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Australian Whisky

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Australian Whisky

Postby rmcq » Wed Mar 31, 2010 2:22 am

I was wondering what the general consensus on Australian Whisky is.

I am an Australian, and over the last few years Australian made malt whisky has crept into more and more bottle-shops and bars.

A few years ago I tried some Lark and Sullivan's Cove, and I remember thinking that they were far, far to young to be enjoyed. I subconciously formed the opinion that the desire for quick money outstripped the quest in providing a quality product - no distillery wanted to wait until their product had aged appropriately.

Quite by accident I was served a Sullivans Cove (unsure of the age statement) at a bar last night, and before telling the barman that I had actually asked for Springbank I had a sneaky taste. It was much, much improved.

I then thought of the possibility of buying a couple of bottles to try out. This thought has since been abolished - I discovered the going price of a standard bottling of Aussie whisky is approx $120.00. As a comparison, entry level single malt scotch is generally around $70-80 tops.

So - does anyone else have an opinion on Aussie malt? Too young? Too expensive? Crap?
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby jmrl » Wed Mar 31, 2010 7:53 am

We tried Cradle Mountain from Tasmania's Small Concern Whisky Company last week. from a Bourbon cask at full strength bottled by Cadenheads, I believe it was triple distilled and the distillery no longer operates (I hope I am wrong about the last bit) It proved quite popular. About £45 is a little high for the age and strength but I guess shipping costs might have been a tad higher than from Speyside, carbon footprint too. We have a cabarnet sauvignon cask too with bizarre chocolate peanut butter on burnt toast notes.
We also tried peated Bakery Hill from Victoria at full strength. Very good. On the 15th April we've got Lark at 43%. The last two came in 50cl bottles at £50. So the price is high but these guys must be business like and set the price at a level which will match supply and demand, but this doesn't necessarily make for a good deal. Unfortunately it puts whisky out of the reach of a lot of whisky lovers; the people that create the majority of the malt market. The others are mysteries to me but I hear Sullivan's cove is much improved
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby dramtastic » Wed Mar 31, 2010 8:22 am

Gosh I've had one, I think it was Sullivans Cove peated, ok but overall pretty underwhelming. Not cheap even here in Australia and if you want to charge boutique prices you'd would want to be very good.
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby AshDLS » Thu Apr 01, 2010 7:41 pm

I'm really quite curious about Australian whiskies, but I have to agree about the price - especially when there are distilleries such as Bakery Hill (as good as they are) using 50cl bottles priced slightly dearer than many other single malts at 70cl. Maybe not an issue for some, but for people on a student budget such as myself... :P
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby AshDLS » Mon Apr 19, 2010 7:45 am

If there's a Vintage Cellars near you it might be worth checking out - at the moment they're doing 20% off when you buy 2 or more malts, maybe a good time to stock up on the everyday drams? (Or the Bruichladdichs, since Vintage Cellars has a wide range of them...)
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby schitzengiggles » Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:41 am

I've opened this thread in a seperate window so that I can attempt to address each of the issues that you guys have mentioned.

I'm Ryan Marshman, I work for Hellyers Road Distillery in Burnie, Tasmania. Prior to joining Hellyers Road, I worked for Nicks Wine Merchants, in Melbourne, Australia. Whilst I was there, I compiled what I believe to be is the first guide to Australian whisky. You can download a copy here. http://www.nicks.com.au/Index.aspx?link_id=76.1610 I'll mention also, that if you're interested in trying any Australian malts, and you live in Melbourne, that Nicks Wine Merchants Armadale store has tasting bottles open of most of the producing Australian distilleries for you to try without any obligation.

@rmcq With regards to Lark & Sullivan's Cove being too young to enjoy, that's a fair observation, quality has dramatically improved of late, and they're becoming enjoyable, eccentric whiskies to reach for on the odd occasion. Sullivan's Cove is unreasonably priced, and that won't change. Lark's however have released some simply stunning single cask whiskies offering exotic flavours that are unlike anything else produced anywhere else in the world. They're fat, oily, spicy whiskies that call for a special occasion or mood. They're not everydayers, that's for sure.

Regarding the pricing;

Hellyers Road whiskies are bottled at 46.2%, and are vatted from full size, first fill casks aged from 5-8 years. They retail around $80, and are very reasonably priced, compared to entry level Scottish whisky. This pricing is subsidized by the parent company, Betta Milk.

Bakery Hill whiskies are matured in first, second and third fill ex-bourbon oak. The casks are broken down on arrival from the US and are re-coopered in to smaller casks 50,100 & 150l in size. Bakery Hill bottles single cask whiskies at 43% & Cask Strength at around 5 years of age. At this stage, stock sold by Bakery Hill is still investor stock, which is inflating prices. They can be absolutely glorious malts, the price of a good cask can be easily justified. You might scratch your head if you get a dud though. Ask your retailer.

Larks are in the same boat as Bakery Hill regarding pricing and the trials and tribulations of single casks.

Great Southern's pricing policy is ridiculously expensive, given the quality and inconsistency of the whisky on offer.

Sullivan's Cove is improving, but still struggles to justify the $100 for the "Double Wood" 40% and the $150 for the cask strength whiskies. Avoid the Port wood at all costs, but the Bourbon wood generally offers a nice, crisp, punchy malt with a truckload of flavour.

@jmrl Small Concern is done and dusted, a personal spat between the proprietors forced the collapse of the company.

@dramtastic Sullivan's Cove distill their whisky from wash made at Cascade Brewery. There's no peat allowed in there!

@AshDLS The industry won't sell their whisky to VC, Dan Murphy, Coles, Woolies or anything of the sort. Anything you find in VC or First Choice is residual stock from a drop they did a few years back. It's likely that the product is poor.

@Everyone - In Australia at present, there's a $66 excise per litre of pure alcohol, so each bottle produced here attracts around $30 in tax alone. Once small distillers begin to receive the same tax relief that small wineries receive.

My battery is running very low, so I had better submit this before it dies and I lose it all. I'm happy to answer any questions you might have.

In closing, I guess when considering prices, you need to compare apples with apples, Lark's which is distilled in a 1600L still, then matured in a 100L cask is an artisinal product not designed to be approachable by everyone, it's designed to be enjoyed by the enthusiast on a special occasion. Glenfiddich probably distill more in a single batch than the entire output of the Australian industry, and it's intended to be cheap, clean and cheerful.
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby dramtastic » Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:52 am

As I said, I was pretty underwhelmed hence me writing I THINK it was Sullivans Cove. On reflection it was Hellyers Road because it came with a glass that I have in the cupboard.

Glenlivet 12 would be considered an 'entry level' scotch single malt whisky by many and that can be had for $45.

Considering I can get excellent whiskys like Talisker 10(I could name many more) for 75 bucks or less, I still don't see how they are good value, sorry.
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby schitzengiggles » Thu Apr 22, 2010 2:22 pm

Where'd you get it Dramtastic?
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby schitzengiggles » Thu Apr 22, 2010 2:39 pm

[quote="rmcq"]
I then thought of the possibility of buying a couple of bottles to try out. This thought has since been abolished - I discovered the going price of a standard bottling of Aussie whisky is approx $120.00. As a comparison, entry level single malt scotch is generally around $70-80 tops.
[quote]

This is incorrect. Smith's Angaston 8yo is around $59.99. Hellyers Rd Range can be had for $70-$80.
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby jmrl » Thu Apr 22, 2010 6:59 pm

Great info on the distillers. Thanks. Here is the write up and feed back on the Lark from the World Whisky tasting of last week.

Tasmania- for the original: Larks 43% (well first distillery there for 153 years). Bottled in 50cl bottles at £50 as bought in Australia, thanks Nick. Bill Lark is currently on his third location while planning to become self reliant on malting rather than tapping Cascade brewery. The books tell me he uses quarter casks (no age is stated on the bottle) and only makes 10-12 barrels a month. Also compare scale: 2 of the Japanese wash stills weigh in at 25 500 litres, L:Lark's is 600 litres. The nose ain't pretty (for me), reminiscant of someof the poorer French malts we've tried. The taste however is much better. Sweet and again rich dried fruits. almost meandering over to some fruit liqueur flavours but not too OTT. The 'Godfather of Australian distilling''s reputation preceeds himself now advising on the commissioning of a new Fife distillery. The evidence is firmly in his favour. Mind you mere oak casks this time, single cask bottling. 38% 12333334445. 'Vennegoor of Hesselink, quite good flashes of brilliance', 'The Richard Gough of whiskies', 'George', 'North Berwick West', 'Bourbon single grain hybrid with added orange and darl chocolate'. 'bigger Alfa' 'better'.

38% means the whisky scored 38% of possible marks. People mark the dram from 0 to 9. The quoted comments are written by those present. Some are funny, some helpful and some mysterious.

I'll post the Small Concern review too.
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby dramtastic » Thu Apr 22, 2010 9:01 pm

schitzengiggles wrote:Where'd you get it Dramtastic?


Some friends went to the distillery while in Tassie.
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby Willie JJ » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:50 am

Clearly with the small batches consistency is likely to be a problem but if the sample of Bakery Hill that we had was in any way representative then I would definitely say its worth trying. Less so with the Lark, but if you get the chance its worth a shot too.

There's a clear difference in style between these whiskies and Scotch, but that's fine. I think its always important to try these things with an open mind and not try to see them as poor relations to more established products. I could see myself getting used to them if they were reasonably affordable and accessible.
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby schitzengiggles » Mon May 10, 2010 5:05 am

Just need to clarify a few things that have popped up due to comments I made earlier in the thread. I cannot edit my post above.

The views expressed are my personal views. These views have been expressed face to face with the distillers in question.

Hellyer's Road pricing is not subsidised by Betta Milk. Hellyer's Road is a fully owned subsidary of Betta Milk and runs the distillery as an independant business. Misinformation on my part.


I said "avoid the port wood at all costs" in relation to Sullivan's Cove whiskies. My experience with the port wooded Sullivan's Cove whiskies is terribly underwhelming. But to say what I said was short sighted/narrow minded, as they are single casks there's every chance there's some good stuff around. Trying before you buy is essential.
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby vcdman » Mon Sep 27, 2010 3:38 am

Its pretty unreasonable to complain about the price of Australian whiskies, firstly as pointed out earlier Smiths Anguston 8yr or even 12yr are under $100 and good value.

Secondly, where can you find quality Small Batch Single cask scotch whisky for under $150?

Single cask whisky can be very exciting to a collector if the produced whisky is pretty consistent. Bakery Hill is a fabulous example of this. Some Australian Whiskies are not as consistent (Sullivans Cove etc) but as with all world whiskies markets, there are outstanding and average distilleries.

Can i just add Limeburners over in WA, also produce a great Australian Whisky!
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Re: Australian Whisky

Postby Jonbob » Thu Oct 07, 2010 3:48 am

I recently had a chance for a tasting at Lark distillery in Hobart and was very impressed by the their cask strength port wood, I just wish I had enought cash to buy a bottle, it was well worth the price they were charging :)
I would recommend anyone who is visiting Hobart head down there for a tasting.
I did also pick up a miniature bottle of Hellyer's Road Original single malt, which was not so impressive, but I suspect I just got a early bottling that had some problems
and I'll definitely try it again
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