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Great Outback Rare Old Australian Single Malt

Reviewed by: Mooresy

Great Outback Rare Old

This is weird story worthy of a waffle. Australian whisky has a generally agreed history, the modern chapter of which begins in the 1980s with the Lark family overturning a century and a half of legislative prohibition on distilling in Tasmania. This led to a resurgence of distillers and, as a very appropriate homage to whisky’s very beginnings, some people who had no doubt been fooling around as bootleggers went legitimate. The Great Outback Rare Old Australian Single Malt – a mouthful of descriptors, almost as if someone took all the best buzzwords that make whisky seem exclusive and put them all into the name – is a mystery in that history.

From what I can gather from my Poirot-esque deductions is that it was distilled somewhere between 1960 and 1985, that it is either from a now forgotten Tasmanian still (the bottle indicates it was produced at the Tasman Distillery, which no-one can find) or a Western Australian still pretending to be Tasmanian, and that it is pretty rare. Some rumours include that it is the reject stock of the closed Corio Distillery or that it is not Australian and was just labelled that way to hide an origin that would have been less palatable. It is a confirmed fact, however, that this single malt has a blended variety that can still be found so maybe these rumours of reject stock and foreign distillation are accurate for the blended version.

Something that is more than rumour is that this whisky is actually very good. With a label that looks like a knock-off product sold by some people who’ve refilled an empty bottle with some water and caramel colour, it is about as far from that as you can imagine. The colour is a nice pale gold suggesting there is a straight bourbon cask maturation and on the nose I think that is correct but there is also a vivid complexity I was not expecting. It’s fresh and grassy, with a little toffee and vanilla, but also a lovely tropical fruit and pineapple citrus alongside an orange smell that is actually reminiscent of Lark. Not only that, but there are some interesting botanicals with fresh thyme and something peppery thrown into the mix.

The other brilliant thing about it, which transfers over to the palate, is it is devoid of the ethanol kick that can permeate and drown out the subtleties. The relatively low alcohol content helps this, but it is also just a very clean and crisp spirit. There is certainly some tropical fruit – brilliant passion fruit – and the malty vanilla really comes out to balance against the toasted oak flavours. It is unsurprising that it is not peated, as this was presumably created before peat bogs were officially uncovered in Tasmania or peated barley was imported. Or before peat even existed anywhere in the world, who knows.

This is not a whisky for people who are looking for a heavy hitter, a peaty belter, or an oak punch. It is certainly not for anyone who wants to be able to sit down with book and look up the dram as they drink it. This one for those who like a crisp and complex confectioner’s creation with a side of Conan-Doyle intrigue to keep them guessing.

If you are the distiller of this fine drop, get in touch. Partly because there are several questions I have for you, but mainly because I am hoping you still have a few bottles of the stuff kicking around the attic you might be willing to offload.

★★★★

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Exhibit A