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Issue 32 - Spirit from the South Seas

Whisky Magazine Issue 32
July 2003

 

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Spirit from the South Seas

M. F. Jameson looks into the past, present and future of Tasmanian whisky production

In a faraway seaport, buffeted by polar winds and dotted with Georgian architecture, barrels of single malt lie slowly maturing. The whisky rests in a bonded store near the ruins of a long abandoned distillery, just one of perhaps half a dozen that sprang up in the city during the early part of the 19th century.

A closer inspection of the barrels shows a local distiller's brand, however this single malt is not from Scotland nor Ireland, or even the northern hemisphere.

The barrels contain single malt whisky distilled in Hobart, the second oldest city in Australia.

Not content with a flourishing wine industry, a small band of Australian distillers, using traditional techniques, are now producing world-class single malt whisky. Most of that production is based on the island of Tasmania, the smallest state in Australia.

“My aim is that Tasmania becomes known for whisky in the same way that South Australia is recognised for wine,” says Patrick Maguire, head distiller and manager of the Tasmania Distillery that made the bonded whisky.

This is no passing fad. The Australian passion for distilled spirits goes back to the First Fleet. During the early years of settlement, when hard currency was non-existent, trading in spirits, particularly rum, was the universally accepted method of barter. In 1796, the fledgling colony of New South Wales was in the grip of a serious grain shortage, yet it was necessary to post colonial orders warning “ … it was transportation to the co...

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