St Agnes Distillery in Renmark has released its first single malts with the unveiling of Camborne Single Malt Whisky.
St Agnes, Australia’s leading brandy producer, first started laying down casks of single malt spirit in 2015 using their historic brandy pot stills for this week’s inaugural release.
Fifth generation winemaker Richard Angove instigated the whisky project with Ben Horley, the St Agnes head distiller. Horley is one of Australia’s most experienced distillers and blenders, holding the head distiller role with St Agnes since 2013 after a ten-year apprenticeship under John Norman, who himself was with St Agnes for four decades.
Malt distillation trials at St Agnes were first developed by Angove and Horley, with spirit subsequently being filled into several different cask types and then left to slumber in the old St Agnes Barrel Halls to create Camborne whisky.
St Agnes Barrel Halls and head distiller Ben Horley. Images – St Agnes Distillery
‘Camborne’ references the history of the St Agnes Distillery and honours the founder of the business, Dr William Thomas Angove.
In 1886, Dr Angove left his home of Camborne, Cornwall, set off for South Australia and founded Angove Family Winemakers when he arrived. William’s son Carl then built a distillery in Renmark in 1911 to produce grape spirit for the fortification of port and sherry-style wines.
But Carl saw an opportunity to produce a quality brandy and travelled to Cognac in 1925 to learn from the best in the world. He made some significant changes to production at Renmark when he returned, and the subsequent quality he introduced led to the birth of St Agnes and a more sophisticated take on the Australian brandy style.
St Agnes is now Australia’s oldest family-owned continuously operating distillery. The brand has taken out World’s Best Brandy on several occasions and won hundreds of Australian and international awards.
St Agnes Barrel Halls. Image – St Agnes Distillery
‘With over 100 years of distillation experience we have a clear purpose: to create Australian spirits of exceptional world standard with a unique Australian expression,’ says Richard Angove.
‘Our head distiller, Ben Horley, and the team at the distillery have used all their experience in crafting our single batch whiskies, each having unique character underpinned by our house style which is classically South Australian – rich, full, stylish, smooth, and long.’
Angove told Oz Whisky Review that distillations of malt spirit at St Agnes – where 27,000 litres of wash can be distilled at one time through the old pot stills – have been carried out most years since 2016. And like other historic family winemakers who have recently entered the whisky game, Angove has a vast array of casks to mature spirit in that have previously contained brandy, apera, rare fortifieds and numerous premium wines.
Camborne Single Malt Whisky XO Brandy Cask. Image – Voice
Four single cask Camborne expressions have been bottled for this first release, each diluted to an optimal ABV: Tawny Cask (51.8%), Sherry Cask (47.6%), XO Brandy Cask (46.3%) and Shiraz Wine Cask (46.2%). Further whisky releases featuring different casks are also in the works, and Angove says the team are hoping to release older whiskies in future.
‘We’re also holding whisky back for longer term aging, but we think these casks have hit a good spot and we’re really happy with them.’
The whiskies selected for this first release have been matured for around seven years and are currently retailing for $275 through the St Agnes website.