Lark

Whisky Waffle Podcast Episode 4

Posted by: Nick

Welcome to the Whisky Waffle Podcast: Tasmania Special! Where we waffle about Tassie whisky while drinking Tassie whisky! In this exciting episode we include:

– The Waffle, where we ramble about the merits and history of the Tasmanian distilling scene
– The Whisky, where we sample some high strength Tassie drams: Overeem bourbon cask and Heartwood Convict Resurrection
– Smash, Session or Savour, where Ted makes a difficult coastal decision; and
– Whisky Would You Rather, where Tasmania goes head to head against Scotland

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Waffling at Southern Wild: Tas Whisky Week comes to the North West

Posted by: Nick and Ted

TWW Logo

Who’d have thought 25 years ago that Tasmania would have over 20 distilleries and an entire week dedicated to whisky made in Australia’s southern-most state. Yet here we are in 2017, bearing down fast on nine days worth of events celebrating the art and craft of the Tasmanian distilling scene, with a host of tastings, tours and talks (not to mention lavish, decadent dinners) featuring the folk responsible for crafting Tasmania’s fine cask-aged grain spirits.

However, up here on the North-West Coast, we can’t help but feel a little left out. Tasmania is nothing if not parochial, with most events being held in Hobart and a few in Launceston. Even the dinner run by Burnie’s very own Hellyer’s Road Distillery is being held just outside Launnie.

Luckily, on Thursday the 10th of August, Devonport’s Southern Wild Distillery is stepping up to bring Tasmanian Whisky Week 2017 to the good, whisky loving folk of the North West. Rather excitingly for us, they asked the Tasmanian whisky blogging scene’s answer to Hamish and Andy to host their event (that’s us!).

SW 5

This photo is like ‘Where’s Wally’ for Wafflers

Southern Wild, founded by local lad George Burgess, may seem an incongruous venue for TWW’s first NW event, seeing as they are yet to release their own whisky. However, rather than being held back by this fact, Southern Wild have chosen to embrace it as the theme, entitling the event ‘The Birth of Tasmanian Whisky’.

Guests will be guided through a tasting of some of Tasmania’s most renowned drams, led by the witty banter of the Whisky Waffle lads and the industry know-how of George. Each whisky will be expertly paired with gourmet cheese provided by local fromager Euan Wiseman from the Devonport Hill Street Grocer. Additionally, guests will also be provided with two whisky-based cocktails and platters of canapés and light nibbles.

The mouth-watering whisky line-up for the evening will feature Lark Classic Cask, Sullivans Cove new-make spirit and Sullivans Cove Double Cask, Belgrove new-make spirit and Belgrove 100% Rye, and Hellyers Road Peated.

The event promises to be an unforgettable evening, full of laughter, fellowship, conviviality and most importantly of all, whisky (waffle?). Of course, these evenings don’t happen unless there are people coming along to support, so please help us to make it a roaring success and show the rest of the state that the North West coast is just as passionate about whisky as them.

See you there.

Tickets are available at: http://taswhiskyweek.com/events/southern-wild-distillery/

SW 6 Whisky Waffle

Larking about at Lark

Posted by: Nick and Ted

1a

Fact: the modern Tasmanian distilling scene was founded by Bill Lark.

Fact: the foundations for Whisky Waffle were laid down at the Lark bar.

Fact: it is rather shameful that we have never found the time to visit the Lark distillery

Recently the Whisky Waffle boys were down in Hobart with a rare free day to spend on whisky business, so we decided to take the opportunity to rectify an embarrassing gap in our Tasmanian distillery bucket list and tag along on an official Lark distillery tour.

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We were about to run away with the barrels when we discovered they were empty.

Lark offers a two-hour daily guided tour of their distillery facility out at Cambridge, 15min east of Hobart. Our tour started at the Lark bar in Hobart where we met Guy, our guide, and the rest of the group. To work out in what order to hand out the complimentary Lark tasting glasses, Guy started off by asking how close everyone lived to the distillery. Surprisingly it turned out that we North West coasters were the only true locals, with the other guests ranging from Melbourne and Sydney to Alabama.

After introductions we all piled into the tour van, affectionately known as the ‘Drambulance’. On the way out to Cambridge Guy regaled us with tales of the history of the Australian whisky scene and the part Bill Lark played in its resurrection. The road into the distillery passes through the grounds of Frogmore Creek winery, the vines providing wild yeast that is encouraged into the Lark fermentation vats to help create the unique Lark flavour.

The distillery itself, in true Australian fashion, is in a large tin shed that overlooks the Coal River Valley. Upon arrival we donned fluoro vests and met Chris Thomson, the self-proclaimed ‘most experienced distiller in Australia’ (and who are we to argue with him).

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Chris Thomson was also thrilled to meet the two most experienced Tasmanian whisky bloggers in Australia! (again self-proclaimed)

To lubricate our minds before starting the tour we were provided with a dram of the Lark Classic Cask, a perfect breakfast whisky (or at any other time of the day for that matter). Guy and Chris took us through the distilling process at Lark, from the Bill Lark-designed peat smoker, to the fermentation and the distillation.

Along the way the way we were able to try wort (aka sweet barley juice), wash (aka unhopped beer) and new-make spirit, which was fruity and soft. Chris gave us some handy nuggets of distilling advice such as “when going from the fores to the heart we smell and smell and smell and smell and smell and smell” and “using our amazing distillers skills we make the first cut,” *moves hose casually from one vat to another* “Very technical”.

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Those are some niiiiice sparge arms!

The final part of the tour was spent in the bond store (also a large tin shed) where Guy told us about barrel making and aging. We were also able to try some Lark straight from the barrel, which Guy fished out with a spirit thief, as well as some whisky from sister-distillery Overeem. Also on offer were Lark’s whisky liqueur, Sláinte, and several variants of their Forty Spotted gin.

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Every Lark tour is a barrel of laughs.

At the end of the sampling session our merry band of tourers re-embarked the Drambulance and headed back to the Lark bar. The tour had been a pleasant and informative mix of whisky stories, hands-on experience, technical information and waffling. Most importantly, we Waffle boys were finally able to show our faces in public again and proudly say that we had been to the distillery that started it all.

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The best thing about whisky tour groups is that you all end up best mates at the end!

Heartwood Calm Before the Storm

Reviewed by: Nick

Heartwood Calmbefore the Storm

Tim Duckett, the mad scientist inventor of Heartwood Whisky, puts out new releases as regularly as Ed Sheeran clocks up number 1 singles. But the latest new release, Calm Before the Storm, has created more interest than usual. Why? Because it was labelled by its creator as Heartwood’s ‘most complete whisky’. Rumour has it he’s also described it as his best. That’s a big call from the man who made the Convict series, the Any Ports in a Storm and the Vat Out of Hell. It made me wonder, after so many amazing envelope pushing releases, is there any room left to raise the bar?

Let’s just say I was keen to find out. When I discovered it at Tassie’s best whisky bar (AKA the Lark cellar door) I did not hesitate. This is what I found:

On the nose it has that full dark warm Heartwood aroma. There is caramel, fruit and like an Arrow hit-song from the 90s, it’s hot hot hot. The palate arrives in two stages: a strong hit of flavour before being overtaken by a wave of warming alcohol spiciness.

You’ve got to be quick to pick the flavours before the wave breaks: raspberry jam, brown sugar, sultanas before it kicks you in the throat… with size 12 boots. WHAM! CRASH! ZING! POW! It’s like a Roger Ramjet fight scene! The finish is, as you’d expect, long and warm with sweet orange notes.

Like I said, I was unsure if Heartwood could raise the bar. But it seems there are depths of flavour as yet unexplored, like a whisky Marianas Trench. I don’t think it’s my absolute favourite Heartwood – there are a couple of Convicts that still hold that mantle for me – but I could not argue with him if Tim were to officially describe it as his best.

★★★★

Delving into Dark Valley: the launch of Tassie’s latest dram

Posted by: Nick

nick-and-dark-valley

Independent bottling in Tasmania is a relatively rare thing. Sure, there’s the mighty Heartwood leading the way and a few others coming on board, but by and large, it’s an unexplored market. One person who realised this a long time ago is whisky fanatic and Whisky Waffle guest contributor, Alex ‘Moorsey’ Moores. Despite maintaining a fledgling full-time career in law, he has achieved what most whisky lovers can only dream about – he has created his own whisky: Dark Valley.

mooresy-and-dark-valley

Dark Valley was named after the area of Hobart in which Alex grew up, Glen Dhu. While the temptation was there to name his drams simply ‘Glen Dhu’, being a qualified solicitor he was aware of the legal dangers of such a Scottish sounding name. He instead opted to translate the Gaelic into English and name his bottles ‘Dark Valley’, setting the tone for the gothic labels and imagination-stirring individual release titles such as ‘Raven’s Roost’ and ‘Hunter’s Keep’. Importantly for Alex, he did not wish to tinker in any way with the whisky – he wanted to showcase it in as close to its natural form as possible. This meant no diluting, no blending, no finishing and no filtering. His aim was to create a whisky that was the next best thing to getting it straight from a barrel.

While the first releases from Dark Valley feature whisky distilled at Lark Distillery, it is Alex’s hope that one day all Tasmanian distilleries will contribute spirit for his range. He already has Redlands on board and northern-Tassie’s new boys Adams are next on the list. For now though, there are three different bottlings in existence, all of which I was lucky enough to try at Dark Valley’s Hobart launch.

dark-valley

The first I tried was the 60.3% sherry matured ‘Raven’s Rest’. My initial reaction was “Yes. Yes yes yes. Yes. Yes.” It was like cooking raspberry jam – so warm and fruity. Next up was the ‘Widow’s Watch’ – bourbon matured and 65.8%, it was full of vanilla and baked goods. I decided on cupcakes, with orange icing and poppy seeds.  Finally was the port matured 62.7% ‘Hunter’s Keep’, and it was my favourite of the lot. It combined the flavours of the other two beautifully while adding hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, creating an effect I described as ‘mulled whisky’. It was superb.

The drawbacks of setting up a new whisky brand is, of course, the cost. Dark Valley will certainly not be going into mass-production any time soon. In fact, these releases came from tiny 20 litre casks, meaning just over 30 bottles of each were made. However, this doesn’t mean you’re unlikely ever to see sight nor sound or them. Alex’s very firm goal is to get Dark Valley into whisky bars – and not into the hands of collectors. He intends to get his product into various establishments in Melbourne and Tasmania, with a few in Hobart showing some interest after the successful launch. In the coming months, if you happen to be near a whisky bar in any of these locations, ask after Dark Valley, because once people discover how good it is it’s not going to last long.

dark-valley-bottle

Finally, on a more personal note, I’d just like to offer my sincerest congratulations to Alex for achieving the spectacular feat of getting his whisky to bottling stage. Moorsey is a genuinely top bloke and I know he’ll be another wonderful torchbearer for Tasmanian whisky.

Heartwood Dare to be Different

Reviewed by: Nick

heartwood-dare-to-be-different

Yes, Tasmanian super-strength independent bottler Heartwood has come up with some fantastic names over the years: Vat Out of Hell, Release the Beast, Any Port in a Storm and Convict Resurrection. However, one of Tim Duckett’s most recent releases I think sums up the whisky producer better than all others: Dare to be Different.

Heartwood doesn’t do things by the book. If Tim doesn’t think it’s as good as it can be, he’ll beat it with a paddle, or stick it in the hot room, or transfer it to another barrel, or pour in a hundred litres of peated Lark new make! The goal here is not to create age statement or single cask releases. Tim simply aims to make the best darn tasting whisky he possibly can.

While Dare to be Different is one of the newer releases from Heartwood, chances are, by the time you read this, it’ll be sold out. That’s just the way Heartwood is, with only 200 or so bottles of each release available. Which is why whenever I visit the Lark whisky bar in Hobart, I can’t help but try what they’ve got.

Dare to Be Different is fittingly dissimilar from many other Heartwood bottlings. It’s darker, more savoury and meaty – and more complex, too. This is due, in no small part, to the 100% peated Lark spirit which has then spent eight years in ex-Oloroso sherry barrels.

The nose is lovely and… delicate? Is that even possible for a Heartwood? There are apples, flowers and a dash of… meat pie. Possibly. It might have been plums. The palate is unsurprisingly spicy and tangy (cheers 65.5%!) featuring tropical fruit flavours mixed with smoked meats and pate. The finish is long and punchy, and I mean this in multiple ways – it tastes like fruit punch and certainly packs a punch. Punchy punch. Enough said.

Across its entire history what the whisky industry simply cannot do without is innovators. People like Tim Duckett who really push the envelope and create peated sherry monsters one week and juicy port offerings the next, all between 60% and 75%. Heartwood dares to be different – and we’re all richer for it.

★★★★

heartwood-dare-to-be-different

Tasmanian Whisky Academy reveal their map of Tassie

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Our friends at the Tasmanian Whisky Academy have certainly been doing their homework. According to their calculations, Tasmania is now home to twenty two distilleries and two independent bottlers. Keen geography buffs, eager to achieve top of the class, they have created a detailed map showing the locations of each whisky-making establishment in the state. As exciting as it is to see each of them crammed onto a map, we Whisky Waffle boys still feel like we’re sitting on the naughty step. It seems we still have a lot of extracurricular study to go before we can say we’ve visited them all!

all-of-em-tas-whisky-academy

The Tasmanian Whisky Academy offers education courses in Distilling and Brewing for enthusiasts, hospitality people, visitors and tourists, and for those interested in working in the distilling and brewing industries.

Find the full map on our links page.

Heartwood Vat out of Hell

Reviewed by: Ted

heartwood-vat-out-of-hell

As I walked back through North Hobart to my hotel whilst on a work trip, I decided to stop into the Winston to rehydrate. Lo and behold, what did I find waiting on the shelf but a bottle of ‘Vat out of Hell’, one of Tim Duckett’s glorious cask-strength Heartwood creations.

Crafted from a delightful marriage of 10yo Lark sherry barrel and 13yo Tasmania Distillery bourbon barrel and bottled at a robust 67.4%, the Vat out of Hell, like most Heartwoods, is sadly no longer available for purchase. Therefore, stumbling across an open bottle constitutes a rare treat and a responsibility to try some for the betterment of humankind.

I gazed wistfully at the bottle on the shelf and thought ‘well… work’s covered the rest of my drinks tonight [I must admit that I had stopped for liquid sustenance at several other pubs along the way], so what the hell, I’ll treat myself.’

At this point I was feeling a little less analytical and in a bit more of a subjective frame of mind thanks to my nice warm beer coat, but I think that’s probably a good way to tackle a Heartwood. Ride the rush of emotions, don’t overthink it. So, without further ado, here’s what I thought (apparently. I’m glad I at least had the presence of mind to write this down):

The smell is… leathery, which is quite appropriate really… it’s like a box of sultanas left on the bench seat of an old Kingswood ute on a hot summer’s day… a walk through a meadow of spiked wildflowers… fruit leather made out of fruit cake… sun fermented orchard fruit… hot boat decking.

Tastes like timber should… if Easter eggs tasted like this, I’d probably eat them quicker… meat slow cooked for a looong time… dark brown as a flavour… attaches like a happy lamprey to your gums.

Yeah, so long story short, it was bloody good. Better than Meatloaf’s version… If you find some, think with your heart and not your wallet, and you’ll end up transcending to a higher plane of existence.

★★★★

Lark Classic Cask

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Lark Classic Cask

It all started, as the best stories do, with a fishing trip. While waiting for some prime trout to bite in the Tasmanian Highlands, a man had an epiphany that would change the course of history.

The man reasoned that Tasmania has pure water, excellent barley and native peat bogs, so why then was no one making world class whisky there? That man’s name was Bill Lark and today he is revered as the godfather of Tasmanian whisky.

While Tasmania is now world famous for its whisky, the road was not an easy one. A ban on small-scale distilling had been in place for over 150 years, but that didn’t stop Bill from convincing politicians to overturn the law (presumably over a dram or two). Once the path was clear, Bill’s wife Lyn bought an antique 4 litre copper pot still and together they founded Australia’s first modern whisky distillery, the eponymous Lark.

While Bill has taken a step back from distilling duties, he remains to this day a champion of Tasmanian whisky. In 2015 he was justly recognised for his efforts by being inducted into the prestigious Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame, the first Australian distiller to achieve the honour.

Lark Distillery releases a range of products, including an excellent cask strength, a phenomenal distiller’s selection, epic special editions and of course, not forgetting their standard release, the Classic Cask.

If you know anything about Lark, you know that oranges is what it is all about and this becomes apparent as soon as you take a nose of the Classic Cask. The sweet citrus flavour blends with rich dark chocolate and vanilla, like a gourmet dessert in a glass. The chocolate comes to the fore on the palate, a mixture of milk and dark, followed by delicate oak, pepper and almond praline. The finish is medium length and slightly nutty.

Tasmania has waited a very long time to be able to drink this whisky. We will be forever grateful to Bill Lark for having the foresight and courage to take a step into the unknown and found a movement that is now respected and celebrated world wide.

Cheers Bill!

★★★

Lark n Ted

One state. Three ingredients. Unlimited flavour.

#TasWhiskyWeek

Whisky Waffle celebrate Tasmanian whisky

Posted by: Nick and Ted

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

Wafflers with waffles

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

Jane Overeem

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 from Lark

Chris Thomson

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

Mark Littler

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:

Pete Bignell

Peter Bignell

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 by Paul County

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

Richard Stewart

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

Tim Duckett

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.

Lads

Nick and Ted. Wafflers at large.

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

#TasWhiskyWeek