Wednesday 26 May 2021

That Boutique-y Whisky Company "Australia" Series: Part 2 [Tasted #519 - 526]

Following on from Part 1 of our coverage of That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TWBC) Australia Series release, our Part 2 post will explore the series in a bit more detail.

The full lineup of TWBC's Australia series include 8 bottlings from distilleries that span across the mainland and Tasmania:

  • Black Gate 3YO Single Malt
  • Belgrove 4YO Rye
  • Tin Shed 3YO Single Malt
  • Fleurieu 3YO Single Malt (exclusive in Australia to The Oak Barrel)
  • Killara 2YO Single Malt 
  • Riverbourne 3YO Single Malt
  • Starward 3YO Single Malt
  • Bakery Hill 5YO Single Malt

The series sees bottlings from a collection of highly sought after, small-batch craft distilleries, many of which have not previously been available outside of Australia. Amongst this is Belgrove, a farm-to-glass distillery run by Peter Bignell, one of the most known and loved Distillers in Australia. Peter has been known for his unconventional equipment and techniques and is dubbed the 'Mad Scientist.' Peter's Belgrove Rye is renowned internationally due to the use of his own rye to craft his whisky.

Alongside Belgrove, the release also includes bottlings from Starward (whose presence has graced markets in the UK and US, Black Gate (whose total annual output is just 3000L) and Killara, founded by Kristy Lark-Booth - daughter of Bill Lark aka the ‘godfather’ of Australian whisky. Although Kristy has grown up around whisky, she originally wanted to be an Air Traffic Controller. The TBWC Killara label has her overseeing airspace that is filled with flying copper pot stills - an acknowledgment to her dedication to controlling the distillation process.

There is also bottling from Fleurie, a South Australian distillery run by ex-brewers Angela and Gareth Andrews whose site is famously an old train shed site and feature on the TBWC label. Angela and Gareth also took the pleasure to re-create the label by wearing the same outfit as the label during the Oak Barrel launch of the series. Fleurieu is also known for their copper pot stills which are modelled on those at Islay Distillery, Caol Ila and their super long (8 days) fermentation. 

The series also features bottlings from Tin Shed, Riverbourne and Bakery Hill. The Tin Shed release is particularly interesting given the use of ex-tawny port and ex-Pinot Gris casks. Tin Shed started producing in 2013 and is known for occasionally smoking their barley with mallee root, the root of a dwarf Australian eucalyptus tree.

The release from Riverbourne is also fairly unique with the use of re-charred ex-Australian wine casks. Another fun fact, Riverbourne is run by Australia's oldest distiller, Martin Pye whose root is actually in pharmacy with Martin being a third-generation pharmacist. He has been known to use a wide range of yeast strains and re-charred ex-wine casks for maturing the Riverbourne spirit.

Then there's Bakery Hill. Headed by David Baker, an ex-High School chemistry teacher who first built his still in an industrial unit in Bayswater Victoria in 1999. The label on the TWBC Bakery Hill bottling down right paints his earlier years, 'Breaking Bad' style - though no blue ice involved, only whisky. The label shows founder David Baker and his son Andrew in hazmat suit packing their Winnabago full of casks. Classic.

I sat down with each of the bottlings and here's my take on the series. My personal favourites included the Black Gate 3yo, the Belgrove Rye as well as the Killara 2yo.

Black Gate 3 Year Old (46%, 3yo, New South Wales, Australia, A$255) One of my favourite from the series. The nose is very floral, there are fruity hints, specifically stone fruits, peaches and green apples. There is vanilla. The nose reminds you of springtimes. The palate on the other hand adds a level of punch firstly with tar and soot which then mellows out to vanilla and creamy soda. There is that creme brulee or lemon tart that then develops into hot white pepper notes. The spices remain on the palate for some time.

Belgrove 4 Year Old Rye  (49.8%,  4yo, Tasmania, Australia, A$299) The nose is interesting and filled with agave (tequila?), it is nutty and there are peppermint notes and a whiff of light smoke. The palate begins with char, tar and lots of soot. It's very earthy. Once the big initial notes fizzle out, you get peanut brittle that's served with some spices, chilly, that agave returns and there is that smoke again. The finish is dry yet the smoke lingers and remains for some time.

Tin Shed 3 Year Old (48%, 3yo, South Australia, Australia, A$215)  Interesting mix with a combination of ex-Tawny and ex-Pinot Gris cask. Very musky nose with glazed bacon with an added maple syrup. It's rather stocky, meaty, bbq meat, there's a hint of smoke with some mild chilli. The palate is rather complex. Soft at first, with a gradual build-up of spice, caramel and bacon developing into a soft mushy pear. The finish is quite a bit of tannin, mild, heat and stays for some time.

Fleurieu 3 Year Old (49.5%, 3yo, Goolwa, South Australia, $190) (exclusive in Australia to The Oak Barrel) The nose is pungent, old linen, biscuits, pecan pie, honey, flour, caramel. The palate is creamy, gentle at start, spiced, chilli, pumpkin pie, more vanilla, salted caramel, chilli chocolate. The finish is full of spices mixed with chocolate and caramel, a tart finish and spice remnants.

Killara 2 Year Old (49%, 2yo, Tasmania, Australia, A$375) the nose is sweet with loads of gummy berries, vanilla, maple syrup on waffles, fruit tingles. The nose is fun and surprising given the relatively young age of the spirit. The palate is chalky at first which is then followed by some berries (raspberries), mango, and strawberry, some citrus/lemon notes and hints of black pepper. I must say, the palate is rather delicious and fruity, very balanced. The sweetness and tartiness linger for a while.

Riverbourne 3 Year Old (50%, New South Wales, Australia, A$239) Allspice hits the nose, there is heat, a hint of cinnamon and the heat keeps rising, chilli or perhaps chilli chocolate. There's oak and honey though plenty of spearmint and tannin. That heat continues but fizzles out after a while. Unique profile that may please traditional Riverbourne fans though might be different for some.

Starward 3 Year Old (56%, 3yo, Victoria, Australia, A$179) The Starward profile is clearly there on the nose with loads of gummy bear lollies, banana, raisins, dried fruits, apricot, nectarines. Very fruity at first and followed by cinnamon chai and caramelised sugar.      Those sweet lollies are ever-present again. Though there is also some salt and spice; salted caramel. The sweetness continues and the cinnamon spice grips. Very mouthful and settle into some citrus and oranges (naval) notes. The finish is gingery, the spice remains and fizzle out into spearmint after taste.

Bakery Hill 5 Year Old (50%, 5yo, Victoria, Australia, A$299) The nose is musky with oak remnants, some vanilla, leather. There is cherry ripe mixed with some spearmint. The palate is very gentle, soft and filled with oat biscuit, creamy marshmallow and there is a gentle nutmeg spice on the back of the palate. The spearmint lingers on the palate and slowly fizzle out.

The Australian Series is an extremely exciting set and so much so that the majority of the bottlings have been sold out. The Oak Barrels in Sydney as well as few select retailers in Australia still have limited stocks on some of the bottlings - so do get them while it lasts.


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