Hobart Whisky is distilled at Devil’s Distillery in Moonah, about five minutes north of central Hobart. Their first introduction to the market was with Tasmanian Moonshine Company, largely seen throughout Tasmania, before their single malt whisky came of age. The Oak Barrel’s first contact with Hobart whisky came in late 2018, during a scouting trip through Tasmania and thanks to a customer tip-off that it was something we should be looking at. A few back-and-forths resulted in the distillery making their debut on Oak Barrel shelves at this year’s Sydney Whisky Fair, when the latest releases – and a Fair special release – were brought up north for intrigued whisky lovers.
On paper, Hobart Whisky shares a few familiar traits with some of its neighbours – but there are certainly a few unique points here as well. They are distilling with Westminster barley, which has been the go-to strain since Franklin was phased out, which is malted at Cargill’s in Devonport before being milled and brewed into wash at Devil’s Distillery. Distiller Brian Hinson then works with an 1,800 litre copper pot still, designed by Tasmania’s own Peter Bailly.
Some of the biggest innovations and experiments are coming through cask finishes. As well as whiskies matured and/or finished in ex-bourbon, ex-port and ex-sherry barrels, Hobart whiskies have seen the insides of pinot noir, stout, rum maple and rose wine barrels.
For Sydney Whisky Fair 2019, there was a limited release of an ex-bourbon cask finished in a re-coopered sauvignon blanc botrytis wine cask. Just 91 bottles of that release were in existence and its held as a prime example of new world whisky. We don’t yet know how far we can take whisky production in Australia, but distilleries like Devil’s are making sure that no stone, or barrel, is left untouched to find out where the future of whisky might lie.
Innovation aside, what matters is the taste.
The initial nose is barley-prominent, which was a welcome introduction given how dominating some of these ‘crazier’ casks can be. Honey spread across bread, green banana with a very faint note of treacle in the background. The palate is coating, sweet honey right in the middle of the tongue and certainly not aggressive even though it’s 54.8%. The finish, probably medium-length, is where the unique casks seems to be the most prominent. It’s a complex collaboration of flavours, slightly wine-y, slightly herbal and with that honeyed sweetness carrying all the way through. A really interesting, enjoyable new world dram.
We’ve got a couple of this special release left in store, but also a smattering of whiskies from across the Hobart range.