20/02/2008 - 22:00

Whisky lovers head to Albany

20/02/2008 - 22:00

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Local whisky lovers will be pleased to know that Western Australia will soon have a label of its own, with the Great Southern Distilling Company to release its first whisky in March.

Whisky lovers head to Albany

Local whisky lovers will be pleased to know that Western Australia will soon have a label of its own, with the Great Southern Distilling Company to release its first whisky in March.

The distillery is located at 252 Frenchman Bay Road in Albany, on the edge of the Princess Royal Harbour, and produces white spirits such as vodka, gin and grappe, as well as brandy.

But its principal focus is on single malt whisky.

“Albany was the perfect location to start a distillery. The cool climate is very important to avoid too much evaporation of the alcohol,” company director, Cameron Syme, told Gusto.

The whisky will be called Lime Burners, in a reference to Albany’s convict past, where convicts used to burn sea-shells to make lime for construction.

Mr Syme turned his back on a career in law two years ago to start the boutique distillery.

He says whisky operates in a niche sector of the market in Australia, but is certain there will be opportunities flowing from increasing worldwide interest in Australian whiskies.

Mr Syme says only five eastern states distilleries produce whisky, but they are growing in popularity internationally.

Jim Murray, a leading authority on whisky, has rated some Australian whiskies among the best in the world in his Whisky Bible 2008, with scores of 90-plus out of 100.

Australian standards require that the whisky must be aged in barrels for two years before it can be sold. In Scotland, the minimum is three years.

“If you make whisky, you have to produce without making any money for two years. That’s why we diversified our production to vodka, gin and brandy, which only take a few weeks to make” Mr Syme says.

Mr Syme has 22,000 litres of whisky in casks and is looking to release 700 bottles for sale this year.

Scottish recipe single malt whisky is made with malted barley, yeast and water, while the American recipe for bourbon features corn, rye and malted barley.

“Western Australia offers some of the best barley in the world, and most is exported to Japan to make beer,” Mr Syme says.

The distillery’s cellar door opened last November, while the cafe is in the style of a Melbourne wine bar, matching the tapas-style food with the spirits and cocktails offered at the cellar door.

Head chef James Gunson previously worked at Must Wine Bar and Albany-based Wild Duck Restaurant. He uses the distillery’s products in his menu, which changes weekly, and sources all his ingredients locally.

The cafe-cum-tapas bar has lodged an application with the liquor licensing authority to extend its trading hours to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

The first release is an ‘unaged’ whisky, which will range from two to four years in cask.

Mr Syme also plans to release an eight-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 20-year-old whisky.

Mr Syme completed a distilling certificate by correspondence with the UK Institute of Brewers and Distillers.

Tony Browne, who worked in the industry for 13 years in Scotland, was appointed head distiller two years ago, while Jurgen Schluidi, a German distiller with 15 years’ experience, is the newest menber of the team.

Mr Syme also runs the Margaret River Distillery Company, which is a joint venture with the Grove Vineyard, where products are sold under the Grove’s branding.

He is the chairman of the Australian Distillers Association, which ensures all the producers keep a premium focus for their whiskies.

There are only two other distilleries based in WA – the Hoochery Distillery, which produces rum in Kununurra, and the Swan Valley-based Wild Swan Distillery Company, which produces vodka and gin and also started producing whisky, with a first release planned for 2010.

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