Banana

Moseying on over to Mt Uncle: a visit to North Queensland’s only distillery

Posted by: Nick, photos by Paul Moran

1 Nick at Mt uncle

Any excuse to wear the shirt.

I’m not sure what I expected from an outback distillery. Certainly not a wood and stone hut surrounded by a banana plantation with native animals roaming freely over the site. But it turns out that the outback distillery Mt Uncle is exactly that: a distillery in Australia’s outback.

Mt Uncle can be found half an hour from Cairns and is North Queensland’s only distillery. This means that it is the only whisky producer for a nearly 2000 kilometre radius – but I wasn’t going to let a small detail like that deter me!

2 BBC

I am prepared to travel for my whisky

The business was founded fifteen years ago by farmer Mark Watkins, and originally produced banana liqueur – a more conventional business in this part of the world. But in 2006, he bravely made the switch to distilling barley and is now reaping the rewards. Mark, however, is not big on tradition, preferring to do things his own way. This is in evidence with the name of his yellow-wax-dipped five year old single malt: The Big Black Cock. The large dark-feathered rooster on the front of the bottle clarifies the source of the controversial name.

3 BBC

Three big black cocks

And it’s a proper outback whisky. Buttery vanilla on the nose with dashes of various native vegetation. The palate is fruity and bitter, perhaps due to the ex-wine barrels it was matured in: American oak with French oak tops. The finish is long, and a little rough. Overall, an intriguing mix.

5 Still

Pot still, or column still? Or both?

The whisky was not the only product made at the distillery – Mt Uncle also produces a vast range of other spirits. This included an interesting vodka made from honey, and a light and a dark rum, both easy to drink. There was also a proper bush gin, made with botanicals such as wattle seed, peppermint gum, lemon myrtle and Lilly Pilly. Finally, a bright pink concoction claiming to be marshmallow liqueur, provocatively titled SexyCat. And it was delicious. Dangerously so. Perhaps also embarrassingly so. But certainly a memorable addition to the Mount Uncle range.

6 Sexy Cat trier

Perfectly acceptable for male drinkers everywhere… I’m telling myself…

Myself and my drinking-buddy-of-the-day Paul had a great time sampling the products, chatting with staff and wandering around the grounds. We kept remarking how nice the place was, though we had to keep reminding ourselves that it was a distillery. It was certainly not what we expected. But we were in tropical North Queensland surround by banana palms. How could we expect anything else?

4 the range

The range: and yes, the SexyCat is sitting in a high heel shoe!

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

Reviewed by: Nick

Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old

The Caribbean. What does it make you think of? Beaches? Palm trees? Sunshine? Johnny Depp movies?

The flavour of the Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask certainly shows the power of suggestion because I can’t help but noticing this whisky tastes rather… tropical!

Balvenie are one of the leaders in Scotland for maturing their spirit in multiple barrels, often, as is the case with the Caribbean cask, for only the final few months of the aging process. This imparts another layer of flavour on the whisky without removing characteristics that are already present. Often this ‘finishing’ process is conducted in sherry or even port casks. In the case of this Balvenie however, it spends its final few months of aging in ex-West Indian rum barrels, hence the moniker: Caribbean Cask.

The rum influence certainly adds a new dimension to the whisky. The overriding flavour in the nose is, would you believe it, bananas; and I’m not just saying this because of the Caribbean image in my head. Honestly! There are also the vanilla and honey notes expected of a Speyside whisky, however these couple with fresh floral scents. It’s sweet and light, but pleasingly complex.

On the palate the mouth feel is thick and syrupy with malty, biscuity notes present. However, these rapidly give way to fruits such as pineapple, passionfruit, mango and yet more banana. Tropical fruits! The finish is gentle and sweet, with more traditional honeycomb and toffee.

Whether or not I would have picked out these tasting notes if this whisky had been given a less suggestive name is an interesting point. However, as far as this dram is concerned, the marketing and the flavour go hand in hand. The image that ‘Caribbean Cask’ conjures in my head is now inseparable from the whisky itself and I can only describe it in one way: this is the tropical punch of whisky!

★★★