Brett Steel

Tasmania and Whisky Waffle launch Tasmanian Whisky Week

Posted by: Nick

It seems we Wafflers are not the only ones who love Tasmanian Whisky! We reported recently that Whisky Live is coming to Tasmania for the first time. But, why stop there? The Tasmanian whisky community has decided to crash the party and create the inaugural Tasmanian Whisky Week.

TWW Logo

While we say ‘week’, it will in fact last for nine days between Friday July 22 and Sunday July 31 and will feature a number of industry events at Tasmanian distilleries, bars, restaurants – even barns! Throughout the week a number of distilleries will open their doors to host tours, rare whisky tastings, gourmet meals and more. You’d better hurry, though – tickets are selling fast!

Of course, Whisky Waffle will also be taking part in this week of festivities. Throughout the seven days leading up to Whisky Live we will be releasing a series of articles and reviews celebrating some of our favourite Tassie drops. Even if you are from another part of the world, log on to Whisky Waffle throughout the week to celebrate along with us.

Hellyers Road Whisky Waffle

Two Hellyers Road Whisky Walks for the price of one!

Among the many events taking place are exclusive tours of Lark, Overeem, Sullivans Cove and Hellyers Road, or a combination of the above, with Drink Tasmania.

For something more extravagant why not check out the whisky and cheese afternoon at Redlands, a whisky and food matching masterclass at Launceston Distillery, or the Shene Estate after dark tour.

Mackey Shene photo Paul County

Mackey AND Shene Estate! Wait… they’re the same thing? Picture courtesy of Paul County Photography

Perhaps you’re after something a little stronger, such as trying a range of amazing Heartwood products – or maybe you’d like to try some boilermakers with Belgrove’s Pete Bignell and his son, brewer Tom Bignell. Nant are not missing out either, hosting a meet-the-distiller two course lunch.

For those looking for something even more special, there is the Founders Dinner, a three course meal complete with rare Tasmanian whiskies and four of the most important men in the business: Bill Lark, Casey Overeem, Patrick Maguire (Sullivans Cove) and Mark Littler (Hellyers Road). If you have a little more time and money, there is the option of a two day jaunt around the Tasmanian highlands, visiting multiple distilleries and the very location of Bill Lark’s epiphany.

Drink Tas tour

Brett Steel, Pete Bignell and some happy whisky drinkers on a Drinks Tas tour

Finally, there is Whisky Live, the catalyst of the week and a compulsory visit for fans of Tasmanian and Scottish whisky alike.

It’s going to be a huge week. Our only regret is not being able to attend each and every event. One thing is for sure however – when it comes to Tasmanian whisky, there is a lot worth celebrating!

Wafflers and Brett

Cheers Brett! Tas Whisky Week. Let’s do this!

Whisky Tales: Stories to drink to

Posted by: Nick and Ted

We like drinking whisky. We also like writing about whisky. So when we heard that the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre was holding an event combining the two, we packed our bags and cruised off down the highway to hell Hobart to make an appearance.

‘Whisky Tales: Stories You Can Drink To’ featured cartoonist-at-large Jon Kudelka, co-author of ‘Kudelka and First Dog’s Spiritual Journey’, and Bernard Lloyd, true waffler and author of the upcoming book ‘Tasmanian Whisky: The Devils Share’. The evening was hosted by Tasmanian Whisky Tours founder and quality beard grower Brett Steel.

1

Bernard and Jon: Whisky Writings answer to Statler and Waldorf

Of course, we must not forget the 50 strong audience, who bore witness to a night of sensational banter between the three protagonists as they discussed the history of Tasmanian whisky, the state of the State’s distilleries and just why Pete Bignell is such a good bloke.

Upon arriving we were disappointed to discover that our talk clashed with the intriguing sounding ‘Tasmania: A land of dregs, bogans and third generation morons’. It seemed that a bogans first policy was in swing too, as while patrons for the other talk waltzed straight in, we were forced to loiter in the lobby with Bob Brown. We came up with a number of theories as to the nature of the delay:

  1. A brawl had sparked up between whisky snobs and bogans, and all the bottles had been smashed to use as weapons.
  2. Jon Kudelka’s bicycle had got a puncture on top of Mt Wellington.
  3. Bernard Lloyd had offered to tell a staff member a brief anecdote.
  4. Brett Steel had tucked into a bottle of cask strength Lark to steady his nerves, and was found ‘napping’ under a table.
  5. There had been a rather bizarre incident involving an explosive pineapple and a Peruvian folk band who had wandered in from the market.

Finally we were permitted entry and made a rockstar’s entrance past the lone paparazzi lurking in the hall. We selected the closest table to the front and sat down to a platter of fine food and distilled beverages. We later discovered that the platters themselves were in fact barrel ends that had been specially made for the event that week.

2

Whisky Waffle and the Queen… Oh, and the wonderful Jon Kudelka!

Brett kicked off proceedings by announcing that the night would be filled with yarns, anecdotes and tall tales about the dirtier, grungier characters that make up the Tasmanian whisky industry (two of them being seated beside him). We learned about the beginnings of Tasmanian distilling from Bernard, when in the 1820s the Governor adopted an ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ policy, allowing several land owners to start legally producing whisky.

Bear in mind that this was a similar sort of time to when famous Scottish distilleries such as Glenlivet, Laphroaig and Dalmore were being established, however the Tasmanians were shut down only several years later by decree of Governor Franklin. If they had been allowed to continue, who knows what they might have achieved.

3

Wafflers United

Jon discussed the Spiritual Journey, noting how Brett had bailed him out of what he described as a ‘massive cockup’ in the trips organisation. Turns out that Tasmanian distilleries like to have a well earned break on the weekends. Luckily, Brett was kind enough to provide an Audi and the offer to be designated driver on a week day.

Of course, the talk was only one highlight of the evening, the other being grain – of the distilled variety! There were three rare local drams on offer, and both of us were smugly able to identify each by smell alone. Each was paired with a delicious treat, although we debated whether the matchings might have worked better in a different order.

Stepping up to the crease as the opener was a cask strength Lark finished in the distillery’s own rum barrels, paired with a juicy oyster. Naturally there was plenty of vanilla, caramel and of course Lark’s signature orange, with a long warming finish.

Second drop was a Sullivans Cove bourbon wood single barrel paired with whisky soaked smoked salmon. In the Sullivans Cove we found lemon, toffee, salt and herbal notes, with a delicate zesty finish.

The last man standing was what Brett described as ‘fanboy whisky’. It was one of Belgrove’s mad creations, a 100% rye matured in Pinot Noir casks, paired with a hazelnut chocolate. It was a stark contrast to the other two, which pleasantly intrigued us. Lashings of plum jam, squashed strawberries, spice, wood and apparently a finish akin to sucking on a HB pencil (many thanks to our new friend Julian for that particular gem of a tasting note).

4 lads

Because all the cool people have slogans on the back of their t-shirts

As much as we like to think we know about Tasmanian whisky, nights like this prove there’s an awful lot we don’t. We left feeling enlightened, inspired and grateful to be a part of the whisky scene in our home state. After the talk came to an end we filtered out to grab a signature with Jon, a pint with Bernard and a dram with Brett… and later, many drunken selfies with our new friends.

Tasmanian whisky, bringing people together since 1820.

5

Exhibit A

Tasmanian Whisky Tours: a story worth telling

Posted by: Nick

Before there were convicts there was whisky.

But before there was Tasmanian Whisky Tours, there was a distinct lack of access to Tasmanian whisky distilleries.

Enter Brett Steel, a man with a vision. He realised that Tasmania was entering a “golden age” of whisky creation and wanted to give the public a chance to travel to these distilleries, meet the people that make the whisky and hear their stories. Thus Tasmanian Whisky Tours was born.

I caught up with Brett to find out a bit more about the tours.

WW1 TWT Brett

“From my first visit to Tasmania in 2008 I fell in love with the place”

Brett grew up, not among whisky makers, but instead with a strong wine background. This is hardly surprising, as he lived near the great wine region of McLaren Vale. He moved from South Australia to Hobart in 2011 with intentions of starting up a bar selling Tasmanian whisky, assuming that once he was in the state there would be easy access to the distilleries making the product he intended to sell. However, he quickly found this was not the case.

As more distilleries opened up, Tasmania rapidly became a join the dots puzzle. The state suddenly had a whisky trail! And Brett? Well he had a car! He realised that no one in their right mind wanted to drive themselves to distilleries and now there was a real touring opportunity. So Brett took the plunge and decided to become… a professional designated driver!

There is, of course, more to it than that. Brett is a man after our own hearts. He is a waffler. As well as tasting the flavours of the drink, he was passionate about hearing the tales told by the people behind the whisky.

WW2 TWT at Redlands

“I wanted this to be about storytelling, as much as whisky”

Brett’s aim for the tours is not so much to give an educational and scientific description of how whisky is made. Instead he is more interested engaging with the people who make the product and hearing about the struggles and adventures they have had along the way. After all, the whisky-makers are just ordinary people doing something they love and they certainly have a tale or two to tell. Brett believes that whisky and story-telling are “perfect bed-fellows” and his guests, after meeting the story-tellers themselves, cannot help but agree.

WW3 TWT at home base 2 bnw

“The trick is to try to cater to all levels and not to have anyone feel excluded”

Brett’s first tours began running in early 2014 and the business has been growing in popularity ever since. The rise in profile of whiskies made in the state has given the business a boost, and Brett has found himself chaperoning journalists, whisky experts, and even cartoonists!

The tours run on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and visit a wide range of southern distilleries – and also get to taste some from further afield. Sessions begin at 9am at the Lark cellar door, and proceedings commence by reclining in comfortable chairs and chatting about the history of Tasmanian whisky. Guests are then loaded into the van and driven around the beautiful Derwent Valley or Tasman Peninsula.

There are many highlights on each tour for Brett: the picturesque setting at McHenry’s Distillery in Port Arthur, the paddock to bottle experience at Redlands Estate, and the unforgettable yarns spun by “renaissance moonshiner” and “champion sand-sculptor” Pete Bignell at Belgrove.

Of course, much like everyone has a favourite whisky (or gin, or brandy, or apple schnapps – which are also sampled on various tours) everyone has a favourite stop, and you won’t know which is yours until you travel there.

WW4 TWT at Nant

“To me whisky is the perfect social lubricant”

I absolutely adore this quote and cannot agree more wholeheartedly. Brett believes, as we do, that whisky is a very social experience, and when presented with context, such as the people who create it and the processes they use, guests will get so much more out of every sip.

He says that sharing the narrative of Tasmanian whisky, past, present and future, is half the experience of the tour. The characters that are met along the way and the real passion they exhibit, gives true meaning to the boutique hand-crafted product that we at Whisky Waffle love.

WW5 TWT at Bothwell

Brett, like all of us, confesses to loving Tasmanian whiskies and their rich flavour. But he is also fascinated by the history and stories behind each of the distilleries.

“When you put the two together and add the dynamic of a mix of different people, it’s pretty hard to beat that experience – no matter where in the world you travel.”

Find out more about Tasmanian Whisky Tours at their website.

Photos by Andy Wilson at  Everything Everything.