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Arise Australia fair!

By Dominic Roskrow

Right, I'm absolutely determined. I'm going to write a whole piece on Australian whisky without using any cliched Aussie words or phrases such as 'strewth', 'fair dinkum, ''good on yer mate' 'possum' or 'chunder'. Apart from in this paragraph. I spend a lot of time emailing my many Australian friends, mainly about whisky, and I've always enjoyed their forthright views, self-assuredness and positivity but like vegemite (damn - Aussie cliche) and kangaroo goolies (if you watch I'm A Celebrity you'll get that) they can be an acquired taste - and if you're not so sure about them then I should warn you: I suspect they're going to get increasingly loud and cocky once more in the coming months.

They're a nation obsessed by sport and they tend to dominate whatever they turn their hands to. This summer that means swimming events in the Olympics, in the Autumn it means a resurgent rugby union side (though they're welcome to that during 2012-13 as The All Blacks are World Champions and are staying that way until at least 2015 - sorry sports (oh poo, I've done it again!))

And then from later in the year - sorry English cricket loving readers - they're likely to be rampant on the cricket field.

We know all this because part of the Aussie psychology - just like with Manchester United's Alex Ferguson - is to talk their chances up until it comes true. They're not only saying that they expect to thrash a fading English cricket side, but they talk as if they believe it. Which they do.

And then there's whisky. They're starting to get very good at making it and they know it.

Now to be fair, they do show respect to Scotland - after all, the Scots are enemies of England - but there's a growing confidence and occasional whiff of arrogance in some of the most recent comments, and they've perfected a sales pitch about their whisky that they're repeating like a mantra. For a flavour of it, take a look at the new 'talking point' feature, "Are the Scots dumbing down?" It's hard not to be impressed what the conv …stop right there Dom…citizens of the Antipodes are doing though.

World Whisky Review has talked extensively about Tasmania so let's turn our attention to the mainland. Two of Australia's biggest distilleries are here, but there's a scattering of new faces across Victoria, Western Australia and one or two in Adelaide, too. It's early days - so these are ones to watch.

Victoria Valley Distillery

Victoria Valley Distillery

Essendon, Victoria, Australia Founded: 2007

Victoria Valley Distillery embodies the growing confidence and burgeoning size of the Australian whisky industry. It hasn't bottled any whisky yet, but it's not that far away. and undoubtedly there is a genuine excitement about it. It was created and built by a business group linked to Tasmanian whisky veteran Bill Lark. Now, under the direction of managing director and head distiller David Vitale all the focus is on producing a great malt. When it comes on line it will be Australia's biggest malt whisky producer, and it's likely to market a range of whiskies because it's maturing spirit in a range of different cask types and sizes. The distillery is selling barrels for those interested, and is set to sell extensively in to South East Asia.


Hoochery distillery

Hoochery distillery

Koonunura, Western Australia Founded: 1995

It's often assumed that if someone is making whisky in a far away place such as Australia, they must be taking Scotch and single malt whisky as their blueprints. This isn't necessarily the case, and other whisky styles are made across the world, and newly invented grist recipes are taking whisky in to new areas. Hoochery is best know for its range of rums, though it does make a range of spirits which include an ouzo and a spirit close to Brazilian cachaca among its products, which are almost exclusively made with Australian produce, is a a premium old style 100 per cent corn mash whiskey, which is made with locally grown corn, and mahogany charcoal-filtered to enhance its smooth flavour and finish.


Southern Coast

Southern Coast

Welland, SA, Australia Founded: 2004

There's a trend developing in Australia and rapidly it's starting to develop some national traits, even though the distilleries are thousands of miles apart. with sherry casks in short supply much of the whisky from Australia is being matured in port casks, often rebuilt in to small 100 litre barrels, further accelerating maturation. southern Coast Distillers is making whisky in very very small batches of whisky that is already turning heads. Owner Ian Schmidt is a former flagpole maker who started making whisky as a hobby - and with typical Aussie swagger says the Scots have been having the world on for centuries because making good whisky is easy.

Tasting notes: Apricots, toffee, pears and traces of wood on the nose, a rich sweet palate with honey, roasted nuts, coconut, marzipan and orange fruit on the palate.


Timboon Railway Shed Distillery

Timboon Railway Shed Distillery

Victoria, Australia Founded: 1910

The Timboon Railway Shed has its history firm set in the pioneering and populating days of Australia, when pioneers were founding the state of Victoria and building railway lines through it. But the whisky link is even older. Tough moonshiners including the notorious whisky maker Tom Delaney made Mountain Dew here for years before it was stamped out 100 years ago. Timboon Railway Shed is a tourist centre selling local produce and it brews and distills a range of products including single malt whisky. It looks to Scotland for inspiration. the whisky is bottled at between 45%-50% and is matured in small 50 litre and 90 litre casks made with wood previously used for port.

Tasting notes: Sweet, fruity malt with milk chocolate, honeycomb, raisin, some citrus and red berries.


Triptych Distillery

Triptych Distillery

Victoria, Australia Founded: 2010

Triptych distillery is something of an enigma. It's so new that at the time of writing very little information is available about it. The distillery is described as 'small batch' and Triptych is defined on the distillery's website as 'a work in three parts', ' a set of three, working side by side' and most tellingly, 'three mates, one vision.' The site also states that Yarra Valley produces the world's best fruit, the world's best wine and soon, the world's best whisky. There are references to small batch production of single malt but also American style, Canadian style and Irish style whiskey. Pretty ambitious then. Watch this space.


Wild Swan Distillery

Wild Swan Distillery

Founded: 2002

The Swan Valley has long been known for a producer of quality fruit, wine and beer for many years now, so as far as the team behind Wild Swan Distillery were concerned, there was no reason why spirits shouldn't be part of the regional story. Wild Swan is run by the Angove family, and John brings experience from working in a Canadian distillery and being an avid home brewer. At the time of writing no whisky had been sourced but vodkas and gin are in production and in 2008 the distillery picked up its first international awards in the San Francisco Worlds Spirits Show, with further successes in 2011. Another one to watch for.


Bakery Hill Distillery

Bakery Hill Distillery

Near Melbourne, Australia

David Baker's distillery was interviewed extensively in issue two, and as part of my contract with The Whisky Advocate I can't review the latest batch of his five distillery - suffice to say that this is frontline Australian whisky making and reviews will appear in future issues.