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Tag: Australian Whisky

How the Morris winery turned its hand to Australian whisky

Morris might be one of Australia’s most celebrated wineries, but it has recently entered the world of whisky and has hit the ground running. Here’s how a respected wine family…

Morris might be one of Australia’s most celebrated wineries, but it has recently entered the world of whisky and has hit the ground running. Here’s how a respected wine family dynasty made the transition look easy.

In Australia, north-eastern Victoria is regarded as the capital of fortified wines, ever since vines were brought along with the Gold Rush of the 1850s and were planted in the rolling hills of Victoria’s Riverland, fed by the mighty Snowy Mountains and Murray River. Here you’ll find the small town of Rutherglen, home to less than 2,000 people, including the Morris family, whose winery was established in 1859. Here six generations have made fortified wine, a tradition maintained today led by head winemaker David Morris. 

This generational expertise, impressive stock, and popular brand made the winery an attractive proposition for Casella Family Brands, which bought it in 2016 but kept the Morris family doing what it does best. But it wasn’t just the wine that tempted John Casella. He always had a passion for single malt whisky and had a dream to create a great Australian example. And the Morris family had an original 1930’s hybrid copper-pot still, used to make the spirit for the fortified wines since 1941, although it had laid dormant for some time.

When you put 2+2 together you get 4, and when you realise you have a unique still as well as access to an amazing library of fortified casks that could be used to finish whisky, you have yourselves the making of a great distillery. One with a point of difference. Who else starts off with that level of drinks knowledge and quality of equipment to hand? “With these factors combined, alongside a passion for whisky from the family, we knew it was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up,” says global marketing manager, Michael Sergeant.

Morris Whisky

The Morris Winery

Living up to the family name

With all these advantages comes a certain pressure: the Morris brand has a reputation to uphold. John Casella knew the most critical thing was to get the liquid quality and brand proposition right from the outset. He set up the Copper & Grain Distilling Co. and the Rutherglen Distillery to be the home to Morris Whisky, and carefully restored the hybrid copper pot and column still, naming it Aurora, after the princess in Sleeping Beauty who awoke after close to a century of slumber.

He then ensured that all the barley used in Morris Whisky production is 100% Australian sourced, malted in Australian maltsters, and then brewed at the family-owned brewery. “Having our own grain supply is an advantage as we are able to control the quality and consistency of the grains we are using in our whisky, allowing us to ensure that each bottle of Morris Whisky has the same exceptional flavour,” Sergeant explains. There is scope in the future to try other grains but for now it’s just malted barley.

Pure, filtered water from the Snowy Mountains is also used in Morris whisky production. But the star of the show is Aurora which produces 400-500 litres of high strength new make spirit per batch which comes off the still at 78% ABV – the strength chosen by the distillers for having the right balance of flavours and congeners. The process is overseen by a team of highly-regarded experts, including ex-Diageo man and head distiller Darren Peck, who has worked for the last five years under the tutelage of John McDougall, a renowned whisky maker with experience with Balvenie, Laphroaig, and Springbank. He now consults exclusively to Morris as master distiller, while the late Dr Jim Swan, was also a key member of the original Morris Whisky team. 

Morris Whisky

The muscat wine barrel

Where whisky and wine meet

Both McDougall and Swan were integral in designing a unique barrel maturation program, and providing the team with a special and unique barrel toasting regime. David Morris helps identify the best casks from a library that includes barrels over a 100-years-old. They’re all prepared by hand at a private cooperage in-house in Yenda, which is led by Anton Remkes, a great advantage as the distillery can create customised shaving and toasting methods for optimal maturation.

The whisky is matured in a combination of American and French oak casks, ex-Shiraz, and Cabernet red wine barrels specifically, selected from wineries in the Barossa and Coonawarra regions.  The Signature Whisky is then finished in a combination of Morris fortified barrels, while the Muscat Barrel Whisky is finished in, you guessed it, rare Morris Muscat barrels, some of which have held what the brand claims is the world’s most highly awarded fortified wine.

These fortified barrels offer Morris an exceptional edge, creating whiskies with a combination of style and quality few can match. The Morris winery makes some of thebest fortified wines in the world, while the Rutherglen region’s climate lends itself to whisky production with hot summer days and cool nights, conditions that are perfect for ageing and helping create the distinctive Morris Whisky taste. 

Morris Whisky

There’s a lot of promise in those barrels

At the forefront of a growing category

Creating whisky with a winemaker’s perspective is an intriguing perspective, as two worlds collide.  Morris says that, from the beginning, the brand set itself two main guardrails: 1) to be respectful of the traditions of single malt whisky-making and 2) honour the heritage of the Morris family. “We also found on our journey that there are more similarities than not between these two worlds, the attention to detail, the influence of terroir, the quality and purity of ingredients, and the role of the barrels in ageing and blending,” Sergeant explains. “Over time, we also learnt that both consumers and trade alike were open and intrigued to learn more about the craft of fortified winemaking and how these amazing aged liquids can impart rich and intense flavour into whisky.  While our ambition is for Morris Whisky to be regarded as a world-class single malt in its own right, we hope that we can help shine a light back onto the amazing fortified category for many spirits consumers to rediscover and enjoy”.  

This approach has helped set Morris whisky apart from other distilleries in what is an increasingly strong and competitive Australian whisky market. Accelerated growth has defined the category, with the sales of local whisky more than doubling from 2019 to 2020 according to IWSR (International Wines and Spirits Record). The folks at Morris are confident that success isn’t fleeting and that drinkers both local and overseas will continue to appreciate the Australian flavour. Certainly, Morris seems to have a bright future, with 2021 a bumper year for the brand with the release of its first whiskies.

Australia’s leading wine and spirits writers have given Morris Whisky glowing reviews, picking up numerous awards and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from both consumer and industry professionals for redefining the pricing of quality Australian single malt whisky and making it more widely accessible.  These last two points, in particular, are very encouraging as they have tended to be the factors holding the category back. For Morris though, everything is moving forward. Premium releases and ideas to develop the range further are in the works, as are plans for greater distribution to an increasing number of markets, and the team are also close to opening its own brand home, the Morris Distillery in Rutherglen in 2022.  

The review

It’s a story and an approach that has grabbed the attention of a few of us at MoM Towers, with its reasonably priced inaugural releases (especially for 700ml bottles, a rarity in Australia) and wine legacy prompting several of us to find out if what’s in the bottle lives up to the promise. So, let’s take a look at the two releases, which are available now simply by clicking the links.

Morris Whisky

Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Signature

Here we have the Signature single malt whisky from Australia’s Morris Distillery. This expression is aged in fortified wine barrels and, as you’d expect, benefits from all that intense, rich fruity character. Sherry cask lovers will love its blend of spice, sweetness and nutty qualities, while an underlying biscuity malt and orchard fruit character I’d guess is coming from the spirit adds depth and plays with the cask notes beautifully. A very enjoyable sipper, one that’s hard not to go back to.

Nose: Biscuit malt, marzipan and jammy black fruits make way for dark chocolate, stewed apples, earthy vanilla, and zingy orange zest.

Palate: Rich and unctuous, with fruitcake, nutmeg, chocolate digestive biscuits, as well as touches of menthol cherry sweets and a little cassia underneath.

Finish: The full-bodied sweetness lingers with a hint of aromatic spice.

Morris Whisky

Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Muscat Barrel Finish

The more premium offering with its unique finishing period in Morris Muscat barrels, no other whisky can boast that. The prestige is matched in good measure by personality, with oodles of aromatic spice, toasty sweet notes and dense fruit mingling away together. It’s a statement whisky from the brand and it’s got very interesting things to say, particularly in a palate that defies its age and has some truly complex notes. This will prove very popular I think.

Nose: There’s an unctuous funk moving through this, Medjool dates, deeply caramelised apple and wine-soaked oak playing with beeswax, Muscovado sugar, mocha and rich malt. Licks of manuka honey and a hint of sweet tobacco are present throughout.

Palate: Prunes, raisin and oily nuts lead with vanilla pod earthiness, dark chocolate, cardamom, and more stewed orchard fruit in support. Underneath it all, there’s floral, fruity tones, allspice, and a touch of damp forest floor.

Finish: A drier, spicier finish carries with it rich oak, dark molasses, strawberry bonbons and baking spice.

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The lost whisky industries of Australia and New Zealand

In all the excitement about new world whiskies, it’s not generally known that we have been here before. Until surprisingly recently, both Australia and New Zealand had thriving whisky industries….

In all the excitement about new world whiskies, it’s not generally known that we have been here before. Until surprisingly recently, both Australia and New Zealand had thriving whisky industries. But by the late 1990s they were gone. So what happened? Ian Buxton investigates.

Casting my eye idly over my bookshelves recently a curious question came to mind. Why, I wondered, did the Canadian whisky industry go from strength to strength yet distilling failed to make much impact in Australia and New Zealand?  While today we may be increasingly aware of small-batch whiskies from both, few appreciate that they have a hidden history.

All three countries had more than a fair share of the Scottish diaspora and those new immigrants brought with them an appreciation of fine whisky and the know-how necessary to produce it. And, as new English-speaking countries with colonial links to Britain they were predisposed to favour the spirits they remembered from their original homeland. Australia, in particular, has been a strong market for Scotch blends but though their history is little-known today it turns out that there were local distilleries to be found.

The New Zealand whisky book

New Zealand’s whisky heritage

These musings were prompted by the sight of an interesting old book. The New Zealand Whisky Book by Stuart Perry was published back in 1980. Perry tells a tangled tale of bootleggers, some less-than-subtle discouraging words from Scotland, local pressures for high taxation and advocates of prohibitionist pressures. Notwithstanding this, a small industry did get off the ground in the middle of the nineteenth century but these modest efforts were strangled more or less at birth by NZ Government action in the 1870s.

Fast forward about one hundred years and in November 1969, Wilsons Malt began distilling in Dunedin under New Zealand’s first modern distiller, one Robert Logan. Over the years the distillery has had several names, including Dunedin, Lammerlaw and Willowbank. According to Perry’s book, initial production was a modest 90,000 litres per annum though he notes that in 1975 the whisky was awarded a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ in a Chicago competition.  There were early losses, however, and it would seem there was some trade reluctance to embrace domestically-produced whisky over Scotch.

By the early 1990s, the business had been acquired by Seagram, who produced the New Zealand single malt originally sold under the Lammerlaw brand. However, this was discontinued in 1997 when Seagram sold the stocks and the plant to Australian brewer Fosters. Only for Fosters to mothball operations and send the stills to Fiji for making rum, since when the rest of the distilling equipment has been dismantled.

The whisky then languished in Wilson’s old aeroplane hangar warehouse until bought first by Rachel and Matthew Thomson, who today are distilling in Auckland. However, the bulk of the remaining stock, then said to comprise 80,000 litres in 443 barrels, was acquired by The New Zealand Single Malt Whisky Company in 2010. It is primarily this whisky that appears from time to time in the UK.

Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin, New Zealand

Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin, New Zealand

Australian whisky waxes and wanes

While much Scotch whisky was exported to Australia, there was also a vibrant local industry from the 1860s, greatly helped by the discovery of gold. The resultant boom saw the population grow rapidly and the thirsty miners (and others) enthusiastically embraced whiskies from Melbourne, in particular. Soon, protected by a customs wall, substantial distilleries were built here. 

In 1929, to avoid prohibitive import duties on Scotch and other spirits, William H Ross of the Distillers Company opened a very large malt and grain operation at Corio, near Melbourne making whisky and gin. By the 1950s, locally-made whiskies took more than two-thirds of the market but were unable to compete once the tariff barriers fell and Scotch returned in force.

Corio 5 Star whisky, launched in 1956, was once a considerable force in the market but latterly, perhaps because of its low 37.1% abv bottling strength and a perceived inferiority to growing Scotch imports, sales began to fall away. Matters were not helped by the construction of an adjacent fuel refinery. Losses then mounted, the distillery closed in 1989 (some accounts say 1983) and within thirty years, the local industry had disappeared.

Come to think of it, distillery closures were not entirely unknown in Scotland during the 1980s so suggestions that Corio’s owners deliberately ran it down may be misplaced. Wider market forces are a more probable explanation.

Corio still

Old still from the Corio Distillery

So why did Canada thrive?

Meanwhile, in Canada, an already well-established industry received an unexpected bonus. As a result of Prohibition, clandestine imports to the USA boomed and fortunes were made (not least by organized crime). A substantial industry was built at this time and brands such as Canadian Club, first launched in 1884, grew significantly in volume.

The Canadian industry benefited greatly from a fortunate set of circumstances: huge demand in a contiguous market; favourable conditions for the growing of quality grain; and a generation of determined entrepreneurs, such as the original Hiram Walker and Joseph Seagram, and later the redoubtable Samuel Bronfman of Seagram. Despite this, and most probably because of ease of access to the US, Canadian whisky never really took off in world markets.

Today, with the explosion of craft distilling, all three countries are represented on the world whisky scene. Due in no small part to brands such as Forty Creek and the landmark Northern Border Collection from Pernod Ricard’s Corby the reputation of Canadian whisky has grown to unprecedented levels.

Starward

Australian whisky revived: Starward distillery in Melbourne

The modern revival

Australia too has seen a boom in small-scale distilling, dating from Bill Lark’s eponymous Hobart operation (1992) which kick-started Tasmanian production. Today, Tasmania remains a key force down-under but has been joined by larger operations such as the Diageo-backed Starward, building on Melbourne’s distilling heritage and a number of smaller craft distillers such as Bakery Hill, The Gospel Distillers and Limeburners.  Domestic demand has proved so large however, that many of the smaller distillers simply don’t have stock to export.

And, as for New Zealand, well they are catching up fast. Following the 1970s revival which petered out with the closure of Wilson’s Willowbank distillery, interest in the remaining stock proved just about sufficient to justify the opening of the small Thomson Distillery in Auckland some ten years ago and, more recently, Desiree Whitaker’s Cardrona Distillery at Wanaka on the South Island. Both are exporting now to the UK, albeit in very limited volumes.

And so the wheel turns.  Perhaps, after more than forty years, a new book is called for.  We’re not yet at the point of 101 Australian & New Zealand Whiskies but it can’t be far off….

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Family spirit: father and daughter/ son distillers

We’re keeping it in the family today as Millie Milliken takes a look at some of the father and daughter/ son distillers around the world – they’re braver than we…

We’re keeping it in the family today as Millie Milliken takes a look at some of the father and daughter/ son distillers around the world – they’re braver than we would be

One of my earliest memories is of my grandad (papa) showing me how to make beer in his garage, probably at a much younger age than I should have been. Luckily, there are some families who actually know what they’re doing when it comes to making drinks. Well-known brands from whisky like Teeling, Glenfarclas and Kilchoman trade on their family name, and there are plenty more out there from bourbon to brandy.

In celebration of this year’s Father’s Day, I’ve unearthed some of the father and daughter/ son distillers from around the wide world of drinks. From Florida to Manchester – and including a touching tribute to a recently lost father – they’re an eclectic bunch, and testament to the benefits of keeping their distilling and blending secrets in the family. Maybe it’s true: blood is thicker than whisky.

Jimmy and Eddie Russell at Distillery

Jimmy and Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey

First up is one of America’s most famous bourbons, Wild Turkey. Master distiller Eddie Russell and his father, the legendary Jimmy are a team with around 100 years of whisky making experience between them. And it was all down to Eddie’s mother, Joretta.

“I really wanted to move away as a young man, when I got the chance,” says Eddie. “I played football on scholarship at Western Kentucky University, but when I came home for my first summer break, my job options were the distillery or… the distillery. The mandate wasn’t Jimmy’s, but at my mother, Joretta Russell’s insistence.”

Eddie started at the bottom, rolling barrels, mowing lawns, painting houses before Jimmy moved him into the distillery to learn about yeast and mashing. Now Eddie sits alongside his father on the illustrious Bourbon Hall of Fame. Jimmy isn’t hanging his whisky making boots up any time soon either. “I’ve never thought of it as work. I’ve always said ‘the day it becomes work, I’ll retire.”

Where Eddie gets his father’s strong work ethic, Jimmy benefits from Eddie’s honesty: “When Eddie tells you something, it’s true. If he doesn’t like it, he will tell you!” Between the two of them, they’ve grown an empire that now Eddie’s son is getting in on, and there are now four generations working at Wild Turkey.

Until that day that working at Wild Turkey feels like work, though, Jimmy Russell will (for Eddie at least) always be the reigning patriarch: “For my dad, it took about 17 years before he became a master distiller. It was 34 years for me because my dad is still working – you should really only have one master.”

Father and son at Prestwich gin

Michael and Jack Scargill, Prestwich Gin

This Manchester born and bred gin was the result of a family dinner. “With my Dad approaching retirement, we were talking over dinner about what he was going to do with his spare time and the idea of starting our own gin cropped up,” explains Jack. “I didn’t think much of it but the next time I went round, Dad had bought a few books and a small still and started working on a few recipes and it went from there.”

With a background in chemistry, Michael takes on playing around with recipes and tweaking them as he sees fit, while Jack prefers tasting – as well as sales and marketing, which he has a professional background in.

The father/son duo’s love for gin came long before the gin boom, with birthday and Christmas presents often coming in the form of a bottle of the botanical spirit. Now, they can enjoy the fact that other people are giving theirs as gifts on special occasions – maybe a few fathers will receive one this Father’s Day.

Kristy and Billy Lark

Bill Lark and Kristy Lark-Booth, Killara Distillery

“Working with my Dad can be super amazing and at times very exasperating!” So says Kristy Lark-Booth, founder of Killara Distillery in Tasmania. Having spent years working at the family whisky business, Lark Distillery, with her father Bill, she branched out on her own in 2016 to set up her own venture.

Despite not working together as regularly day-to-day, Bill’s tutelage of Kristy on all this whisky distillation is testament to their working relationship: “I have learnt so much from him, not only how to distil amazing whisky but also a great work and personal ethic. Things like how to relate to people and to see the best in others, to follow your dreams and never give up. Working with him has given me the opportunity to explore and develop my own distilling style and certainly develop my palette.” 

Kristy’s integration into the family business wasn’t always a given. She had her eyes on a career in Air Traffic Control – and while she got a coveted place at the ATC school, having spent some time working at the distillery, she changed her mind: “They were, of course very supportive of that so I began learning whisky making from my Dad, and gin/liqueur making from my Mum. We worked closely together right up until Lark was taken over by investors.”

Looking to the future, Kristy and Bill will be working on a few projects that will see them come together again in a father/daughter – or daughter/father – capacity, including bringing back the old distillery school. Anything about distilling you don’t learn in there, ain’t worth knowing.

Wayne&Holly Bass & Flinders Distillery

Holly and Wayne Klintworth, Bass & Flinders Distillery

From the Bass & Flinders Distillery in Mornington Peninsula, Australia, head distiller Holly Klintworth produces gin, liqueurs and brandies, including a recent Maritime Gin with locally-foraged samphire, salt bush and kelp, as well as  Heartbreak Gin infused with Pinot Noir. The distillery started its life in 2009, but it wasn’t until a few years later that Holly decided to join her dad.

“Over the years dad would ask my opinion on a product or packaging, and here and there I would help out on weekends with bottling, or peeling oranges for our gins. I got a good feel for the passion my dad had for the craft spirits industry and I suppose it was pretty infectious.” Having previously spent time working in marketing in the wine industry, Holly joined her father’s distillery in 2016.

It didn’t come easy: Holly found getting up to speed so quickly a challenge without having a science background and not being initially too familiar with the production process. She was also one of few women working in the Australian distilling industry, although her father was keen to not let that deter her: “He would say to me, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you you aren’t as capable as a man in production’… He really empowered me to take ownership of the still, of the spirit and of the product from start to finish.”

Sadly, Wayne Klintworth passed away in early 2020, but his mentorship and inspiration have fuelled his daughter’s love and passion for producing fine spirits. “My dad was a real mentor and inspiration for me as I stepped into the distilling world. Having him mentoring me and him also being my dad, meant I learned the ropes extremely quickly as I had access to his knowledge and expertise at all hours of the day or night and he was always ready for a chat about the business.”

Rollins Distillery, father and son

Paul and Patrick Rollins, Rollins Distillery

If you look closely at the Rollins Distillery logo, you’ll notice it’s two rams butting heads. Florida isn’t known for its rams, so it’s probably more likely that those rams represent Patrick and Paul Rollins, the son and father who distil their 100% Floridian molasses rum.

It all started with father, Paul, whose time at the Naval Academy saw him studying chemistry and growing an interest in distillation. Several years later, the family was stationed in Scotland, where Paul spent some time studying operations at the Old Fettercairn Distillery. Back in Florida, with grown up kids, Paul decided to take the plunge, being sure to utilise Florida’s agriculture in the process.

Patrick was more interested in beer when his father approached him with the idea of setting up a distillery. Dreams of a brewpub slowly faded when he started learning more about distilling and rum – attending lectures and seminars – and he fell in love with the craft.

For Paul and Patrick, two heads are better than one: “Dad is a very inside-the-box technical thinker. He sees the trees. I am a very outside-the-box creative thinker. I see the forest. Together we are able to create so much more than we could separately.”

Paul agrees, with a slight caveat: “Let me be frank, I would have tried to make the distillery happen with or without Patrick, but I cannot say it would be as successful as it is today without him.”

 

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MoM tastes: TBWC Australian Series whiskies

Our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company have landed a stash that is sure to get whisky fans all excited. Eight casks from some of Australia’s finest whisky distilleries, coming…

Our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company have landed a stash that is sure to get whisky fans all excited. Eight casks from some of Australia’s finest whisky distilleries, coming soon to Master of Malt. So, here’s a little preview of TBWC Australian series whiskies.

There’s been much excitement about Australian whisky ever since Sullivans Cove won the best single malt trophy at the World Whiskies Awards in 2014. The only problem was, according to Dave Worthington from That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC), “people were talking about it, but nobody could find it.” That’s both the problem and the appeal of Australian whisky. Starward aside, it’s made in tiny quantities and rarely makes its way to the UK. 

Australian whisky history

That is until now: TBWC is just about to list eight limited edition whiskies but before we dive in, Worthington gave me a bit of a history lesson. We highly recommend reading his blog post on the subject. In the 1930s, Australia had the fourth largest whisky industry in the world after Scotland, Ireland and Canada; America was still suffering under Prohibition. Australia certainly had all the ingredients with its British and Irish settlers, abundant wheat and barley, and strong wine industry to provide casks.

Distilleries included Melbourne’s giant Corio Distillery, once the largest in the southern hemisphere. But in the 1980s, quality declined, and imported brands took over. Worthington suspects that nefarious actions by large multinationals were partly to blame. Corio closed in 1986 and Australian whisky was dead. 

Lark Distillery Tasmania_Abbie 1 WEB

Lark Distillery in Tasmania, the godfathers of modern Australian whisky

The rebirth

Bill Lark, however, successfully lobbied to overturn a law forbidding the use of stills smaller than 1,000 gallons (4500 litres). In 1992, he set up Larks Distillery in Tasmania. Rather like Sipsmith for craft distilling in Britain, this opened the floodgates for other distillers including Sullivans Cove, and Hellyers Road in Tasmania; Bakery Hill Distillery in Victoria, and The Great Southern Distilling Company in Western Australia.

The result is one of the most creative whisky industries in the world helped by Australia’s relaxed whisky laws. Producers, often working to a tiny scale, are experimenting with cereals, beer malts, yeasts and, of course, the richness of Australian wine casks. Most distilleries are also working in a climate substantially hotter than Scotland which speeds up ageing considerably.

Cask sniffer extraordinaire

So, to check out this burgeoning scene, TBWC sent intrepid cask sniffer Felix Dear over to find some whiskies. Despite not having much stock a lot of them had heard of Boutique-y and according to Worthington “were well up for taking part”. For the Black Gate distillery, for example, TBWC has taken 4% of its entire annual production. 

These are all single cask whiskies bottled at high strength in 50cl bottles. Oh and the labels are full of in-jokes for the eagle-eyed. As they are such limited editions, I didn’t get to try them all but the ones I did, the first three listed below with full tasting notes, were fascinating.

Here’s what you can expect:

TBWC Black Gate single malt

Black Gate 3 Year Old Batch 1 

Run by husband and wife team Brian and Genise Hollingworth who established the distillery in New South Wales in 2009. They make just 3000 litres of whisky a year from two direct-fired stills of 300 and 630 litres. They describe themselves as a ‘hot climate distillery’ so things mature pretty quickly. 

Grain: single malt
Cask: ex-Apera (ie. Australian sherry-style wine)
ABV: 46%

Nose:  Lots of sweetness coming through on the nose, with burnt toffee, honey, and fruitcake. 

Palate: That lovely sweetness continues with salted caramel and dark chocolate, as well as aromatic spicy and floral notes, marzipan and black coffee.  

Finish: Thick, creamy, and nutty, with vanilla and spice lingering in the mouth.  

TMBW Fleurieu whisky

Fleurieu 3 Year Old Batch 1

FYI, it’s pronounced ‘fleur e oo’ not like the French wine. It’s named after a peninsula in the heart of South Australian’s wine country. According to founder and distillery Gareth Andrews: “The air is very humid, and we have a lower angel’s share than other Australian distilleries.” The stills are modelled on those at Caol Ila on Islay though much smaller.

Grain: single malt
Casks: ex-Apera
ABV: 49.5% 

Nose: There’s a cheese rind note followed by some smoked bacon with gamey meaty notes. It’s like ordering a platter in a wine bar. A drop of water brings out stone fruit and spicy ginger notes. 

Palate: Peppery and spicy, from the high alcohol, and then layers of sweetness, with honeycomb and caramel.

Finish: The spice persists with chilli and black pepper balanced by sweet chocolate and fudge. 

TBWC Shed distillery

Tin Shed distillery 3 Year Old Batch 1 

Another distillery located in South Australia’s wine country. It’s stills are electrically-heated, and short and fat which creates a heavy oily spirit. It was founded by Ian Schmidtt in 2013 and its whiskies are made using local barley as well as making use of the cask riches that can be found near Adelaide. Annual capacity is just 41,000 litres. 

Grain: single malt
Cask: tawny (Australian Port-styles wine) finished in Pinot Gris casks
ABV: 48%

Nose: This is all sweetness, it’s like putting your nose in a packet of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. Mmmmm, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes! There’s also richer notes of maraschino cherries and dark chocolate.

Palate: There’s a little tannic grip and then creamy, toasty, nutty notes like an old oxidised Tawny Port followed by popcorn with cardamom and chilli spice. 

Finish: That sweetness lingers with nutty toasty notes. This is hugely distinctive.

We also have:

Belgrove Batch 1 TBWC Australian whisky

Belgrove 4 Year Old Rye Batch 1

A tiny one man operation, the man in question is Peter Bignell, in Tasmania. The still is made from reclaimed copper from fallen power lines and the grain is malted in an old tumble dryer.

Grain: Rye
ABV: 49.8%
Cask: re-charred ex-Tasmanian whisky cask

Worthington writes: “You could be forgiven for thinking this was a Tequila/mezcal… I bloody love this oddity!

Killara Batch 1 TBWC Australian Whisky

Killara 2 Year Old Batch 1

Made by Kristy Booth-Lark, daughter of Bill Lark and previous head distiller at Lark. This was distilled in her garage before her proper distillery was built. You’ll notice the age, this is not technically a whisky by EU standards so isn’t labelled as such.

Grain: single malt
Cask: Australian tawny
ABV: 49%

Worthington writes: “Reminds me of a Panettone cake dough with lots of sultanas.”

Riverbourne Batch 1 TBWC Australian whisky

Riverbourne  3 Year Old Batch 1

Founded by Martin Pym, this New South Wales distillery began distilling in 2016 after Pym was inspired by a trip to Tasmania.

Grain: Single malt
Cask: re-charred American & French oak
ABV: 50%

Worthington writes: “There’s a herbal note to this with hints of rosemary and raspberry leaves.”

Starward Batch 1 TBWC Australian whisky

Starward 3 Year Old Batch 1

The big boys based in Melbourne, Starward needs no introduction to MoM customers. It was founded in 2013 and it’s now probably the best-distributed Australian whisky in the world. The team are masters at using Australian wine casks to build flavour. This is a great chance to try Starward at cask strength.

Grain: single malt
Casks: re-charred ex-red wine
ABV: 56%

Worthington writes: “Cherry syrup gives way to softer red fruits…. Sweet and fruity, with a spicy finish.”

Bakery Hill Batch 1 TBWC Australian whisky

Bakery Hill 5 Year Old Batch 1

Bakery Hill is a father and son operation founded in 1999. This is a bit unusual as it uses Highland peated malt from Scotland.

Grain: single malt
Cask type: ex-bourbon
ABV: 50%

Worthington writes: “If I’d tasted this in a blind tasting I would have guessed a Ledaig, it has that herbal leathery peated Tobermory vibe to it.”

The collection is now leave, click on links above or go to our Australian whisky page for more information. 

2 Comments on MoM tastes: TBWC Australian Series whiskies

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.

2 Comments on Explore the world via your tasting glass!

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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