More new Australian whiskies will be released this year then at any other time in the last two decades. In 2019, a number of new entrants arrived on the Australian whisky scene, with Otter Craft Distilling, Yack Creek, Sandy Gray Whisky Company and Wild River Mountain Distillery releasing their first whiskies.
But despite the complications thrown up by coronavirus, 2020 is shaping up to be even bigger. We’ve already seen the The Gospel Distillers straight rye whiskey launched, Furneaux Distillery’s first single malt, and Adelaide Hills Distillery’s native grain whiskey (technically their first whisky).
Just last week, Hillwood Whisky from Tamar Valley in Tasmania joined the party with their first single malts. Paul Herron, the distiller and owner of Hillwood, felt it was still the right time to enter the market.
‘We know it’s been difficult, and for a first release we’ve probably chosen the worst time with the COVID-19 situation,’ Herron told Oz Whisky Review. ‘But we’ve probably already sold around 70 per cent of the first six barrels we’ve released, so we’re more than happy with that.’
Bottlings from six different single casks were released by Hillwood last week. The first three were matured in 25 litre apera, tawny and Tasmanian pinot noir casks, and are almost completely sold out. Currently, there are still bottles available, including a chardonnay expression, and Herron tells us local wine casks will continue to be a feature for Hillwood moving forward.
Hillwood Whisky – Supplied
In Victoria, Backwoods Distilling Co. will launch their first whiskies in August. Not content with one style, the Backwoods team will reveal a rye and a single malt whisky for their inaugural release.
Leigh and Bree Attwood are the husband-and-wife team behind Backwoods. While lockdowns and social distancing restrictions have significantly altered their plans for the launch, they can’t wait to get whisky out to their customers.
‘It’s pretty close now,’ says Leigh Attwood. ‘We’re shooting for mid-August. We’ll have an online launch and some pre-sales with that, and then we’ll release not long after… It’s been a long time in the making, but now it’s really exciting.’
Backwoods Distilling Co. range – Supplied
Further south, Bellarine Distillery, home to The Whiskery, is allowing its first whisky release to slumber a bit longer before launching in coming months. Russ Watson, one of Bellarine’s founders and owners, acknowledges that ‘the COVID thing’ has caused some difficulties. But he says their whisky will likely improve with further marrying and resting in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels.
‘We think it’s going to get even better with another couple of months in barrel. But we’d like to get it out before summer, and hopefully by then the whole COVID situation is a little bit more relaxed.’
A plethora of other new whiskies are due around the same time. Lawrenny Distillery in central Tasmania will release its first single malt in October. Yesterday, Lawrenny announced that preview samples of their component whiskies will be available to visitors at their cellar door (lucky Tasmanians – wonder if they’ll ever open their borders again?).
David Whittaker and Reg Papps, Manly Spirits Co. – Supplied
Back on the mainland, Manly Spirits Co. in Sydney is hoping to launch its first single malt this spring. For Sydney-siders, Friday night whisky tours will begin at the distillery in coming weeks, and a meet the distillers event with co-founder David Whittaker and the legendary Reg Papps will precede the release.
While it’s not their first whisky, across the harbour, Archie Rose Distillery will also unveil its long-awaited single malt later in 2020, no doubt sending their legion of fans into a mouse-clicking frenzy.
As you can see, that’s quite a line-up (no doubt we’ve missed a couple, let us know). And with whisky bars across the country beginning to reopen, it’s fantastic to finally have some positive news to look forward to.