Posted by: Nick and Ted
Tasmanian whisky: One state. Three ingredients. Unlimited flavour.
Whisky Waffle are thrilled to help kick off the inaugural Tasmanian Whisky Week, an event we are sure will capture the hearts and minds of the whisky loving public. Throughout the week we will be showcasing a different Tasmanian drop each day and exploring the huge variety of flavours on offer in our small state.
From Hobart to Burnie, the week will be a celebration of the history, the people and of course, the amazing whisky itself. But what is it exactly that makes Tasmanian whisky worth celebrating? To answer that, we asked the people who know best, the folk working in and contributing to the whisky industry in our home state.
We turned first to the (designated) drivers and organisers of Tas Whisky Week, the beautiful Jane Overeem and the beautifully bearded Brett Steel:
Jane Overeem, Overeem brand ambassador and coordinator of Tas Whisky Week:
The authenticity, love and passion behind every brand – which results in amazing quality products!
Brett Steel, Drink Tas founder and coordinator of Tas Whisky Week:
The stories and the people! Whisky is being made all over the country now, but Tasmania is and always will be the homeland of Australian whisky. When Bill Lark got the laws changed in 1992 it ignited something in many of the island folk. Whisky production with the old-world techniques is a passionate affair and a patience game. I think Tasmanians value both of these elements; we are in no rush. Great whisky can’t be hurried, and where others may be focusing on scale and technology, I think the execution of Tasmanian whisky-craft is down to the pioneers in Tasmania who were hungry enough to make it happen in the first instance, and generous enough to teach others their technique. And because of that drive, that’s why Tasmania produces exceptional whisky, time and time again. I hope Tasmanian Whisky Week becomes a celebration of their story.
Next we spoke to the head distillers from two of Tasmania’s most influential distilleries, Lark and Hellyers Road, about their aspirations to be the next James Bond… and about whisky:
Chris Thomson, Lark head distiller:
Ask anyone who works in the industry and you will always come back to the people. Tasmanian whisky is built on an incredible brother and sisterhood where we are all just celebrating whisky, enjoying it with friends and family and trying to make each dram better. As an industry we help each other out and share in each other’s success, usually with a whisky in hand! The thing I love about Tasmania’s distilleries is we are all just small enough that you might see this relationship in action. So what is it that makes Tasmanian whisky worth celebrating? It’s the same thing that makes whisky worth celebrating; the great people you meet over a dram.
Mark Littler, Hellyers Road head distiller:
Tasmanian whisky has come so far in such a short period of time and to be having our single malts recognised and distributed globally is certainly something to celebrate!
Tasmania’s down-to-earth whisky alchemist, champion sand sculptor and 2015 Bill Lark Award recipient provided some sage advice about our local industry’s lo-fi nature:
Peter Bignell, Belgrove head distiller and whisky alchemist:
It is all hand made in small batches. We don’t rely on computers to tell us when to make the ‘cuts’; it is all done by nose and taste. If it doesn’t smell or taste right then it does not go into a barrel – or come out of the barrel. We all use alembic pot stills that are inefficient at separating alcohol from the vapours in the still, but we exploit that inefficiency to bring exciting flavours along with the alcohol. It is all about flavour, not volume.
Two of Tassie’s newest members to the family got straight to the point about what goes into making a good Tasmanian whisky… literally:
Chris Condon, Launceston Distillery head distiller:
It’s a little bit of Tassie in a glass. Local grain and water, crafted into full flavoured whiskies by passionate people.
Damien Mackey (photo by Paul County)
Damien Mackey, Shene Estate head distiller:
Tasmanian Whisky is a perfect storm: world-class barley and water, an ideal climate, time-tested methodology, passionate people and the steady hand of an intrepid leader, Bill Lark.’
Fifth Beatle and third Waffler, Alex ‘Moorsey’ Moores gave us a Braveheart-esque speech on the merits of the Tassie drop:
Alex Moores, founder of Dramatic Drams and Whisky Waffle guest reviewer:
Tasmanian whisky is all about the craft. Nowhere else did any anyone have the bravery and foresight to do something so momentous on such a small scale. You don’t do that because you want to take people’s money. You do it because you think those people are missing out on something truly great. Every detail matters to Tasmanian whisky distillers. Other distilleries in the world are built to even out the crinkles in their product; make a lot and hide its imperfections. Tasmanian whisky finds beauty in the chaos of variation; it makes something delicious, then breaks the mould and does it all over again.
Finally, the co-presidents of the Tasmanian Whisky Appreciation Society gave us vastly different (but equally accurate) responses about why Tasmanian whisky is worth celebrating:
Richard Stewart, TWAS co-president and Whisky Waffle guest reviewer:
In my opinion – the people! I mean everyone knows Tassie is the best place on earth, and everyone knows we’re blessed with the perfect climate, soil, water, animals, peat, foliage, moss, sunlight, ecosystem, etc etc for growing grain, distilling, and aging whisky.
But to do any of this you have to have the right people – smart people, friendly people and a welcoming and supportive community behind them. People not afraid to step outside the box, take big risks, do unimaginable, amazing and sometimes weird things with water, yeast, grain and wood. And these people have placed their trust and faith in us, the locals, and given their all, asked us what we think – what they can do to improve and change what works and what doesn’t.
I think Tasmanian whisky is worth celebrating because it’s a nexus of harmony – perfect ingredients, perfect location, perfect people and a perfect community supporting all of this. Everyone in Tassie should be proud of the distillers, distilleries and the whisky produced, but the fact that the Tassie community is helping as well means we’re all a part of one big whisky family… now that’s worth celebrating!
Tim Duckett, Heartwood founder, TWAS co-president and whisky palaeontologist :
You answered your own question. The whisky is ‘Tasmanian’.
We would like to thank everyone in our extended Tasmanian whisky family for embracing us (and putting up with us) and sharing their passion and wisdom with us. We are privileged to be a part of this celebration and wish it all the success in the world. Tasmania, keep on waffling.
Nick and Ted. Wafflers at large.
Tasmanian whisky: One state. Three ingredients. Unlimited flavour.