New whisky releases have taken on extra meaning in 2020. Years of work and patience lie behind every whisky release, particularly inaugural bottlings. And while the pandemic has changed the way we celebrate these releases, many Australian distillers have charged on undaunted.
One of the boldest new entrants is Headlands Distilling Co., based in Wollongong on the NSW south coast. The distillery was founded in 2015 by four mates studying at the University of Wollongong who shared a passion for engineering and sustainability. Now, after first laying down spirit in 2016, Headlands Distilling’s first single malt whiskies will be launched on December 1st.
‘It’s finally time, and we’re super happy with the whiskies,’ says Jared Smith, a co-founder and director at Headlands, speaking to Oz Whisky Review.
Two Headlands single malts will be launched with this initial release – Apera Cask and Muscat Cask. Both were initially matured in ex-Bourbon barrels from Four Roses and then finished in casks seasoned with Seppeltsfield apera and muscat from Mastercask in South Australia.
Headlands Distilling Co. first whisky release – Supplied
Headlands Distilling have also gone their own way with production and pricing. As Smith told us, the initial distillation for the Headlands malt spirit is run through a stripping column, while the second distillation is performed in a more traditional pot still.
‘One of the things we’re really focused on is sustainability. We’re looking to be super energy efficient and cut down on waste in every part of the process,’ says Smith.
The Headlands team are then looking to pass those savings on to consumers. The asking price for the first two bottlings is $120 each (700ml), while a bundle offer of $200 for both whiskies is also available.
‘We want to provide some value compared to whiskies from overseas,’ says Smith. ‘$100-120 is still not cheap, but we don’t think that just because it’s Australian made it should be ten times the price.’
Lawrenny Distilling first whisky release, Ascension – Supplied
Another long-awaited first release has been launched by Lawrenny Distilling in Tasmania. Ascension provides an introduction to the Lawrenny whisky range, which the distillery is hoping to make available from mid-2022.
This first Lawrenny single malt has been painstakingly prepared by Lawrenny’s experienced head distiller Joe Dinsmoor (formerly of Lark and Archie Rose).
For the release, Lawrenny spirit was initially matured in a range of 20 litre ex-Bourbon and tawny casks. Whisky from these casks was then transferred to larger 100 litre casks and then vatted together and finished in a Spanish pedro ximenex cask for a further seven months.
Jensen Farley, Lawrenny’s co-founder and general manager, gave Oz Whisky Review a preview of what to expect from Lawrenny in coming years.
‘The Lawrenny range will consist of another limited release next year in a similar vein to Ascension. In 2022, we will see the release of our whisky made from Tasmanian malt; this will be a consistent blend of Bourbon, port and sherry casks. Our Estate Whisky, which is made from barley grown on-site and matured in a mixture of ex-cognac and ex-sherry casks, will be ready in late 2023 or early 2024.’
The Aisling Distillery first release whiskies – Facebook
One of Australia’s more unique new whisky releases comes online at 7pm tonight from The Aisling Distillery in Griffith, NSW. The first Aisling single malt bottlings, one matured in tawny, the other in apera casks, will certainly appeal to whisky fans familiar with the style (full details on The Aisling’s website). But the makers behind The Aisling whiskies possess an uncommon skill set.
Mark and Michelle Burns, the owners and operators of The Aisling Distillery, are also behind one of Australia’s up-and-coming still making operations, Burns Welding and Fabrication. Mark Burns has built stills, condensers, fermentation tanks, heat exchangers and all sorts of production equipment for well over a dozen Australian distilleries.
‘It’s been a long journey,’ Mark Burns told Oz Whisky Review. ‘Our whisky is nearly four years old. Some of the stills I built four years ago for distilleries have already released whisky before me.’
The Burns operation has been instrumental in helping a number of Australian whisky makers, including Corowa Distilling Co., Chief’s Son Distillery and Backwoods Distilling Co., to name a few.
‘Because we do everything, we’re a great resource for people,’ says Burns. ‘Experienced professionals use us for information and we’re also good for the mum and dad start-ups. Having whisky stills and gin stills onsite, they get to see exactly what they need in the one place.’
Craft Works first Capertee-distilled single malt, Project Ian – Supplied
Another NSW producer will launch their first single malt in coming days. Craig Field has released a number of independent bottlings through his Craft Works Distillery label. But on the 24th of November, Field will release his first single malt wholly distilled and matured at Craft Works Distillery in Capertee, two and half hours north west of Sydney. Full details on what Field has dubbed ‘Project Ian’ will be revealed with the launch.
On the other side of the country, Whipper Snapper Distillery will launch their first wheat whiskey a day later on the 25th. The whiskey started life from a hard red winter wheat before being given the full Whipper Snapper treatment in Perth and matured for four years in new American oak barrels.
Whipper Snapper Wheat Whiskey – Supplied
From other established producers, Timboon Railway Shed Distillery in Victoria unveiled a new peated whisky release last week, which will become a permanent bottling in their core range when it’s made available to the public in December.
Boatrocker Brewers & Distillers in Melbourne have also just unveiled Ramjet Whisky Coffee Edition, where their famed Ramjet Imperial Stout was distilled and matured in an apera cask. If you like an experimental number, it’s worth a look.
In Tasmania, The Whisky Club have capped off an incredible year of Australian whisky releases with a new higher ABV Archie Rose Rye Malt offering.
Also in the online space, The Australian Whisky Appreciation Society have collaborated with Dram Full to bottle a 3.5 year old heavily peated Black Gate single malt. Black Gate have also just released a new 520s peated bottling, the latest addition to the famed 20s line of whiskies. Landing at a whopping 71.3% ABV natural cask strength, it promises to liven up any Christmas party.
And Lark Distillery will close out a busy year with their soon-to-be-released Double Tawny offering, where Lark head distiller Chris Thomson has further matured some of the Classic Cask in a single tawny cask from Seppeltsfield.
It’s been a remarkable year for Australian whisky releases. And if you’re looking to try something new this festive season, there’s no shortage of options.