I’ve left my Christmas shopping to the last minute, again. Clearly, I’m not alone though, because my inbox has been flooded with just-released offerings, and plenty of folks have got in touch wanting advice on which Australian whiskies to look our for this festive season.
Increasingly, whisky fans are on the hunt for something different and unique, and Australian producers have a huge array of options for those keen on branching out. And with more Australian whiskies available than ever before, it’s the perfect time to get the whisky fan in your life better acquainted with the local scene.
For the single malt fan
There’s a wide range of Australian options for the single malt devotee. But malt enthusiasts are an obsessive breed, so it pays to think about what style of whisky they’re after to get the right bottle.
If you’re buying for fans of entry level Scottish single malts (Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, etc.) – many of which are predominately matured in ex-Bourbon casks – similar Australian whiskies are a safe bet.
In this vein, we’ve been loving Hobart Whisky’s The Signature, Hellyers Road 15 Year Old and Launceston Distillery’s Bourbon Cask from Tassie. Spring Bay Distillery, also from Tassie, do a stunning Bourbon Cask whisky that will definitely impress.
Sherry (Apera) and Port (Tawny) Cask
The vast majority of Australian ‘sherry’ and ‘port’ cask whiskies are matured in local fortified wine casks that previously held apera or tawny. For fans of these rich and spicy whiskies, Tasmania’s got some great options in Overeem’s Sherry Cask and Port Cask bottlings. Previously mentioned Launceston also have award-winning Apera Cask and Tawny Cask whiskies in their core range.
Australian distillers are world leaders in producing quality ex-wine cask whiskies. Starward are heading that charge, and they’re Nova single malt whisky is the perfect introduction to the genre. Other quality drops matured in shiraz, pinot noir and cab sav casks are produced by Spirit Thief and Adams Distillery in Tassie, and The Aisling Distillery in Griffith released a tasty shiraz cask whisky this year as well.
Some brilliant Australian peated whiskies are now being produced (we recently profiled 10 of Australia’s best). From Victoria, Bakery Hill Peated Malt is right up there, as are the peated offerings from Chief’s Son in Mornington Peninsula. Black Gate, Fleurieu and Limeburners all produce brilliant peated whiskies of varying intensity that will please the peat freak.
For the Bourbon fan
Head west for Australia’s best Bourbon-style corn whiskies. From Perth, Whipper Snapper’s Upshot range will win over Bourbon fans – their Cask Strength and Wheat Whiskey are particularly exceptional. Great Southern’s Tiger Snake whiskey range is equally convincing.
For the Jack or Jim lover, Melbourne’s Ned Whisky is improving with each new release, while Loch Distillery south-east of Melbourne put out a fantastic corn whiskey this year which we highly recommend.
For the rye whisky fan
The Gospel, Archie Rose and Backwoods are leading the Australian rye whisky charge. Check out The Gospel Straight Rye, Archie Rose’s Rye Malt, and whatever batch of Backwoods Rye Whisky you can lay your hands on.
But Tasmania’s Peter Bignell is Australia’s original master of rye, and the paddock to bottle rye whisky he produces is one of the most unique whiskies made anywhere in the world.
You can’t go past Starward’s Two Fold Double Grain for quality and affordability, and it’s also available right across the country. From northern Victoria, Corowa Characters and Morris Signature single malts are fantastic sub-$100 bottles that still pack plenty of punch and complexity.
For something different
The 78 Degrees Australian Whiskey was released this year – a local twist on whisky making techniques from around the world. It’s worth a look.
It’s also been a big year for independent bottlings of Australian whisky. Tasmania’s Heartwood/TIB leads the pack, and we’d recommend anything in their range, the more readily availible TIB bottlings especially. Craft Works Distillery and Highwayman Whisky also released some brilliant offerings this year produced both in house and sourced from distilleries across the country.
Money’s no object
Sullivans Cove is undoubtedly the whisky for the collector in your life. Prices are steep and bottles can be difficult to source, but we really enjoyed this recent collaboration bottling with Sydney’s The Oak Barrel – it’s a great look at the Sullivans process. Lark Distilling Co have also released some curiously priced whiskies in the last 12 months that will appeal to the collector.
Where to buy
Direct from the distillery is a brilliant way to support Australian whisky producers. Otherwise, The Old Barrelhouse, Nicks Wine Merchants and The Oak Barrel are the top retailers to check out for of Australian whisky.