Saturday, June 30, 2018

Whisky school

Sounds like a pretty good kind of school, right? And it is. The Tasmanian Whisky Academy runs courses and industry education and events. I attended their Foundations of Distilling course this week, together with aspiring distillers from as far afield as Townsville, the Sunshine Coast and the Macleay valley. It was a cracking couple of days packed with information. For whisky and gin lovers, the course is a great insight into the process of producing the beautiful crafted beverages we enjoy. For anyone thinking about starting their own distillery, it provides both loads of inspiration and a healthy reality check. Either way, you'll learn at least a few things you didn't know about the art and business of distilling.

After a morning covering the distilling process and an overview of the business with Sullivans Cove head distiller Patrick Maguire, one of the 'founding fathers' of Tasmania's whisky industry, we took a trip out to local brewery Moo Brew. There we learned from brewer Rowl about the brewing process and how the 'wash' is made, from the supply of quality malted barley, through milling, mashing and fermenting. In the past, Moo Brew has supplied several of Tasmania's best whisky makers with their wash, although at present they are concentrating on other things, such as an exciting whisky barrel aged stout that we were lucky enough to taste.

We spent the afternoon at award winning whisky maker Sullivans Cove for a walk through the distillation process from delivery of the wash to the barrel, where it stays for at least 12 years, and beyond. The sheer amount of whisky knowledge stored in production manager Heather's head really blew me away. At home that evening, David handed me an article from this week's Tasmanian Country newspaper about how a bottle of Sullivans Cove American Oak Single Cask had sold for $11,667 in an auction through Christies of London. And proceeds from the sale will go to charity. Wow. It was one of the last remaining bottles of this year's world's best single cask single malt.

The following morning we were out at Nonesuch Distillery, a boutique Tasmanian distiller of small batch spirits, primarily gin and now whisky. Owner and distiller Rex is truly passionate about his product - and you have to be - as he said, there's no point making gin you don't want to drink. It was great to see a smaller, newer distillery in operation and the solutions Rex has come up with to a wide range of challenges. Everyone I've met in the industry so far (I'm sure there are exceptions) is so supportive of others wanting to follow them. Our group asked lots of questions, and even the cheeky ones (a gin maker's recipe is always a secret) were answered with expertise, experience and good humour. The spirit of coopetition is alive and well in Tasmania's distilling industry. I took home a delicious sloe gin as well as some classic Nonesuch Dry Gin. Now I need to rearrange the 'drinks cabinet' to fit them in - not a bad problem to have.

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