Can you imagine what a 170-year-old Tasmanian whisky might taste like? Thanks to some very poor behaviour from early Tasmanian convicts and harsh words from Lady Jane Franklin, you’ll never know as whisky distilling was outlawed in Tasmania in the 1830s.
“I would prefer barley be fed to pigs that it be used to turn men into swine,” said Lady Jane and her husband, Governor John Franklin took notice and outlawed production. And there was that problem of grain being distilled for alcohol when it should have been used for food.
Fast forward to the late 20th century when a couple of locals started asking why nobody was using pure Tasmanian water and high quality island-grown barley to make whisky and set about convincing the Tasmanian Parliament to change the laws.
Now there are nine distilleries with seven in Southern Tasmania pumping out whisky that is raising eyebrows around the world and another three on the way.
What sets Tasmanian single malt whiskies apart from the crowd? Made by traditional methods in small batches using only pure Tasmanian ingredients then matured in small barrels and hand-bottled, these spirits have unique in character and style which is highly prized in the whisky world. No colours or flavours are added and it’s never chill-filtered.
Tasmanian whiskies are definitely not cheap, at upwards of $130 a bottle, but whisky lovers enjoy the rich fattiness the barley strain adds to the spirit.
Here are four best Tasmanian whisky distilleries you won’t want to miss.
The world’s premier whisky critic, Jim Murray, called a Sullivans Cove drop “a staggering achievement” in his 2013 World Whisky Bible and “unquestionably one of the world whiskies of the year” and a premier Tasmanian whisky.
In a whisky distiller’s dream run, Sullivan’s Cove also was named the world’s best single malt whisky at the World Whiskies Award 2014.
The distillery was established in 1994 at Sullivans Cove in Hobart. Visitors can tour the distillery and buy and try whisky in the visitor centre (10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday).
Lamb Place, Cambridge.
2-Nant Distilling Company
“Something majestic is happening here,” says Jim Murray about Nant. The Nant Estate (254 Nant Lane, Bothwell, Tasmania) is in Tasmanian’s central highlands. It’s about a one-hour drive from Hobart and two hours’ drive from Launceston.
The Atrium, their signature restaurant, is positioned overlooking the working farm. The restaurant has a Highland menu with seasonal, local Tasmanian produce, some foraged daily by the chefs from both Nant Estate and nearby farms.
Smoked meats, cured trout, conserves and spices all are prepared on site. You can choose between matched Tasmanian wines or a menu paired with Nant’s single malt whisky.
Nant’s cellar door is open seven days a week and, along with a full range of their whiskies , there’s a range of locally sourced and prepared providore items including jams, conserves and sauces.
3-Hellyers Road Distillery
They are Australia’s largest single malt whisky distillery but that’s not really that large compared to European distilleries.
Located outside Burnie on Tasmania’s North West coast, Hellyers Road (153 Old Surrey Road, Havenview, TAS) offers a Whisky Walk tour of the distillery, whisky tasting and relaxed dining.
You’ll find Hellyers Road on the shelves in 21 countries throughout Europe. In 2013 they were selected as Best New World Whisky in blind tastings held at Whisky Live Paris for their silky smooth Pinot Noir Finish varietal.
Family run Lark Distillery (14 Davey Street, Hobart) was the first licensed distillery opened in Tasmania since 1839. Their malt whisky has a rich character refined by one of the world’s youngest female distillers, Kristy Lark.
This Tasmanian whisky distillery produces 12 to 15 100-litre barrels each month. It runs an 1800 litre copper pot wash still along with a 500 litre spirit still.
They offer half- and full-day whisky tours which include a visit through the Tasmanian whisky distillery complex in the Coal River Valley.
There’s also a two-day tour that takes you into the Derwent Valley and hands-on whisky production.
Discover Tasmanian whisky
Take the Tasmanian Whisky Trail to discover the stories and people behind some of these labels. Other distilleries are Heartwood, Redlands, Belgrove, Overeem, William McHenry & Sons and Trapper’s Hut.