Keith Batt

The 25 days of Aussie whisky – Day 21: Nant Distillery Sherry Cask 43%

Posted by: Ted

On the twenty-first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Nant Distillery Sherry Cask whisky. The mention of the name Nant will inevitably invite dark mutterings amongst observers of the Tasmanian whisky scene, having been the focus of a bit of an ugly episode in the recent history of the industry. The distillery and it’s owner, Keith Batt, always had a bit of a reputation for not playing nicely with the rest of the generally egalitarian Tassie distillers, but things really came to a head with the uncovering of a dodgy barrel scheme that left furious investors out of pocket with hundreds of barrels that were never filled. Consortium Australia Whisky Holdings swooped down on the dying carcass of Nant and have spent the past few years stocktaking, revitalising the distilling and generally trying to repair the distillery’s tarnished reputation.

Nant, under the stewardship of AWH, has recently released new stock, but this one would have come from the old gear. ‘Tasmania’s only highland distillery’ always had a bit of a thing for the heavier, richer barrel types and the sherry cask is no exception. The nose has brown sugar, ginger bread and caramelised apples, while the mouth sports rum’n’raisin and muscats, with a soft caramel and spice finish. Hopefully these days Nant’s fortunes are on the up and the new generation of whisky will impress. If you happen to have a bottle of old stock lying around, well worth your time to crack it for a cheeky dram.

#whitepossumspirits

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Nant Sherry Wood 43%

Reviewed by: Nick

Nant Sherry Wood 43%

I imagine the founding of Nant distillery by Brisbane businessman Keith Batt, went something like this:

 

“What do you want for your birthday this year, honey?” asked Mrs Keith. Keith thought for a moment.

“I’m torn between a Caribbean island, a bar-franchise and a horse,” he replied, not a drop of irony on his face.

“A horse?” replied Mrs Keith, “where on earth would you put one of those?”

“Well obviously I’ll need to invest in some property to store it in – preferably somewhere exotic and remote.”

“How about Peru? Then I can get a Llama!”

“Yeah, I’m not so keen on the ponchos or  folk music. Tell you what, how about we stick the horse in some old paddock in Tasmania and I’ll also get the bar-franchise?”

“Alright, fine. But you may need to think of something to do with the property down in Tassie.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ll just stick in a whisky distillery and sit around fixing an old water mill until Jim Murray arrives.”

 

Of course I unquestionably make light of the momentous decision to build Nant Distillery up in the highlands of Tasmania – an establishment which I can confidently state is the most scenic of all Tasmanian distilleries. And as much as I can mock Nant’s business-like set up, I cannot downplay the excellence of its whiskies.

One of my favourite Tassie drops is the Nant Port Wood, a fantastic representation of the Tasmanian flavour, and the cask strength version of the Bourbon Wood is one of Tasmania’s finest whisky accomplishments. They also release a Sherry Wood and it is this expression I review today.

The nose is drier and earthier than any other Nant release. There are elements of vanilla, figs and golden syrup, but this is matched by moss and spicy oak. The palate is equally contrasting with notes of toffee, raspberry jam and plenty more oak, while mingling in the medium long finish are herbs and you guess it: oak, It all combines to form an intriguing and challenging Tasmanian whisky.

While I couldn’t claim this to be my favourite Nant expression, it’s certainly an interesting drop and one that I would never describe as boring. It forms an integral part of an increasingly impressive Nant back-catalogue. I guess then, it was well worth Keith Batt getting that horse!

★★★

Nant n Nick

Tasmanian whisky: One state. Three ingredients. Unlimited flavour.

#TasWhiskyWeek

Trouble at Old Mill: Tasmanian distillery rocked by bankruptcy

Posted by: Nick

Angels Share Trip (6)

Over the duration of co-running this blog, I have waffled at length about the friendly and supportive whisky community in my home state of Tasmania. Well, forget all that – because a Tasmanian distillery is in trouble and no one seems to care.

It was recently revealed that the founder, figurehead and all-round head honcho of Nant Distillery, Keith Batt, has filed for bankruptcy. Batt, a Queensland businessman, built Nant distillery up from nothing, restoring the old water mill and establishing Nant whisky bars across the globe; not to mention claiming several liquid gold prizes along the way for his wares. He’s done amazing things for Tasmanian whisky – so why are people not more concerned for his distillery?

I’ll admit that I am exaggerating a touch in saying that no one cares – I for one certainly care. Over the years I’ve experienced many pleasant evenings sampling drams at the Nant Whisky Bar in Hobart, enhanced immeasurably by their wonderful staff members who are always happy to indulge my whisky curiosity. I have visited the picturesque distillery in Bothwell and enjoyed wandering their grounds on a near perfect summers day. I own a bottle of their port matured single malt and will be sad when the last drop disappears. I will forever stand by the product and the staff. But Nant Distillery itself is a hard one to like.

I love being part of this little whisky business here in Tassie so much so that I sometimes forget that it is exactly that – a business. Nant’s management have not lost sight of this. Keith Batt has not set out to make friends, but to create a whisky empire bent on global domination. Taking part in local Tasmanian tasting events is not part of this vision. Nor is pooling resources and sharing promotion. Other distilleries are not co-creators, but competitors. This outlook is both business savvy and totally opposite to the remainder of Tasmania’s close-knit distilling community. I agree with Batt’s motives, but not his means.

Nant by Whisky Waffle

Say what you will about the man – but he sure builds a pretty distillery

So how exactly will Keith Batt’s bankruptcy affect the distillery? According to the man himself, not at all. Batt is understandably keen to calm the waters, pointing out to The Mercury in Hobart last week that as of August last year he is “not a director, a shareholder or a beneficiary of that trust”. This role was recently (and conveniently) reappointed to his wife, Margaret Letizia. And yes, it does all sound rather dodgy, although it can be said that his financial problems were not in fact due to distillery-related debts, but issues for his property development business which is still experiencing a hangover from the global financial crisis of six years ago.

There are a number of people waiting with baited breath for the smoke to clear over Batt’s financial problems. For a start there are the thousands of investors who have pledged over 18 million dollars into barrels of whisky that they may never see. I caught up with one such investor who told me:

“As a whisky barrel owner, you start to wonder how much substance is contained within the creamy embossed paper of the share certificates. I don’t own the barrels, only what is in them and should the business go under I don’t know what I’m going to do with four hundred and fifty litres of half finished whisky or even how I’d get it home. Can you just turn up with a boot load of jerry cans? Guaranteed buy back? Nothing is guaranteed.”

While most seek only to see their money returned, others have attempted to claim their barrel with little success. However, for a man so protective of his brand, I can understand his hesitancy in seeing his product in other bottlers’ hands. Referring to them as “inferior brands” however is an unkind assumption and further evidence of why he is far from popular among the Tasmanian distillers community.

Chilling at Nant

Photographic evidence of a great afternoon at Nant. Yep, isn’t my beard awesome.

It’s hard to fully sympathise with the struggling Keith Batt and his business-first methodology. However, I prefer to make my best effort to differentiate the distillery from its management. For the sake of their investors, their staff and heck, let’s not forget their high-quality whisky, I hope that Nant Distillery is not adversely affected by their founder’s financial predicament.

Nant Port Wood 43%

Reviewed by: Nick

Nant Port Wood 43% whisky waffle

One day, Nant is going to take over the world.

It started out as a fairly innocuous venture. Queensland businessman buys small country estate in the tiny country town of Bothwell, Tasmania. But all is not what is seems.

Bothwell as a town is in fact a tribute to Scotland; it is built on the ‘Clyde’ River and, heart-warmingly, features tartan street signs. The Estate’s new owner is the business-savvy Keith Batt, and only ten years after purchasing the property, he has built a distillery, exponentially expanded its output, opened a successful chain of Whisky Bars around the world, and along the way, produced some truly wonderful whisky. This was never going to be a small-scale boutique distillery…

Fortunately for Nant, in this quest for success and recognition they have not compromised the quality of their product; instead producing batches of frequently excellent whisky. While they may not yet be a truly worldwide product, they can count among their fans one Jim Murray, author of the iconic (and egotistically titled) yearly publication: ‘The Whisky Bible’. Surely it is only a matter of time before Nant goes global.

Nant mature their whisky in various cask types, though there is something special about the ‘Port Wood 43%’ release. Lightly amber in colour, it is sweet on the nose with hints of raisins coated in white chocolate. It is gloriously rich on the palate, featuring cloves, nutmeg and other spices. It is still sweet, but also creamy, and has strong notes of citrus fruit; particularly oranges. The finish is warm, pleasant and creamy. The fruit cake characteristics remain, along with cherries and maple syrup. When you drink this whisky not only do you get flavours of Christmas pudding, but brandy butter, too.

While this whisky is complex and interesting, it is also smooth enough to be enjoyed by non-whisky drinkers. It is unique, memorable, and well worth seeking out.

Of course, it is also built upon the most successful business model seen within the Tasmanian Whisky industry. When trying a drop of Nant, you are not only drinking a whisky – you are drinking an empire.

★★★★