On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Tiger Snake Sour Mash Whiskey. There must be something in the water over in Western Australia that makes distillers keen to try their hand at a bourbon-style whiskey, because this is the second one so far in the advent calendar. Great Southern Distilling Co. (makers of the Limeburners, which we saw on Day 5) call the Tiger Snake a ‘sour mash’ style whiskey though, as the term bourbon is restricted due it’s status as a geographic indicator.
Named after one of Australia’s most venemous reptiles, the Tiger Snake uses a mash bill of corn, rye, malted barley and occasionally an old hybrid wheat variety called triticale, all grown in WA, although I couldn’t find any details about the casking. The nose is very light, with a faint hint of sweet stawberry jam and wood, while the taste is a bit of a non-event, with a vague spiced orange syrup body and a touch of green-ness on the finish. I’m sorry to say it folks, but I think this one is a bit of a toothless Tiger Snake.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Fleurieu Whisky Kisses whisky. Fleurieu is the first contender from South Australia on the advent calendar and as far as I know, the only distillery in the country to have a logo featuring two small urinating boys (a bit like that famous fountain in Belgium). The rather romantic sounding name of the Whisky Kisses release comes from the name of the distillery’s first pot still, which in turn was derived from a mispronunciation of ‘whiskery kisses’ by the Gareth and Angela Andrews’ young sons.
Named for its location on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide, Fleurieu is a true coastal distillery, huddled a mere stone’s throw from the Southern Ocean, with the elements imbuing the aging spirit. The Kisses is fully aged in ex-port barrels and, in the best coastal tradition, has a light touch of peat to it. On the nose it is rich, fruity and nutty, with some bold, meaty undertones thanks to the port and the cask strength bottling, while the mouth is like a hot apple and pear tart spiced with cinnamon and a salty, slightly savoury, smoky finish. A cracking dram, complex and satisfying and one that by rights should be enjoyed next to a beach bonfire in the encroaching dusk on a hot summer evening.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Bladnoch 10yo Scotch whisky. Wait a minute, Scotch? Huh? Ok, so this one fudges the brief a bit, but it works if you squint your eyes. Founded back in 1847, Bladnoch is the southernmost Scottish distillery (not quite as far as Australia though) and one of only six remaining in the Scottish lowlands. After going into liquidation in 2014, it was purchased the following year by Australian businessman David Prior, who renewed and expanded the brand.
The 10yo is a release of older, pre-takeover stock aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. The nose has a distinct note of canteloupe and boiled caramel sweets, while the mouth is light and sharply sweet with a finish of spice, wood and grain. Technically, I suppose you could call the Bladnoch the only true ‘Australian made’ Scotch whisky. Worth a try if you like your drams sweet and light.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Dobson’s Old Reliable whisky. Based in Kentucky, New South Wales, Dobson’s is definitely the eccentric, fez and brocade dressing gown wearing, pipe smoking uncle of the Aussie distilling scene. The label artworks all have a fantastical art neuvo/deco aesthetic to them and the website is like a kooky antiques emporium bursting with all sorts of knickknacks and treasures. They also run a speakeasy bar at their Eastview Estate home, as you do.
It is therefore only fitting that Stephen and Lyn, owners and makers of the self-titled Dobson’s, would come up with a rather quirky whisky. Old Reliable is a lightly peated, triple distilled single malt aged in ex-Shiraz and Madeira French oak casks in the New England highlands. The nose is like a buttery apricot Danish with a splash of wine at the back, while the flavour is bright and grapey and reminds me a bit of cognac with a faint whisp of smoke on the finish. All in all, I feel that the Old Reliable would make a rather excellent pairing with some cheese and good company.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Limeburners Port Cask whisky. Crafted by Great Southern Distilling Co. at their Albany distillery in Western Australia (they also have a site in Porongurup that makes Tiger Snake Sour Mash Whiskey), the Limeburners takes its name from the nearby convict-built kilns that provided building lime during colonial times.
This particular Limeburners edition starts off life in ex-bourbon American oak barrels before being transferred to Australian port casks for finishing. The nose has a funky ripe banana in caramel sauce vibe going on, while the mouth feel is dry and hot, with an alcholic spiced plum finish. The Port Cask would make a great accompaniment to a platter of fine local produce while camping on the beautiful southern coast of WA.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of 23rd Street Distillery Hybrid Whisk(e)y. Australians love the whole fusion cuisine thing and this old world-meets-new world-meets-even newer world blend is no exception. The mad tinkerers at 23rd Street take 5yo-ish Scotch whisky from Scotland and splice it together with 2yo-ish bourbon whiskey from America (hence ‘whisk(e)y’) and then finish it off in ex-bourbon casks at their digs in South Australia.
The Hybrid lives up to the whole Jekyll and Hyde vibe, with the Scotch and bourbon both playing off each other. The nose is light and sharp, with competing woody, floral and fruity notes, while the palate starts off smooth and honeyed before developing into a hot, sweet, bright and lingering finish. The Hybrid is proof that the antipodes are still the real wild west (south?) of whisky and (nearly) anything goes.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Starward Wine Cask whisky. Made in Port Melbourne by the hardest working crew in Aussie whisky, as it’s name suggests the Wine Cask (now rebranded as the Nova by the looks of things) is matured in ex-shiraz barrels from the Barossa Valley.
Thanks to the casking choice the nose is spicy with overtones of grilled meat, cinnamon and wine gums, while the flavour on the mouth is sweet and tanninic, with a honey and fennel seed finish. Starward proves that not only can Australian whisky taste great, it can also be affordable too.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Hellyers Road Distillery 10yo Original whisky. Made at the largest craft distillery in Australia, which happens to be just up the road in my hometown of Burnie, the 10yo is now something of an endangered breed. Why? Because head distiller Mark Littler and his crew have decided to take the curious step of replacing it with a 15yo!
Distilled in giant stainless-steel stills and aged in ex-bourbon casks, the nose has that classic sweet, buttery, nutty Hellyers Road profile, while the palate is sharp and peppery with a toffee and rose-water base. The 10yo shows that dairy farmers also know a thing or two about making single malt whisky.
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Upshot Whiskey. Made practically on the other side of the world in Western Australia by the funky folks at Whipper Snapper Distillery (they once created a quinoa whiskey just for fun), the Upshot Whiskey gets that extra ‘e’ because it’s essentially Aussie ‘Bourbon’.
Scratch out the corresponding section in the booklet to reveal some fun facts about each dram.
Using a mash bill of WA-grown corn, wheat and malted barley and aged for at least two years in heavily charred American oak, the Upshot cranks up the vanilla and caramel on the nose, while the palate sports tannins, cereal and hot steel. Park a deckchair on Cottesloe Beach on a scorching WA summer’s day and wriggle your toes in the sand while you relax with a dram of Upshot.
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… well actually that’s a bit of a lie. It was technically for my birthday, which is in November, but it is true that my lovely wife gave me an Australian whisky advent calendar* created by the good folks at White Possum for my 30th (ugh, yes, lower middle-age is now upon me).
So fellow Wafflers, load up the esky in the old rusty Holden ute, chuck a snag on the barbie for Uncle Bruce and join me for the next 25 days as I embark on a corker of an Aussie Christmas whisky adventure, opening little cardboard windows one at a time. Oh, and hopefully drinking some Aussie drams too