Australia has a rich, if not slightly contentious, history of alcohol production, but when it comes to whisky, we’re a far cry from our Northern Hemisphere neighbours. While local icons Sullivan’s Cove and Lark Distilling Co. are widely lauded for bringing the traditional practice to Australia, another Tasmania distillery is laying claim to a much older pedigree. Hobart-based Derwent Distillery has just unveiled a new malt spirit that harks back to its humble beginnings, some 200 years ago.
According to the current proprietors, Emma and Robbie Gilligan, The Derwent Distillery was first established on the banks of the Hobart Rivulet way back in 1823. Founded by Irish immigrant Rowland Walpole Loane, the unique venue was one of the nation’s first true distilling sites and while it may have changed address since then, Loane’s colourful legacy lives on.
“Not well-liked, Loane was quite the wheeler-dealer,” current co-owner Emma Gilligan said. “But a fascinating character nonetheless, and an important historical figure in Tasmania’s whisky industry.”
Since taking control of the historic label in 2016, Emma and Robbie have moved production to the banks of its namesake, the Derwent River, at a new cellar door. For 2023, the 200th anniversary of The Derwent Distillery’s inception, the pair have rustled up something special, unveiling a limited-edition malt spirit reminiscent of Loane’s original drams. According to Emma, the new Malt Spirit, Derwent’s first from its new home in Dromedary, is from an 18-month-old tawny port cask and arrives rich, viscous and very more-ish.
“We have always been fascinated with the early history of distilling in Tasmania, which kicked off in 1822. So, when we were ready to start our distillery, we wanted to acknowledge this history,” Gilligan said. “In a nod to Loane and the spirit that he produced, which wasn’t aged in oak casks, we have launched an unaged malt spirit as a special release to mark the brand’s 200th anniversary.
The limited-release unaged spirit will be available from the 15th of December at the new Derwent Distillery Cellar door at 715 Boyer Road, Dromedary, which is open Wednesday to Saturday.
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