat and 40% malted barley. The wheat is column-distilled off site; Vitale described it as having a “really flavour forward high ester profile.” The two spirits are matured separately at Starward and then married. It should be available in the UK in October and according to Vitale, “I think in time it  will be the most popular Starward whisky”. We think he might be right.

Starward Nova tasting notes from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Positively bursting with red fruit like strawberries with a Port-like mixture of fruit and nuts.

Palate: Honey, cinnamon and more red fruit on the palate, creamy nutty texture, luxurious mouthfeel with a touch of tannin.

Finish: Toffee with walnuts. 


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How Australian whisky-makers harnessed the power of nature

In much the same way that Scotch whiskies are shaped by their location, so too is liquid down under – except Australia happens to be a gargantuan 98 times bigger…

In much the same way that Scotch whiskies are shaped by their location, so too is liquid down under – except Australia happens to be a gargantuan 98 times bigger than Scotland. In part two of our series, Australian distillers reveal how the country’s natural resources influence the taste of their whisky

Australia’s booze roots lie in spirits production, as we discovered on the blog last month. As modern day distillers flock to reignite its history, could Aussie whisky become the breakout category of the decade?

It certainly has the resources to do so. Australia is one of the largest malting-grade barley producers in the world, with many varieties unique to the country, says Dave Withers, master distiller at New South Wales distillery Archie Rose.

“We work with a number of New South Wales’ farmers to get hold of unique malts which demonstrate regional terroir,” he adds. “It also allows us to develop a relationship with the land and their custodians, exploring ancient and heirloom varieties”.

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The past, present, and future of Australian whisky

Distillers across Australia are crafting whisky by the barrelful, and it’s liquid unlike any you’ve ever tasted before. In the first of a two part series, the country’s producers share…

Distillers across Australia are crafting whisky by the barrelful, and it’s liquid unlike any you’ve ever tasted before. In the first of a two part series, the country’s producers share insight into the past, present and future of Australian whisky-making…

A moment of appreciation for our mates down under, guardians of some of the world’s most astonishing wines. They brought us Neighbours, the electric drill, and Google Maps. They even invented WiFi. Australia Day, which lands on 26 January each year, may be a national event – but thanks to the country’s great minds, the world has plenty to celebrate too.

Today, Australia is best known for low-abv boozes like wine and beer, but that wasn’t always the case. In Tasmania – which is quickly earning a reputation as the whisky capital of Australia – distilling dates back to the earliest days of European settlement, more than 200 years ago, explains Heather Tillott, production manager at Sullivans Cove Distillery.

“We have evidence that some of the first convicts who landed were stealing grain to make spirits,” she says. “There was a thriving spirits industry here with several licensed distilleries, mostly based on the excellent barley we grow in Tassie. Unfortunately, in 1838 a law was passed banning distillation in Tasmania and we didn’t make a drop of whisky in a commercial capacity here for over 150 years.”

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #2: Starward New World Malt Whisky

A delightful New World whisky awaits those who are about to open window #2 of their Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar… We hope you all had a wonderful…

A delightful New World whisky awaits those who are about to open window #2 of their Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar

We hope you all had a wonderful first day of Advent, and indeed December, yesterday. Some people will have helped themselves to a square of chocolate, others to a beauty product or toy (Lego, if you’re lucky). But I’m sure most people reading kicked off yesterday with a bang thanks to the delicious surprise (don’t click if you don’t want spoilers – you’ve been warned) waiting in your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Now you’ll get to experience that joy all over again as we open the second window! What tasty treat is waiting behind window #2? Well…

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