‘Go big or go home’. Even five years ago, you were more likely to spot an extinct old tiger than hear a Tasmanian whisky producer utter such a phrase. But this is the motto driving Adams Distillery, which has always looked to forge a different path to the many small-scale distilleries that have emerged in Tasmania over the last 25 years.
The Adam’s behind the distillery, Adam Pinkard and Adam Saunders, the former a paramedic, the latter a master builder, developed a partnership in 2014 around the idea of opening their own whisky distillery. The pair initially tried to set up in central Launceston, but the council didn’t warm to that and the project was then moved to Glen Ireh Estate near the town of Perth, 20 minutes south, where a family connection granted them some land for the distillery.
Whisky production began in October 2016, and a number of Tasmanian distilling figures mentored the Adam’s in the design of the spirit. In the early days, the distillery’s willingness to sell spirit in bulk to separate companies and independent bottlers also set them apart. The Brisbane-based Art of Booze was one of the first to get on board, and they’ll eventually bottle their own Tasmanian whisky label using Adams and Killara whisky. Independent bottlers Heartwood/TIB and Dark Valley Whisky have also purchased spirit, and the distillery continues to produce whisky for several other companies.
Eyeing expansion, Adams took on investment from Glen Ireh Estate’s owner, Professor Berni Einoder, a renowned Tasmanian surgeon, taking the total figure spent on the project to over $1.7 million. The first Adams single malt was then released in late 2018 from a marriage of three ex-apera casks, and subsequent bottlings have been matured in barrels previously containing tawny and pinot noir, while Bourbon and shiraz casks have also been filled.
The texture and weight of the Adam’s spirit has also been lauded by a number of distillers and enthusiasts. A unique malt profile has certainly contributed, with pilsner malt, crystal malt and a German beachwood smoked malt employed. And the still design, with short heads and descending lyne arms, helps to capture a thick and heavy distillate.
The pace of change at the distillery has been frenetic. A large visitor centre and bar was completed in late 2018. Barley was also planted in an adjacent field around the same time to create a Glen Ireh Estate single malt. Then there’s Adams beer label, Grand Angus Brewing, which launched in 2018, and even a new onsite cooperage, Transwood, operated by the Schmeider family, who’ve been coopering in Bundaberg (primarily for Bundy Rum) since 1982.
There’s no holding back here. It’s hoped the distillery will become one of northern Tasmania’s central visitor hubs, and that their whisky and gin (we forgot to mention the gin, didn’t we?) can become prominent Tasmanian brands. With big ambition comes big risk, but the infrastructure’s now in place, and this bold project is among the first of a new wave of whisky operations that will change the shape of the Tasmanian scene in coming years.