With all the talk of Scotch, American and Irish whiskey during Whisky Month, it’s easy to forget that there’s plenty of great whiskies being produced right here in Australia.
Still, despite the success of some of the Australian whisky industry’s leading lights – especially Tasmanian pioneers like Lark and Sullivans Cove – overall the scene is very much in its infancy when compared to other markets.
With over 80 Australian distilleries somewhere along the process of producing a whisky, Nip of Courage’s founder Kathleen Davies (pictured below) points to 2019 as the year when “reasonable volumes” of Australian whisky will become available.
“The best thing that venues can do is to get on board now and start stocking their back bars with Australian whisky as it is considered an emerging category globally,” says Davies. “There is huge interest at the moment in the premium spirits category in general, and it generally offers great margins for venue owners.”
So what separates Australian whisky from imported products? Davies believes the quality ingredients and small-scale production methods contribute to the fact that Aussie whiskies are “very much considered ‘hand crafted’ compared to commercial overseas whiskies which are produced in mass quantities.”
In addition, Davies points to the diversity of climatic zones across Australia – creating a wide range of whisky styles and unique aging techniques – as another unique selling point.
The Nip of Courage founder also believes it’s important that bartenders and operators support the local industry at their bars, if they want to see it expand.
“It is also important for the continued growth in tourism across the major cities and tourist destinations to be able to offer a locally produced whisky, as it is often overlooked when drink menus are being created,” she adds. Davies also points out that it’s a good way of supporting regional business and industry, commenting: “90% of Australian whisky distilleries are based in rural areas, where the economies are fragile and job opportunities are limited.”
Of her own portfolio, Davies points to Timboon Railway Shed Distillery (“Josh Walker the owner… is now doubling production year on year to keep up with Australian and international demand”), the 13th and latest single malt release from McHenry’s, and a limited release from Belgrove called ‘Wholly Shit’ – made with rye that has been smoked with sheep dung – as just a few of the things that are exciting her at the moment.
With Australian whisky set to grow, it would be unwise to neglect this small but exciting segment – after all, you wouldn’t want to miss the boat.