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The small Aussie distillery behind the Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year

David Baker started Bakery Hill distillery in 1999, after reading an article that said that Scotland is the only place in the world that can make whisky. While not a whisky drinker himself, Baker thought that idea wasn’t right, and he could prove it.

Now, 20 years on, the Bakery Hill Peated Malt Cask Strength has been named the Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020.

Baker said winning the title is a highlight for Bakery Hill.

“Basically I think it’s a wonderful recognition of the years of hard work and persistence that all the staff here have showed at the distillery,” Baker said. “It’s recognition that you should never lose focus on your long term goals, and close enough is never good enough.”

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible is now in its 17th year of publication and is widely recognised as one of the most comprehensive whisky guides in the world. The 2020 edition includes over 4700 whiskies tasted, evaluated and rated under ‘The Murray Method’ for fairness and accuracy.

Baker has been submitting samples to Murray for the purpose of the Whisky Bible since around 2004 and said he doesn’t enter Bakery Hill into any other awards.

“Jim Murray’s Bible is quite different,” said Baker. “We select a range of the production range for a year and shoot some samples over to him. He then reviews them as a neutral person, and we are very interested in the comments that he makes.”

Murray’s comments for this year, as well as the title of Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year, have left Baker feeling “quite chuffed,” especially considering the high personal input in the small distillery.

“It’s always been that we want a whisky which is better. We can’t compete with the overseas distilleries, we haven’t got economies of scale that they have. But what we can do, because of the size of our distillery here, is we can make the best possible whisky,” said Baker.

This is also a reason why Baker and the Victorian distillery are hugely supportive of the localisation movement, supplying directly from the distillery to local and independent on- and off-premise locations.

In the international sections of the 2020 Whisky Bible, the World Whisky of the Year went to 1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon, owned by the Sazerac company. Murray described it as “melodious, mysterious and slightly exotic,” with a nose of “near-perfect proportions.”

Sazerac owned brands also took out the prizes for the two runner ups, which were William Larue Weller 125.7 proof and Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye 127.2 proof.

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020 edition is available here.

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