The Australian whisky industry has flourished in recent years, winning awards and delighting whisky drinkers the world over. Although the industry is still very young by world whisky standards, the stage has well and truly been set for a very bright future, especially once some of these drams get some real age behind them. If you haven’t discovered the wonders of an Australian whisky yet, here’s a little guide to a few of the distillers you might want to look out for.
This Tasmanian distillery has been quietly gaining a reputation amongst whisky lovers that has seen their bottles flying off shelves almost as soon as they can be stocked. With limited quantities laid down, meaning less whisky on the way, this trend looks set to continue. Available in three expressions (port, sherry and bourbon casks) I’d recommend you start with the Sherry, which is matured in smaller casks, which results in a more intense interaction between the wood and whisky, bringing out more flavour.
Lark is the oldest distillery currently operating in Australia and also one of the biggest producers in the country. With great attention to detail in terms of cask selection and maturation their output is a consistently rich, inviting and slightly peaty dram that is at home in any bar. There aren’t many bells and whistles here, just good quality whisky and a nice place to start is their Classic Cask.
Arguably the most well-known Australian distiller, thanks to its impressive victory at the World Whisky Awards a few years back, this small Tasmanian distillery producers some seriously delicious whiskies, in three varieties; American Cask, American/French Dual Cask and the prize-winning French Oak. Unfortunately though, these whiskies can be incredibly hard to come by, so grab a bottle (especially the Dual Cask) if you are lucky enough to find one.
Before Sullivans Cove made the world sit up and take notice of the Australian industry Nant was flying the flag for local distillers, bagging a swag of awards and praise the world over. A trend it has continued, even though some would argue it doesn’t get the praise or notoriety it deserves. Nant even impressed the great Jim Murray so much (he gave their American Oak Bourbon wood, which is the only one I’m yet to try, 95.5 out of 100) that he came out to Australia to visit the distillery. How’s that for a compliment? Nant currently produces a range of very fine, very enjoyable whiskies in a variety of finishes (sherry, pinot noir, bourbon, port) and is easily one of my favourite local distillers. These beautifully crafted drams offer something for everyone and make brilliant gifts for yourself or a fellow whisky lover. I’d suggest you start with the sherry, or for something different try the pinot. One other thing, if you’re ever in the area, they have a truly beautiful distillery/restaurant in Tasmania which is well worth a visit (pictured above) with an old-school water powered mill wheel.
This list is by no means exhaustive and there are plenty of other great Australian whiskies to choose from, there are also plenty of distilleries in Australia with more popping up all the time (personally I’m looking forward to Archie Rose) and I’ll be reviewing several of them over the coming months here on the site. So get out there and support your local whisky industry and let me know what else you discover.