Australia hasn’t been making whisky for long, but we’ve got to admit, we’ve become rather good at it. Our unique climate, quality ingredients and dedicated distillers combine to produce spirits known and loved all around the world.
But Australia is known as a country that loves a drink, we’ve countless breweries and wineries showing the world how it’s done, but why are we so new to whisky?
Well to answer that question we need to hit the rewind button back to 1838. Tasmania alone was home to at least 16 legal distilleries, and who knows how many illegal ones. All was good and the locals loved a drink or three. At least, they did up until when Lady Jane Franklin, wife of Tasmanian Governor John Franklin, said “I would prefer barley be fed to pigs, than it be used to turn men into swine”.
Nice one, Jane.
From that point, it was all over for the local distillers as laws were passed and they were forced to close. With whisky production now illegal, Tasmania went without a local dram for over 150 years.
Fast-forward to 1991, and one Bill Lark was off for a trout fishing trip in Tasmania’s Highlands with his father-in-law, Max. Relaxing with a dram in a park in Bothwell, Bill questioned why nobody was making whisky in Tasmania – after all, not only is the climate perfect, there’s an abundance of crystal-clear water, locally grown barley and peat bogs. It just seemed logical. So, Bill being Bill set out to have a go, but upon applying for a license discovered Lady Jane’s law was still in place. Undaunted he contacted his local MP and before long the law was abolished allowing Lark Distillery to be formed in 1992, paving the way for the modern Australian whisky industry as we know it today.
And what an industry it’s become, with almost the same number of whisky distilleries in Australia as Scotland, though they’re all much smaller craft operations by comparison to their Scotch counterparts.
Here’s 12 Aussie distilleries that are lighting up our radar right now, and to keep it fair, we’ve got two from each state.