Australian whisky production dates back to the days of 19th century emigration, but it hasn’t been until relatively recently that the country has really started to compete on the world stage.
All of the country’s modern distilleries have been established since 1992, and the most prominent distillers can be found on the beautiful island of Tasmania, off the southern coast of Victoria.
Whisky critic Jim Murray awarded three Australian whiskies his coveted ‘liquid gold’ status in his 2015 Whisky Bible. He included the Tasmanian tipples Sullivans Cove and Lark, as well as Western Australia’s premier distillery Limeburners, whose unusual name comes from its use of water from underground limestone aquifers as part of the production process. Writing about Sullivans Cove’s American Oak Single Cask, he wrote that “the intensity of the barley deserves a medal alone”.
Australian whisky has a distinctive taste all its own, resulting from the flavourful quirks provided by its abundant and unusual landscape. The country is fast establishing itself as a leader for boutique whisky production, attracting adventurous palates looking for something a bit different. Considering Australia’s colourful drinking culture, as well as the country’s expertise in both the wine and beer industries, some might say it was only a matter of time before Australia turned its skills to the stills.
Number of distilleries
According to Luke Summers’ worldwhisky.com, Australia currently has 26 whisky distilleries, with the most prominent producers being found in Tasmania.
Limeburners in Western Australia, and the Bakery Hill and New World distilleries in Victoria, are among the most prominent and critically acclaimed distilleries outside of Tasmania.
Scotch is big business in Australia, but local whisky producers tend to achieve more foreign attention than they do at home; the most lauded Australian distillers are not likely to be well-known to many Australian people outside of connoisseur circles.
The French Oak Cask of Sullivans Cove won the ‘Best Single Malt’ category in the 2014 World Whisky Awards, becoming the first winner in history from neither Scotland nor Japan. Victoria’s Bakery Hill produces peated whiskies that distinguish themselves from the Islay style.