Australia’s craft beer game may be pretty strong right now, but the rise of boutique spirits have taken barflies and bar managers alike by storm.
A far cry from your standard bottle of Wild Turkey, Australia’s new breed of Whisky distilleries are at the very forefront of this, making cutting-edge whiskys that challenge the nose, the palette and of course, the liver.
This isn’t going unnoticed either, and some of Australia’s best Whisky is starting to make waves overseas.
So pull up a leather-backed armchair, put on your best Roger Sterling impression, and let’s celebrate the finest tipple Australia has to offer.
How Good Whisky Is Made
Whisky, in case you didn’t know, is essentially beer that’s been rapidly heated, evaporated and condensed into a more potent liquid. This is what’s known as distillation.
This liquid is then aged for a period of years in Oak Barrels which have been charred (and in some cases used to make things like wine) in the hope of infusing unique flavours into a particular batch. This also gives the whisky its deep brown colour.
“Single-malt” whiskys are often favoured for their quality, and this means that they have been distilled as a single batch at a single distillery (like an estate wine) whereas many mass-produced whiskys are often blends.
The better the barrels, the better the initial brew and the more care put into the production, the better the whisky will inevitably taste. Australia’s master distillers have this down to a tee.
Starward is one of the rising stars of the whisky world, starting to fill the ad pages of magazines and the cabinets of whisky enthusiasts alike.
The reason for this is its maturation process. Aged in locally sourced barrels that were previously used to make wine, it boasts an incredibly balanced, complex flavour that goes from red berries to cinnamon and spice in a single mouthful.
It also won a Double Gold Medal at the World Spirit Awards in San Francisco last year, and you can’t argue with that.
Voted THE WORLD’S BEST Single Malt Whisky in 2014, Sullivan’s Cove French Oak is aged using the absolute best French Oak barrels available anywhere, as the name implies.
It was the first single malt to win the award that wasn’t made in either Japan or Scotland, and if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle, it’ll cost you about $450 just to get it into your drink cabinet. Truly one for the most avid enthusiast.
Just like it says on the label, Hellyers Road Pinot Noir finish is aged once in American Oak barrels that were once used to make bourbon, and then finished off in French oak barrels previously used to make fine Tasmanian Pinot Noir.
In true Tassie fashion, it’s also made using the finest Tasmanian-grown barley and pure rainwater. Expect a pretty high alcohol content, and an intense taste of citrus, along with pepper and spice that comes from the wine.
A craft Australian whisky if we ever saw one.
The slightly less expensive (let’s be real though: it’s still expensive) but nonetheless outstanding little brother of Sullivan’s Cove French Oak, American Oak Cask is aged in fine American Oak Barrels, giving it a more bourbon-like, balanced finish.
The first Australian Whisky to be Rated as “Liquid Gold” in Jim Murray’s whisky bible, it boasts rounded flavours of sweet Tasmanian barley, fruit, citrus and vanilla.
It’s won just as many awards as its French counterpart, twice named the Best Whisky in the Rest of the World at the World Whisky Awards, and also won Double Gold at the 2015 World Spirits Competition.
Whereas many Whiskys have their alcohol content altered after being taken out of their casks to make them more palatable, Bakery Hill don’t mess with a thing.
Every bottle of Cask Strength is taken from a single brew in a single barrel at cask strength, meaning a single 500ml bottle is also about 60% ABV.
Despite packing the same punch as many Absinthes, add a splash of water and you’re left with a flavourful, rich, smokey whisky.