Nant

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!

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.

An afternoon at The Angel’s Share

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

As Tasmanians we tend to think that our locally produced whisky is rather great. Unfortunately, the opportunity to taste a good assortment of the state’s bottlings is fairly hard to come by, unless you happen to have really deep pockets or are friends with Jeff Kennett. Hold on, so why not open some kind of boutique store in a beautiful location, stocking a comprehensive range of Tasmania’s finest drams for people to sample at their leisure? Luckily, that is exactly what an enterprising ex-expat couple has done.

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Two Wafflers off with the angels

Louise Payne and Sam Humphries grew up in North West Tasmania but left the state to pursue the highlife in Sydney. But you know what they say: a change is as good as a holiday, and the couple swapped the nations’ largest city for a popular holiday destination: moving into an old bank building in the picturesque town of Stanley. Initially unsure of how to utilise their time, they saw an opportunity in the fledgling Tasmanian whisky market and seized it. Sam, member of local band ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’, described this business venture as: “riding the crest of a wave”.

Today the couple have transformed their old bank into a whisky drinking nirvana called ‘The Angel’s Share’, even converting the bank’s old safe into a whisky vault. As Stanley is only an hour’s drive from their hometown, the Whisky Waffle boys decided to pay Louise and Sam a visit – and sample a portion of their amazing range. Neither Waffler wanted to be designated driver, so they booked a cottage within stumbling distance of their destination. The only question when faced with an entire wall of Tasmanian whisky was: where to start?

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Sam Larking about

We decided to right a wrong and sample the wares of a distillery we had scarcely tried before: Belgrove. The creations of Tasmania’s mad scientist of whisky, Pete Bignell, were whiskies like we’d never tasted before and we were grateful for the opportunity to sample them. We then moved onto Nant, investigating some of their vatted malts: the Homestead and the Old Mill. After some musing we decided that, while pleasant, we preferred their cask-specific releases better.

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Small drams amuse small minds

What would a tasting of Tasmanian whisky be without Lark? We had a cask-strength face-off between the port and sherry-barrelled releases, which remained unresolved as Nick preferred the former while Ted the latter. Our languorous afternoon of whisky tasting concluded with the heavy hitting Heartwood. We’ve rarely seen such a range of Heartwood expressions – if you’re interested in trying Tim Duckett’s colossal creations, then this is the place to come. We tried the Devil in the Detail – Heartwood’s strongest release yet at a whopping 73.5% – and the Good Convict – a gorgeous Sullivans Cove-distilled number which we decided was probably the pick of the day.

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‘Hey baby, do you come here often?’

If you are curious to find out what Tasmanian whisky is all about, but you are unsure of what to purchase – or even where to start – then a trip to the Angels Share is a dram good idea. It gives you the rare opportunity of try before you buy thus avoiding spending large sums of money on whisky you don’t necessarily enjoy. The Tasmanian whisky industry and the bar have a symbiotic relationship: Louise and Sam will happily point you in the direction of distilleries you like, but the friendly atmosphere, stunning surrounds and of course the whisky itself will keep bringing you back to spend another lazy afternoon in the beautiful town of Stanley at the Angels Share.

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Louise giving us some support after an afternoon of sampling quality Tasmanian whisky

Nant Homestead Reserve

Reviewed by: Nick

Nant Homestead Reserve

It’s no secret that Jim Murray, whisky writing’s answer to Simon Cowell, is a fan of Tasmania’s Nant Distillery. And that’s fine, he’s allowed to have favourite distilleries. Although, rarely does he offer to fly to the home country of said distillery to create an all-new product for them. But in the case of the Nant Homestead Reserve, a marriage of Nant’s bourbon, sherry and port matured whisky, that’s exactly what he has done.

Nant are makers of some fantastic drams, and Jim has praised their power, their full-bodied flavour and their uniquely memorable Tasmanian nature. But for some reason when offered the chance to create his own, he has failed to include any of the above characteristics. Instead he has created a whisky that proves it is possible to be too smooth.

The nose is familiar if you have ever had a Nant whisky before. It is fruity and candied with touches of vanilla. But it is understated and almost feels like it is missing an element. The palate displays subtle notes of orange, toffee and leafy vegetation. The finish dies away rapidly as if instead of drinking whisky you were simply sipping a glass of water. All together the final impression is that of dissatisfaction.

Of course, this is only one whisky drinker’s opinion. This may be an elegant easy drinking whisky to some. It may also be a viable starting point for non-whisky drinkers. Though for me it lacks the magic of some of Nant’s other releases such as the port, sherry and bourbon matured bottlings. They are all, without a doubt, more complex, interesting and flavoursome than the Homestead Reserve. This whisky is a case where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

★★

A whisky book review: Kudelka and First Dog’s Spiritual Journey

Posted by: Nick and Ted

A day at the Whisky Waffle office usually involves drifting about sipping rare and expensive whiskies and confabulating to each other about them (that’s the story we’re sticking to at any rate). Well, for once we’ve actually sobered up and stopped rambling long enough to read a book. Not just a distillery booklet from out of a whisky tube either, but a whole volume on one of our most favourite subjects in the entire world. Luckily for us there were pictures too…

Bikie Book

“This is a ridiculous book,” Jon Kudelka firmly states with the opening sentence of the tome. He’s not wrong either. But when the story is about the odyssey undertaken by two cartoonists on electric pushbikes as they travel around Tasmania’s nine operating distilleries, what do you expect?

Kudelka and First Dog’s Spiritual Journey is a mad tale of discovery and comradeship, of long hill climbs and aching thighs, and of spotting local wildlife (or in Dog’s case, not spotting local wildlife). Firstly and foremostly however, it is a tale of whisky. The quest begins when two Walkley Award-winning cartoonists, Jon Kudelka and First Dog on the Moon decide they want to drink lots of Tasmanian whisky and get the internet to pay for it. One successful crowd-funding campaign later, the intrepid duo set off from Hobart on their electric bicycles, puncture repair kit at the ready.

Kudelka and First Dog’s chosen mode of transport turns out to be perfect for drinking in the beautiful Tasmanian scenery as the duo meander between distilleries, although they also learn the hard way about what happens when your electric bike runs out of juice (and we’re not talking about whisky – that stuff flows freely).

Over the course of two weeks they learn about whisky making from the horse’s mouth, spending quality time with industry greats such as Tim Duckett, Pete Bignell and Bill Lark, who personally cooks them a meal at his peat bog. As well as hanging out with the Tasmanian distilling pantheon, the boys also meet a lively cast of characters who variously offer them angry cheddar, yacht rides, stuffed foxes and advice on why you should always run over a Tasmanian Tiger if given the chance.

As well as being a rollicking yarn, the book is also highly educational. With the aid of informative cartoon infographics, Kudelka and First Dog give some valuable advice on how to drink whisky: “Step 1: put a bit of whisky in a glass. Step 2: Drink it. The end.” First Dog also offers a lengthy discourse on his theory about why all goat based products, or indeed anything to do with goats full stop, should be avoided at all costs. This is life changing stuff people; take heed fellow wafflers.

If you are interested in Tasmanian whisky, then this is the book for you. If you are interested in the drunken ramblings of two cartoonists, this is also the book for you. The hilarious anecdotes, friendly banter and whimsical illustrations are a truly laugh-out-loud combination.

Bike Waffle

We imagine the trip went a little like this…

We’d thoroughly recommend checking it out – the only real question is whether to buy it from Kudelka:  http://www.kudelka.com.au/kudelka-and-first-dogs-spiritual-journey/ or from First Dog: http://firstshoponthemoon.com/products/first-dog-and-kudelkas-spiritual-journey

Either way, you should look it up. After all, it’s recommended by two out of two cartoonists surveyed. And two out of two whisky bloggers as well.

Whisky Appreciation and Nosing Collective – Night 2

Posted by: Nick

Good whisky. Good company. Nowhere better to be. All the hallmarks of a brilliant night. We had already organised one excellent evening for the Whisky Appreciation and Nosing Collective (the acronym formed is indeed apt) so another was bound to happen. And although it was held up by the final participant being slightly behind schedule (three hours behind schedule, no less) the night was a rousing success.

All members contributed a bottle (or several) to be sampled throughout the night, and we managed an interesting balance of single malts and blends, from Scotland, Tasmania, and even our first foray into Irish whiskey. All were enjoyed by the group, but some more so than others.

whisky waffle WANC night 2

Coming from Tasmania, we of course loved the Lark standard release (we had long since polished off the Distillers Edition, sadly), but the revelation was our first sample of another rapidly-rising Tassie distillery: Nant. This one was smuggled along by the rather late member in a small pocket sized flask, so his wife was not alerted to the bottle’s attendance. It proved to be big, well rounded, fruity and all together delicious, another feather in the cap of Tasmanian whisky.

The pinnacle of excitement of the night was the opening of one of the more peculiar bottles in our collections – a blend of Islay malts, featuring a large-nosed pirate on the label. It was of course, Big Peat, and the bottle we finished the night with, expecting an intense smokiness unlike anything we’d tried. And in some ways it did deliver. But the bottle was such a one trick pony (peat and… not much else) that we were a little disappointed.

The real winner of the night was the dram we preceded the Big Peat with. This was the Talisker 10 Year Old and we all agreed it to be a fantastic drop. It certainly is one of the more impressive 10 Year Old malts going around, and perhaps only rivals a certain two Islay 10 Year Olds for supremacy in this category. But that is a debate for another night. This one was simply concluded with a nod of appreciation to all we had tried. And then a sneaky dram of Lagavulin 16 to keep us warm as we walked home.

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.

★★★★

The Whisky Waffle community

Posted by: Nick

The more I discover about the Tasmanian whisky scene, the more I appreciate the close-knit little community that has developed. People are friendly, enthusiastic and willing to help out one another to ensure this thriving industry continues to boom. Our website is only a tiny part of the bigger picture but we would love to help foster this sense of community.

And on that note, we would like to announce the next writer upon Whisky Waffle: YOU! Well – it could be you! If anyone has a piece they are keen to share with the world, or a dram they are desperate to review, send us an email at whiskywaffle@gmail.com and let us know!

So with no further ado may I introduce our first guest contributor: Mr Alex ‘Mooresy’ Moores!

Mooresy and Nick are in 'good spirits' after meeting Jim McEwan. See what I did there?

Mooresy and Nick are in ‘good spirits’ after meeting Jim McEwan. See what I did there?

I met Mooresy while attending the Jim McEwan night last Thursday and was impressed by his enthusiasm and passion for the water of life. His first review will hit the site tomorrow and I assure you, it’s a cracker of a read. Make sure you stop by to check it out!

Until then, keep waffling!

 

Photo provided by the TWAS. Used with permission.