WHISKY FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD

There was a time when Tasmanians were regularly disappointed, even hurt, when people who should know better would depict a map of Australia leaving off their beloved island.

Doesn’t happen much these days as mainlanders, especially those interested in food, wine and travel, have very positive impressions of the delights of their smallest State.

Cool climate wines, chardonnay, pinot noir and world-class sparklers made from those grapes are climbing up the scorecards of mainland and international judges. Produce such as seafood and dairy, pure and organic, is the choice of contemporary chefs countrywide.

But there is another palate pleaser where small local entrepreneurs are taking on the traditional world leaders and earning their respect.

A dram of malt whisky.

Sampling liquid gold from the barrel at Belgrove
Sampling liquid gold from the barrel at Belgrove

The Irish often claim their whiskey (with an e) is the original and best. A Southerner in the USA might stake a claim for his bourbon or rye. A Canadian could proudly put his hand up and in Japan they certainly distil some magical spirits.

The ingredients for the finest golden glassfuls are simple. The finest barley, peat and water. The purity of the water is often credited with the success of the final product. It is the heart of a good whisky. A cool climate for maturation in barrel is also a plus. This unspoilt isle scores brilliantly on all counts.

The single malt whiskies of Scotland are the most prized by connoisseurs. The Scots have history on their side. The Tasmanians only started in 1992 when Bill Lark opened the first new distillery since 1843 when a change in local legislation allowed him to distil legally.

Head distiller Dean at Redlands generously offers tastings from other distilleries
Head distiller Dean at Redlands generously offers tastings from other distilleries

After giving the Scots a couple of hundred years’ headstart, the Tasmanians have staged quite a catch up!

Sullivans Cove was awarded World’s Best Single Malt at the World Whisky Awards in 2014 and has been awarded Liquid Gold status by Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible

Most of the popular whiskies consumed around the world may be blended from 20 or 30 component spirits, some malts, some grain whiskies from highlands and lowlands, but the pinnacles of the Scottish art, those with the most magnificent complex flavours, are the single malts, the product of a single distillery from a copper pot still.

This magical equipment transforms pure water and barley into award winning Sullivans Cove
This magical equipment transforms pure water and barley into award winning Sullivans Cove

The Tasmanian enthusiasts have very wisely chosen to bypass blends and aim for the top. Single malts are their babies. From small-batch mostly family owned distilleries around the island you will also find Hellyers Road, William McHenry, Trapper Hut, Belgrove, Heartwood, Nant, Old Hobart and Shene Estate.

Recently on the scene, based in a heritage listed property built by convicts in 1822, Redlands Estate is offering only the second paddock to bottle single malt in the world.

Are the Scots offended or defensive? To a man the Tassie boys and girls say they have had nothing but encouragement and practical help from the world’s acknowledged single malt champions.

Visitors on the Whisky Tour taste Overeem single malt at The Old Hobart Distillery
Visitors on the Whisky Tour taste Overeem single malt at The Old Hobart Distillery

Take your taste buds straightaway to www.taswhiskytrail.com or plan your tantalizing tour at www.tasmanianwhiskytours.com.au

Featured image: Pioneer Bill Lark amongst his treasure trove

Photos courtesy of Tasmanian Whisky Tours and Andy Wilson.

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Ian MacTavish

Mr MacTavish is a celebrated writer and one of Australia's more respected Wine reviewers, appearing regularly in national magazines, in print and on line. So far, he has never been heard to say 'no' to a wee dram.

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