‘Allo ‘allo ‘allo, what’s going on here then?
I noticed recently that despite Tasmania being synonymous with Australian whisky, I had only written one article about a Tasmanian whisky (and that was Nant, a now scandal-ridden and defunct brand).
Having said that, I’ve covered nothing at all from South Australia or Queensland, and I am aware of several operations in those states. Though it’d be a fool’s errand to try to cover the breadth of the Australian whisky scene with any particular system, I thought I would look down to the Apple Isle once more to see what might be interesting.
When I found a product called Barrel Aged Tasmanian Malt, this seemed perfect. But what was it? Why call it Tasmanian Malt and not whisky? Who is making this? My first instinct was that it might be sourced spirit bottled by a third party – there is a bit of this going on down in Tassie.
Research revealed, however, that this is made by a parent company called the Tasmanian Spirit Company. The TSC run two separate operations. Firstly, there is the flagship single malt, Hobart Whisky. Production began on Hobart Whisky in 2015, and initially the wash was purchased from a local brewery. In 2017 the TSC was able to set up their own brewing and fermentation system to ensure production was able to be moved in-house.
Hobart Whisky moved from small batch releases to having built up sufficient stock to release a core offering. Hobart Whisky Signature supplements the batches, and Hobart Whisky now has one product consistently available in stores and bars.
So far, so good. However, the TSC wanted to experiment and release a separate range of spirits under a different label not overtly connected to the Hobart Whisky range. Accordingly, Tasmanian Moonshine Company was born.
The TMC produce various spirits, liqueurs and vodka, and this is where we come to their Barrel Aged Tasmanian Malt. My guess was that this was essentially young spirit, likely the same new make that forms Hobart Whisky, being released before it qualified for the “whisky” designation (making this likely very young, as whisky only needs to be aged 2 years in Australia).
For confirmation, I reached out to the Tasmanian Spirit Company for more information. John Jarvis, distillery manager, tells Malt:
There are some differences in how we handle and mature the spirit once distilled, but generally it is the same new make that you can find in our Hobart Whisky range.
When we started in 2015, we were initially buying in from a local brewery (common practice in Australia) to distil, but quickly started brewing in house. It’s important to us as I believe the brewing and fermentation impart so much of the character into the new make spirit once distilled.
Our Tasmanian Malt is a young whisky. Despite being two years old (and legally we could use the term whisky here) we don’t believe it’s a traditional Tasmanian whisky.
The concept was to create a product that was light and approachable, easy to drink neat, as a mixer, or used in cocktails.
Maturation is done predominantly in red wine casks and Australian tawny port casks. These are vatted to produce a consistent flavour profile and generally treated like a solera, where we will only ever bottle a percentage of the vatting, adding more into it next time.
Thanks to John for that information.
When reviewing such a product that does not call itself whisky, I initially question whether it should be assigned a score. It is common practice on Malt to not give scores to new make spirit. However, that is usually where a producer is transparent that we are sampling unfinished products that will not be released to market in that form. I think scoring is appropriate for this finished product.
This release is being sold for around $105 for a 700ml bottle, which is borderline expensive when we can see what (the admittedly larger scale) Limeburners, Starward, and Morris can offer for less (though at 40% ABV). Pleasingly, this is also available in 375ml and 100ml bottles; more choice for the consumer is never a bad thing.
Barrel Aged Tasmanian Malt – Review
Bottled at 43% ABV
On the nose: Quite thin and grassy. Acidic white wines and some green bark. Time in the glass reveals some depth with caramelised sugar and lamingtons. Then straw, even rope with a certain mustiness, and lemon rind. I hope the palate is an improvement but I am sceptical.
In the mouth: Well, here is a surprise, as the flavours come on strong. I am not sure how successful they are, but there’s nothing timid about this dram. Quite oaky. At first, I am getting foam from the head of a glass of Guinness, roasted chestnuts, a cloying, almost sickly sweetness in the aftertaste like cheap port. There’s also spicy salami, pepper and over-ripe stone fruits.
There’s a lack of balance in the glass, a missing cohesion and clarity of purpose. I wish this were half the price so I could dismiss it as a cheap, cheery misadventure, but at around $105 the end product is priced for scrutiny. I don’t think that the price warrants a point deduction, though it crosses my mind.
I am supportive of the Tasmanian Spirit Company experimenting and having fun under the Tasmanian Moonshine brand. I don’t think we see enough of this in the industry. By separating the businesses, they have given themselves licence to play without imposition on the name of Hobart Whisky. Though this release doesn’t work for me personally, I am glad it exists and represents an accessible entry point for what TSC are producing.
I am making a note to try Hobart Whisky one day to discover how the same spirit can be shepherded into new iterations.