Victoria

A Stopover at Starward

Posted by: Nick and Ted

1 Starward 1

They grow up so fast, don’t they? It was under two years ago that Whisky Waffle first visited New World Distillery/Starward in their Essendon Airport location and were impressed by their hardworking staff and their delicious whisky. Fast forward to the present and they’ve raised the bar considerably, upsizing their apparently insufficient aeroplane hangar for a gigantic warehouse, which in turn will likely be bursting at the seams in two years time.

1 Starward distillery

Starward has been a very busy distillery. On Nick’s previous visit he noted how staff worked around the clock on three distillations a day to create as much product as humanly possible – a key factor in keeping their prices within an accessible range for we mere mortals. This commendable approach has led to two key outcomes: a wide range of people have been able to try the whisky and their bond store has filled up in no time.

1 barrels

The pressing lack of space at the old airport hangar led to a drastic solution: a new home. Their new premise is much closer to the city of Melbourne, located at 50 Bertie Street Port Melbourne, a short tram ride away from the city.

The cavernous open plan industrial space, some two and a half times larger than the Essendon facility, easily fits all the distillery equipment, the bond store and a slick bar area (although apparently they haven’t managed to find space for the basketball hoop yet). Also found within the walls is a team of fantastic staff members, such as Sasha, Rachel (how’s the hunt for an Aussie husband going?) and Cameron (cheers for showing us around and letting us try some of the best new-make in the business. You’re not really a spud).

1 Starward

One of the big highlights of visiting the distillery (apart from the tree growing next to the bar) is the chance to try a variety of the New World Projects range, which are the result of the distillers getting creative in their spare time. We were lucky enough to sample the PX Cask #3 (sweet, fruity and now out of stock), Dram Full Single Cask #1 (oaky with a herbal finish), Lui Bar Selection #3 (spicy and rich, our pick of the session) and the First Distillery Last Release (cask strength and punchy).

1 Starward tree

Thanks to everyone at Starward for the warm welcome on a cold day. It’s great having a distillery right in the city so that locals and tourists can easily visit. If you have a spare moment we can highly recommend heading down to Port Melbourne and dropping into one of Australia’s hardest working distilleries.

Starward Distillery is open Friday and Saturday 12pm-10pm and Sunday 12-8pm. Tours are conducted on those days at 2pm and 5pm.

1 Starward still

Timboon Single Malt Whisky

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Timboon port front

Back in the early 1800’s Scottish whisky was forced, kicking and screaming, to go straight. Distillers were required to become legal or shut down, formally founding many of the grand old distilleries we see today. In comparison, Australia had to wait another 150 years for legalisation to occur, resulting in many heroic folkloric moonshiners keeping local spirits up.

One such rapscallion was Tom Delaney, a notorious bootleg distiller of the Timboon region of Victoria, who made a dram locally known as ‘Mountain Dew’. Fast forward 100 years and small scale distilling in Australia is now legal, and Tom’s legend has not been forgotten.

Based in an old railway shed, Timboon Distillery draws inspiration from the whisky making heritage of the region, creating a range of distilled products, chief amongst them being their Single Malt Whisky. Matured in small ex-port barrels, this young whisky is a distinctive Aussie drop.

On the nose the Single Malt has notes of vanilla and caramel, mixed with the more unusual flavours of blue heaven and mint-chocolate. Perhaps this is not so surprising, seeing as Timboon was founded by the owners of an ice cream company.

The minty flavour continues on the palate, along with polished timber, red currant and spiced plums. The mid-palate is smooth and then suddenly goes missing for a moment, before revealing a spicy, slightly metallic finish.

While this may not the most balanced whisky Australia has to offer, there are definitely some intriguing flavours to be found. We are sure that Tom would be proud to know that his distilling legacy lives on and look forward to future releases from Timboon Distillery.

★★

 

Speyburn 10 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

Speyburn 10 year Old

It’s the very end of harvest season here in Tasmania. Fresh produce abounds, from potatoes to pears, onions to oranges, and asparagus to apples: our family-friend farmers’ pickings filling my kitchen with an alluring bouquet. The fresh fruit combines to remind me strongly of the scent of a dram I have recently acquired: the Speyburn 10 Year Old.

“Delicious” I hear you cry “a whisky with all amazing the flavours of harvest time! It must be good.” And it is. But it also isn’t. This is a whisky full of contradictions.

The contradictions start with the distillery itself. Translating literally as “River Spey”, Speyburn identifies as a highland whisky despite being found within a mile of such Speyside giants such as Glen Grant and The Glenrothes. It has received many modern awards, though it’s greatest accomplishment still seems to be being built in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It also, commendably, bucks the NAS trend by releasing a 10 Year Old, a 25 Year Old… and nothing in between.

The harvest fruits are prevalent on the nose. Overripe red apples, peaches and lemons dominate proceedings in a way entirely unsubtle. It’s enjoyable but certainly citrus-heavy. The palate is sweet and malty, like children’s breakfast cereal. There is more lemon here, causing the whisky to veer dangerously towards dish-cleaner territory, though is stopped short by a bitter cooking apple note on the finish.

There are undeniably many enjoyable flavours in the Speyburn 10 Year Old. It’s well worth a try and certainly wonderful value – just don’t expect subtlety to be among its virtues. Rather than a sweet bite of an apple, it is more like the entire orchard has been emptied into your kitchen.

★★

New World Projects Ginger Beer Cask

Reviewed by: Mooresy

New World Projects Ginger Beer Cask

There are some interesting experimental drams in the market, often tucked behind the more famous and mainstream variant at a bar, or in old dusty collections held by people who bought a one off bottling at a garage sale. New World Distillery on the other hand is not tucking their experiments behind anything, and the operation is far from dusty being more akin to a well-resourced military installation. Housed in a disused aeroplane hangar is the cross between Willy Wonka’s factory and Area 51, although the focus is on whisky and not chocolate or alien secrets.

Being founded on the principle of showing the world what whisky can be, with a “sky’s the limit” attitude, it is no surprise that the team that brought us Starward would release something that stretches the concept of whisky to new heights.

On the nose, you’d be hard pressed to pick it as a whisky. But the same can be said for other expressions from many different distilleries that have played with different casks. It you’ve only ever drunk a bourbon cask Highland whisky, then putting the nose into a PX finished Islay might create the same level of confrontation and confusion when told that not only is it whisky but it is as single malt as the next dram. The information that can be beaten out of the loyal distillery workers reveals that it is a virgin cask that has been stained with fermented ginger beer that has its own secret recipe. Starward whisky is then aged for three months on top of its normal maturation to soak up the gingery goodness.

Ginger is really the buzz word here. So much ginger. It smells like ginger and when you stare at in your half empty glass it even starts to look like ginger. That might be the half empty element assisting with that. The classic tropical fruit that is a signature of the Starward is still present, however. Nice aromas of pineapple, banana and mango. A good amount of citrus that mixes will with the ginger smell to give it a spicy aroma. It also smells like ginger.

Once tasted it will continue to confuse and delight. The mouthfeel is particularly good and I’m sure the 47.7% alcohol by volume was very carefully chosen with the texture in mind. On the palate, you guessed it: cloves. Also ginger. There is a good combination of spice and fruit to create the feel of a cocktail and it may yet be a mixologist’s inspiration. It is naturally sweet with some light vanilla and the prickle from the spiciness brings that out even more, in the way that sweet and sour emphasise both rather than diminish either. The finish is nice and long, due to the intensity of a dominant flavour and also the not-insubstantial alcohol content.

It is probably plagiarism to sum up this whisky as weird and wonderful, as I am sure that many reviews would use the same phrase. It is something that I would look out for tucked away at a bar or nestled in among the fur stoles and incomplete jigsaws at a markets, but given that this modern and funky take on whisky is in such high demand – evidenced by the fact that this is the second batch – it is probably unlikely to be there. Better to head out to New World Distillery, bonk a cooper on the bonce, and run off with your own bottle.

P.S. Neither Mooresy nor the Whisky Waffle boys advocate violence towards people in the whisky industry. We love those guys. For obvious reasons.

★★★★

Waffling at Whisky Live

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Whisky Live 1

That’s right, we got Whisky Waffle shirts!

“If you love whisky, it’s the place to be”, said Colin, whisky enthusiast and fellow drunkard. It was 4pm. We’d been imbibing the amber nectar for three hours. To be honest, conversations about the merits of whisky were not exactly hard to come by at this end of the afternoon. We, the Whisky Waffle boys, knew that we had come to the right place. And where was that you may ask? It could only be Whisky Live 2015, Melbourne edition.

As semi-amateur whisky journalists (just go with it, ok!) we were keen to make it to Australia’s premier whisky event, despite Jetstar’s best efforts to delay us. Oh, and Public Transport Victoria didn’t help us much, either. As a consequence, it was remarkable that we wandered into the St Kilda Town Hall a mere 10 minutes late.

We were greeted with green shoulder bags, complimentary Glencairns and more whiskies than you could poke a valinch at (it’s a whisky thing, look it up). Our first port of call was to familiar faces: we kicked off our whisky journey sampling some new make spirit with Dean Jackson (and soon-to-be-solo distiller Robbie) from Redlands Estate and sampled some glorious Lark Classic Cask with Tas Whisky Tours’ Brett Steel. Good to hang out with the boys from back home.

Whisky Live 2

Nick, admiring Brett’s beard

We then hopped across the pond to visit Greg Petry, whose strong North American accent clearly revealed that his product was made by the NZ Whisky Company. Go figure. Incredibly, his youngest single malt was a mere 23 years old. After lamenting that we could not combine the initial flavour of the Doublewood with the finish of the 27 year old, we jetted off once more, this time landing in Japan. Here we learned how to pronounce Hakushu (Huck-shoo), and impressed a man in comedic Japanese sushi bar attire that we actually were interested in trying the Suntory Kakubin neat rather than in its traditional highball form (soda water, lemon, ice).

Using the stars, we returned to the New World to discover… cocktails? That’s right, the Lads from Starward were making Old Fashioneds, although it was their single malt we had come to try. Despite their wine cask being aimed at ‘real’ whisky drinkers, we both agreed that we still preferred the apera cask. Shows what we know (we’re semi-amateurs remember!). We then had a ‘Rich’ conversation with our friend from William Grant and Sons about the Balvenie. Ted was pleased about knocking back some 21 Year Old Port Wood without lowering the level of his own bottle! Fred, Independent Beverage Consultant at large, talked us through the range of Glenfiddichs and produced, to gasps of awe, a bottle of 26 Year Old from behind the bar. Yes please, we said. Our new friends Adam and Adam spied the gold lettering from the other side of the room and were more than happy to join us for a nip!

Whisky Live 3

26 year old whisky is best enjoyed in the company of Adams

Never being ones to turn down a free feed, we relined our stomachs to see us through the rest of the afternoon. Our next destination: India, and the distillery of Paul John. We mentioned our India-based whisky writing colleague, the Whisky Lady, to master distiller Michael John D’Souza – India’s a tiny country, not many people – they’re bound to know her, right? (Yeah right). “You mean Carissa?” he replied. The whisky world is a small place indeed.

Whisky Live 4

The newest converts to the Paul John phenomenon.

The whisky itself was a revelation. In fact, it was brilliant! Particularly the aptly named Brilliance, which tasted like nothing else that day. The peated varieties also tickled our fancy, which unfortunately could not be said of the Dry Fly wheat whisky, makers of the infamous Washington Wheat. Admittedly we spent as much time waffling as tasting at this end of the afternoon, the lubricant effect of the whisky loosening our tongues somewhat.

The moment of truth arrived. It was time to try the Glenlivet Founders Reserve, the replacement for our beloved Glenlivet 12 Year Old. And it tasted… well… decent. Maybe there’s hope yet. The rest of the range impressed us, too, in particular the Naddura Oloroso (plus: “they have dried banana here!” enthused Ted). We moved down the line to the mysterious Finlaggen, the dependable Bowmore and the classy Auchentoshan (where Nick drunkenly confessed his undying love for the distillery… repeatedly: “when I went there…” “…my FAVOURITE 12 year old…” “…did I mention I’ve been there?” etc etc).

Ted then whisked him away to attend a master class with master tweed wearer Dan Hutchins-Read to talk about the merits of a whisky that has definitely impressed us recently: the Glenrothes. As there were only four attendees to the session, we had ample time to wax lyrical and Ted may have fallen into the same trap as Nick (“I’ve written a lot of nice things about Glenrothes…” “…I love how you’re all about the vintages…” “…did I mention I’ve written a lot of nice things about you?” etc etc).

Whisky Live 5

Fashionable as our WW shirts were, we couldn’t match Dan for style!

After Nick had calmed Ted down, we staggered off on a mission to find the dram we’d been waiting all day for: the Laphroaig 15 Year Old. To our dismay, we were informed by Australia’s number one whisky fanatic, Dan Woolley, that they had long since run dry. But after seeing our sad little faces, he took pity and muttered that if we were to come back straight after the session finished he might be able to find a little something for us. We consoled ourselves by pairing a glass of Laphroaig 10 year Old with some oysters and a meeting with legendary bourbon distiller and maker of Russell’s Reserve: Eddie Russell. We may have been a little enthusiastic at this end of the day, but Eddie was a true southern gent and took us in his stride.

4.30 ticked over. The bottles began to vanish from the stalls. We wandered around dodging the polite requests of the security guards to leave. We had a mission to complete: and boy was the 15 Year Old worth it.

Whisky Live 6

Laphroaig’s man of steel, Dan Woolley

As we stumbled out of the St Kilda Town Hall amongst hordes of whisky fanatics, en route to the closest pub, we mused about our day. We had come to Whisky Live expecting to find many great whiskies and we had not been disappointed (46 times over, in fact!). But to be honest, the real joy of the day was to celebrate whisky with a bunch of fellow wafflers. That in itself was worth the price of admission.

Whisky Live 7

Whisky Live. Good times.

Navigating to the New World Distillery: meet the purveyors of Starward

Posted by: Nick

New World visit 1

Behold, the New World of whisky!

The New World Distillery is a whisky-making establishment like no other. Equal parts industrial warehouse, hipster bar and mad scientist’s laboratory, stepping through the door I felt like I had slipped down my very own rabbit hole into whisky-wonderland.

Located in Melbourne’s north, the distillery is just a stone’s throw away from the bustling international airport. This is appropriate as the building is a vast refurbished aircraft hangar. The huge room is separated into partitions by rows of whisky barrels – a particularly novel bond store! In one corner of the room is a classy-looking bar with shelves bearing a massive range of the whiskies made on site – each with a premise more curious than the last. It was clearly going to be a good evening.

New World visit 6

Is that a pumpkin spiced gin amongst that lot?

Before settling in at the bar for an extended tasting session, there was the small matter of the tour. My guide on this adventure around the immense room was Paul, a man who I discovered was no stranger to a bit of whisky waffling. While the whisky production at his distillery was covered in detail, we also got sidetracked with conversations about peat, barley farming, excise tax and wood-smoked barley.

New World Distillery has been operating since 2010, releasing their main product under the label Starward. While Starward was originally exclusively Apera matured spirit, they have recently released a second variety aged in ex-Barossa Valley Shiraz casks. These aren’t the only bottles being created here however. The people at New World enjoy pushing boundaries; if not breaking the rules, certainly bending them a little. The most successful of these are released as a special range known as ‘New World Projects’ and well worth checking out.

The tour is engaging and informative: in particular Paul’s analogies likening making wort to brewing a cup of tea and charring barrels to burning sugar, explaining these obscure concepts effectively. I also got a generous swig of the new make spirit which I found light and fruity without losing its typical high-alcohol warmth. All in all it was one of the more (dangerously) easy-drinking new makes I’ve tried.

New World visit 3

Whisky always tastes better when wearing a high-vis vest

New World also came across as one of the hardest working distilleries going around. With a staff of only five on the floor and three behind the scenes (and Dan), they still manage to conduct three distillations a day. This is achieved by long shifts, late finishes and shared responsibilities, as well as a basketball hoop to keep the staff sane. This hard working approach is one of the biggest factors in ensuring their product is one of the most affordable Australian whiskies going around.

New World visit 4 - Copy

Starward score a three pointer!

After the tour I took a seat at the bar near a toasty gas heater and sampled the products I had just learned about. First was a comparison between the two Starward bottlings: the Apera cask and the wine cask varieties. While the Apera matured whisky was syrupy and raisiny, the Shiraz aged drop was more savoury with oaky tannins. I still confess to preferring the original Starward release, but my friends who accompanied me on my visit unanimously favoured the wine cask.

New World visit 5

Different constellations for different casks

From here I moved onto the bar’s extensive range of New World Projects bottles. These ranged from the sublime – two magnificent port matured whiskies – to the ridiculous – a perfectly clear three year old whisky with all the coloured components of the drop removed. There was also a wonderful 56.3% ‘doublewood’ bottle which had been matured in both the wine and Apera barrels, and a Heartwood-esque whisky with an alcohol percentage in the sixties known as the ‘Smoke and Mirrors’.

New World visit

One day all this will be mine… if I save up enough money to buy every barrel.

I left the giant hangar at the end of the night inspired by the products made in my home country. I was once again amazed by the vast contrast in flavours that can be created within a drink which only contains three ingredients. There are some great things happening in the Australian whisky industry and the guys at New World Distillery are right at the forefront.

The New World Distillery is open for tastings and tours at their site at Essendon Fields on Fridays from 6pm and on Saturdays between 2pm and 6pm.

Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition

Reviewed by: Nick

Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition

Every now and then what you really look for in a whisky is one that you can drink. I realise that this may sound a ludicrous statement for something which is, undoubtedly, a liquid, but bear with me and I shall explain.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting and unusual new drops to challenge me and set me off waffling about the subtle complexities that can be discovered from dram to dram. However, if every dram I consumed affected me in such a way then, apart from having no friends, I would risk straying too far from the very essence of whisky; that is: it is made to be drunk (with the possible exception of the Macallan Cire Perdue).

With this in mind I believe there is no better candidate for the position of ‘drinkable whisky’ than the Royal Lochangar Distillers Edition. A rather underrated distillery, Lochnagar got it’s ‘Royal’ tag by impressing Queen Victoria on a visit, although the scale of this achievement is questionable as it was reportedly very easy to please Queen Victoria with whisky. Nevertheless the title stuck and it is now the smallest of Diageo’s 28 distilleries.

The Distillers Edition is aged for a period in ex-Muscat casks, adding a layer of silk and sweetness without making it overly-sugary or syrupy. The extra maturation seems to round off some of the sharper edges, making the whisky smoother and easier to drink, though this does not take away from the overall flavour; there are still many appealing elements to discover.

This is immediately apparent on the nose, which is heavy with alluring caramel. Citrus notes follow as well as a dash of rose essence. It has a smooth and creamy mouth feel, retaining the caramel elements and adding flavours of almonds coated in layers of honey and chocolate. There are also the faintest hints of berries to be discovered, lingering in the background. The finish is light and short but the butterscotch theme continues until the end. The overall effect is that of the sauce to sticky date pudding. And those who know me understand what a large compliment I am paying it.

The Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition is certainly not the most complex or intriguing whisky going around. Nor is it in any way dull. It is a very easy drinking whisky, and this is in no way bad thing. In fact, I believe that it is this dram’s biggest strength.

★★★

Hanging out at Hellyers Road: our trip to the North West Coast’s first distillery

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Waffling at the bond store whisky waffle

A bit of ‘bonding’ time for the Whisky Waffle boys

Hellyers Road is the ultimate modern distillery. You will find no creaky wooden washbacks or hand beaten copper stills here. It takes multiple glances to realise it is even a distillery at all. However, there is one tell-tale giveaway: the smell. As soon as the door separating the visitor centre and distillery is opened you are greeted with the unmistakable scent of the angel’s share escaping. There can be no doubt: whisky is made here.

Located in Burnie on the North West coast of Tasmania, the architecturally modern visitors’ centre is incongruously wedged between beautiful rural countryside and the looming industrial hulk of a dairy factory. You can guess which view Hellyers Road have made the most of, with large floor-to-ceiling windows looking out across the Emu Valley.

The good view whisky waffle

The better of the two view options

Our tour begins with a friendly introduction to the distillery by our guide Dianne, detailing the history of the establishment. Hellyers Road is owned by the Betta Milk Company next door and is the result of their desire to diversify their product range. Already possessing the production knowhow, they laid down their first barrel in 1999. Flash forward to today and the company proudly distributes to 26 countries, in particular supplying the major emerging market in Europe.

Ted checking out the milk factory... er I mean distillery whisky waffle

Ted checking out the milk factory… er… I mean distillery!

Hellyers Road have certainly used their knowledge of production lines to full effect, with the capacity to produce more whisky than any other Australian distillery. Indeed, their bottling machine, sourced from Italy, is capable of churning out up to 2000 bottles per hour. This is just one example of their ultra-modern approach to equipment. Elsewhere stainless steel takes the place of the traditional oak and copper, and the neck of the still follows an unusually horizontal angle. The entire distillation process can even be controlled remotely by head distiller Mark Littler, wherever in the world he happens to be.

The oddly shaped still neck whisky waffle

The oddly shaped still neck – Glenmorangie it is not

An excellent view of the bond store is provided by a balcony on the second floor, revealing hundreds of barrels quietly maturing thousands of litres of Hellyers Road whisky. Most are ex-American oak, although directly below our vantage point are a number of sherry butts, a recent addition to the Hellyers Road stable. We cannot wait to sample some of this whisky, though we are fully aware we may be waiting for some time!

Many barrels whisky waffle

We learned how to read the numbering system on the barrels – and instantly felt like we were part of a secret society!

Nestled on the second floor are two barrels that Hellyers Road are kind enough to allow their guests to sample a dram from. The varieties on offer are the Original and the Peated expressions, and as they come straight from the barrel they are of course at a powerful cask strength. Hellyers Road also offers those that do the tour the chance to fill their own bottle straight from the cask before sealing it with hot red wax. Both Wafflers will confess to each having a sealed bottle sitting at the back of their cabinets from an earlier visit.

Fill a cask whisky waffle

The dairy theme continues with a chance to milk a whisky cow!

We enjoyed sampling the Original cask strength expression, and after some prolonged prognostication can provide a panoptic portrayal of the product:

Hellyers Road Original 3219.03 Cask Strength 68.6%

Nose: fresh and caramelised apples, raisins, walnuts, orange and cherry ripe. Faint Hellyers Road buttery notes, but masked by spicy alcohol.

Mouth: Sour high strength alcohol notes, pan browned butter, oakiness and some slight briny seaside influences. Leaves the mouth quite dry.

Nick pondering the meaning of life over the cask strength whisky waffle

Nick enjoying the cask strength with all his friends

Hellyers Road is a thoroughly contemporary beast, combining state-of-the-art technology with ancient techniques to produce a whisky of the modern age. While the distillery itself may lack the rustic charm of the Old World, the friendly folk who inhabit it and the exceptional products they produce make it well worth your time to visit. As Jeff Kennett would say: “not bad for a bunch of dairy farmers!”

 

 

While at the distillery, the boys at whisky waffle also conducted a blind tasting of six different Hellyers Road expressions. Stay tuned to find out how they did!

An evening at Hellyers Road: 12 years in the making

Posted by: Nick and Ted

The Whisky Waffle boys watched with bated breath as Mark Littler, head distiller at Hellyers Road in Burnie, turned to the guest of honour. “What do you see in your glass?” He asked, offering a dram of Australia’s first 12 Year Old single malt.
“I see fluid!” came the rumbled reply.

When the guest of honour is Jeff Kennett, former premier of Victoria, recent president of Hawthorn Football Club, current chairman of beyondblue Australia, and whisky fanatic in general, you can be assured of an entertaining night of pithy banter, some of it directed at the crowd (we were dubbed the ‘Blue Ties’ for the striking colour of our neck adornments supporting beyondblue, as the charity was to be the beneficiary of the nights proceeds).

Mark Littler and Jeff Kennett investigating the "excellent leggings" in the glass

Mark Littler and Jeff Kennett investigating the “excellent leggings” in the glass

The Whisky Waffle boys were at Hellyers Road in an official capacity, though to be honest wild Celts could not have kept us from attending. On Tuesday the 28th of October 2014 we were both delighted and proud to have the opportunity to attend the official launch of the distillery’s new 12 Year Old single malt, a milestone achievement for Tasmanian whisky.

The night was hosted by Julian O’Brien, editor of local newspaper The Advocate, although he claimed not to be there as a reporter (Jeff: “But I’ve met journalists before.”). Guests were treated to a five course degustation menu pairing local produce with whisky (Hellyers Road of course!). We must admit to being slightly sceptical about the concept of deliberately pairing whisky with food (surely a good malt goes with anything!) but we were more than willing to be won over. Helping the meal to go down was the stunning view from the Hellyers Road visitors centre restaurant out across the Emu Valley.

First cab off the rank was Hellyers Road’s only previous age statement whisky, the 10 Year Old, a drop that Mark Littler referred to as “possibly Australia’s number one selling single malt”, and was matched with a delicate dish of natural Tasmanian oysters. On our first attempt at food and whisky pairing we decided that one did not overpower the other, and the saltiness in the oysters accentuated the sweetness in the whisky.

Course 1 whisky waffle

Tasmanian oysters usually come armed with a tiny fork. Naturally.

After the oyster course came the moment that we were all waiting for, the unveiling of the new 12 Year Old. Mark invited his guests to not just taste the whisky, but to ‘chew’ it, claiming they would find greater depths of flavour if they did so. “Are you with me?” he asked.
“Only out of sheer curiosity,” replied Jeff, who had joined him for the tasting.

We are delighted to say that we were very impressed by the excellent quality of the 12 Year Old. Ted thought he could detect a familiar flavour in the scent: “Macadamias?”
“Very astute,” returned Jeff “And most certainly wrong!”
The 12 was paired with a dish of Petuna hot-smoked ocean trout, the whisky’s natural oiliness working well with the fish.

Course 2 and Nick whisky waffle

Nick: a slightly fishy character

The next course was the Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish coupled with a sumptuous dish of duck, however our pairing notes were cut short at this point because the guest speaker began his formal address.

Course 3 whisky waffle

We took to this course like ducks to water

Jeff Kennett began by praising the quality of the Tasmanian whisky industry. He revealed that he had a long time association with Hellyers Road and was pleased they had done so well and come so far, admitting that it was “a hell of a risk for a bunch of dairy farmers to start up a distillery.”

He also regaled us with a number of humorous tales, telling us of his ‘Man Cave’ which contains a large proportion of his 700-odd strong collection of single malt whiskies. Julian then commented that the Whisky Waffle boys might like to pay a visit to the ‘Man Cave’ to sample the wares. “Not wearing those ties!” retorted Jeff.
“beyondblue!” we protested.
“Well in that case you’re definitely invited.” We are pleased to say there were over 50 others present to witness this offer.

Jeff says that beyondblue is by far the thing that he is most proud of and will always be, unless (as he claims) he lives to 150 and something else overtakes it. His one wish is to end discrimination, and if we can do this he feels that we’d be much happier as a society.

Having spent much time in Tasmania he is passionate about the future direction of the state. Julian asked “If you were Premier for the day, what would you do?”
“Well, to be honest it would only take half a day!”
On a more serious note Jeff feels that if the Tasmanian whisky industry is properly supported then it could become a major drawcard for the state, helping to provide much needed money and jobs and raise its global profile.

The fourth course of the night was a curious combination of King Island Dairy triple-cream blue brie with quince paste on honey spice bread. For this dish Hellyers Road brought out their whisky best suited to complement the rich flavours on offer, the excellent Port Cask. We were both very impressed by this single-barrel release, which combined the typical Hellyers Road buttery notes with rich winter fruit flavours.

Course 4 and Ted whisky waffle

Ted: a cheesy character

As we sipped our Hellyers Road whisky cream liqueur and nibbled on our final course: orange vodka fudge tartlets, we mused on our evening. The whisky was definitely a highlight, but perhaps even more so was meeting the people that made it, and the passion and delight they radiated when sharing their craft with others. We hope to continue this friendship, as we all share the same hopes for Tasmanian whisky, and are proud to have a local distillery producing drams of such quality.

course 5 whisky waffle

Cows with guns: at the end of the night, this stuff goes down dangerously smooth

At the end of the evening Mark Littler, and Hellyers Road visitor centre manager Sharon Deane, presented Jeff with a bottle of the 12 Year Old. “One to add to the collection Jeff?”
“Collection? No chance, I’ll have drunk it by the time I get home!”
You certainly couldn’t say fairer than that.