​Belgrove Distillery
​Belgrove Distillery
Travel Tip

5 Dram Good Whiskies And Their Makers

Kathryn Leahy
​On the opposite side of the world from where people usually think the best whiskies are made, the Scots have themselves a rival. In Tasmania, boutique distillers are a colourful community of distillers and farmers turning grass seed into gold.

Bill ‘The Godfather’ Lark – Lark Distillery

In 1992 Bill and his wife Lynn, challenged and overturned a whisky ban that had been in place in Tasmania since 1839, making Lark Distillery the first licensed distillery in Tasmania since then. In 2015, Bill was inducted into the Whisky Hall of Fame making him only the seventh person outside of Scotland and Ireland to receive the honour.

A distiller testing whisky at Lark Distillery
Tourism Tasmania & Peter Whyte
Bill Lark of Lark Distillery, Hobart Waterfront

These days, the next generation is weaving magic in the distillery, with head distiller Chris Thomson and head blender Nathan Reeves taking things forward. Every winter,  the team conjure up drinks to warm the cockles on chilly nights. Take a seat at Lark Distillery Whisky Bar and Cafe on the Hobart waterfront and let them walk you through the menu with a tasting.

Robbie ‘Scotsman’ Gilligan – Old Kempton Distillery

Housed in a grand coaching inn, built in 1842, Old Kempton Distillery, is the work of resident Scotsman Robbie Gilligan. He’s deeply passionate about tradition, so every ingredient and step of Kempton’s whisky making is done on-site, from collecting water to growing grain and bottling the final drop. Book your spot on a behind-the-scenes tour (1.30pm daily) and learn of their paddock-to-plate ways or ‘Become a Master’ on a whisky distilling course designed for people thinking of opening their own distillery.

A couple having a whisky tasting with the distillery
Old Kempton Distillery
Robbie Gilligan of Old Kempton Distillery

Peter ‘the Whisky Scientist’ Bignell – Belgrove Distillery

At Belgrove Distillery, everything is done a little differently. Distiller Peter Bignall has the only biofuel-powered distillery in the world, run with used cooking oil from the roadhouse next to his farm. Peter does everything himself, from sowing the seed, harvesting, malting and smoking the grain in his old clothes dryer. It’s all a bit of a mad science and you can learn more about it on a guided tour with Drink Tasmania.

Distiller standing on a farm property
Belgrove Distillery
Peter Bignell of Belgrove Distillery, Kempton

Bill ‘Water Source’ McHenry

McHenry is Australia’s most southern distillery – and perhaps its most beautiful. On arriving at the distillery, just beyond the Port Arthur Historic Site, expect to be met with a warm handshake from Bill and the cold nose of Daisy the distillery labrador. The site takes in views across to Hobart, Mt. Wellington and down to the Hartz range. The distillery’s position also offers perfect conditions for crafting whisky with several natural, year-round springs that provide the distillery with pure water. If you don’t make it to Port Arthur, you can pick up a bottle of Bill’s whisky at his distillery market stall, each Saturday at Salamanca Market (drop by stall 245).

Cam ‘Salty Dog’ Brett

At Cam Brett’s Spring Bay Distillery the distillery is less than 500 metres from Spring Bay, a place well known for its delicious seafood. It’s this same salty flavour infused into the whisky that makes his signature drop unique. Spring Bay is also a perfect place to mature whisky, and for that whisky to take on the briny characteristics of its home. You can visit Spring Bay Distillery by appointment. Drive up the east coast, book a cosy stay with ocean views, visit Brett and later pull out your own bottle of whisky and settle in for a long conversation by a roaring fire.

A man sampling whisky from a barrel
Spring Bay Distillery
Cam Brett of Spring Bay Distillery in Spring Bay

What makes Tasmanian whisky so good?

Any whisky maker will tell you it’s all about the quality of the ingredients and Tasmanian distillers have everything they need at their fingertips. Pure air, rich peaty soil and unmatched water quality. Even the water has a unique story to tell before it reaches the still. Travelling on the winds of the Roaring 40s it cascades from mountain tops, runs through wild rainforests and is scented by wild natives and heather.

Whisky trails

Follow a trail of whisky makers, meet our distillers and taste their remarkable drops.

Whisky tours

Drink Tasmania takes groups of whisky lovers on bespoke tours behind the cellar door where they can meet the maker.

Whisky bars

There’s also a growing whisky bar trend throughout Tasmania. You can enjoy a dram at the Tasmanian House of Whisky on Bruny Island, and in Hobart there’s the Salamanca Whisky Bar, Society, and Lark Bar on Hobart’s waterfront and in Launceston there’s Henry’s Bar and Restaurant.

Tasmanian Whisky Week – August each year

The annual Tasmanian Whisky Week is a series of events held in Tasmanian distilleries, bars, barns, stables, restaurants and hotels. Distilleries will open their doors to host behind-the-scenes tours to meet the distillers in person, provide access to unreleased whiskies, and offer dining opportunities where distilleries (both old and new) will recount the successes, challenges and events that have shaped who they are today.

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