Australian Whisky

    Australian whisky

Whisky has been produced in Australia for a very long time, and in fact in the 1890's the illicit whisky production in the state of Victoria produced a whisky that was affectionately called "new milk" and "mountain dew". For most of Australia's history, whisky production was underground and illegal or seriously hindered by burdensome regulatory requirements. However, the Australian whisky industry refused to follow the Tasmanian Tiger to extinction and the government was lobbied in the 1990’s. Then things started to change for Australian whisky, as distilleries began to sprout mostly in Victoria and Tasmania (though some are also in South Australia and the southern tip of Western Australia (Limeburners, for example).

Existing Australian distilleries are now spearheading a renaissance in Australian whisky making and rising from the ashes is a whisky of pretty impeccable quality!

Why has Australian whisky only begun to rise from the ashes in recent years? That question has a complex answer, but one of the reasons is the law. The law in Australia appears to have been onerous for distillers, plain and simple. The Distillation Act 1901 (Cth) was eventually repealed and ceased on 1 July 2006. It was repealed by the Excise Laws Amendment (Fuel Tax Reform and Other Measures) Act 2006 (Cth), the Explanatory Memorandum of which reads:

"Certain overly prescriptive requirements in the Excise Act are repealed. Similarly, those provisions of the Spirits Act and the Distillation Act, both of which are repealed, that are highly prescriptive and interventionist in terms of how a person conducts their business, are not transferred to the Excise Act."
Released from the shackles of previous regulation, Australian whisky producers began to flourish. The trailblazers were followed by other whisky producers and the rest is history. Now, we can all start to enjoy the magnificent whisky that is starting to trickle out of Tasmania and Australia.
1. Sullivan's Cove French Oak, 2. Bakery Hill peated Cask Strength; 
3. Sullivan's Cove American oak, 4. Timboon Cask Strength, 5. Nant Sherry Wood

Most Australian whisky does not merely aim to replicate Scotch whisky. Instead, what I notice is that whisky producers (especially in Tasmania and Victoria) may be using (whether they know it or not) the volatile climate and Australian grown barley to develop whisky that is uniquely Australian. The fluctuations in temperature commonly seen in states such as Victoria, and the beautiful Tasmanian barley, may explain the rapid maturation and distinctive character of Australian whisky. The future for Australian whisky looks bright! However, as Australian whisky finds its feet what I notice is that SOME Australian whisky is overly woody as a result of rapid maturation. Please see: Malt Mileage Guide to Spirit Making

Although whisky may mature more rapidly in warmer climates (and Australia warmer than Scotland!) this does not however mean that you can hurry love! Making great whisky takes time. I have tried many "new world" whiskies that rely on "climate" and the use of small barrels to justify very short maturation times. Many of these just tasted woody to me, not mature. There is some research suggesting that the alcohol in barrels needs time to break down compounds in the wood, so it may not be enough to simply expose whisky to lots of oak. In addition, oxidisation (exposing whisky to oxygen) is also important to whisky maturation and this takes time. So, time really does matter.    

Most of the whisky distilleries in Australia are located in Tasmania (Tasmania Distillery - Sullivan's Cove, Old Hobart Distillery - OveReem, Hellyer's Road, Nant and Belgrove) Victoria (Bakery Hill, Starward and Timboon) and Western Australia (Limeburners).

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