Continuing a Wednesday Fair-week tradition we were graced with the presence and wisdom of Heartwood/Tasmanian Independent Bottlers' Tim Duckett to chat about what's going on in the Tasmanian whisky scene.
This year, given that the event's being held virtually as part of Sydney Whisky Forum, he also roped in good mate Bill Lark to sit around the fireplace and share a few drams.
Watch the discussion below as we cover what it means to be a "master", the tricks and tips behind judging spirits, the art of blending and the future of the Tasmanian whisky industry.
On the term “master”:
14 minutes, 40 seconds, Bill: “People are starting to question, who is a ‘master’ and who has the right to call themselves a ‘master distiller’ or a ‘master blender’. It’s just a discussion that takes place when you’ve had too malt whiskies at Tim’s office”
Tim: “You can see the problem. You’ll get a brand ambassador, and I don’t want to offend anyone but I probably will, and they’ve been in the game a short period of time and they call it a ‘masterclass’. But their aim is to sell their product, and I probably fall into the same category, but if you’re just trying to flog one product I think that limits you and limits the information that you transfer to the people. There are lots of other products out there that are equally as good and I think that you’ve got to explore all of the characteristics of whisky to impart knowledge and I think being a single brand ambassador you limit yourself and I don’t think that should be called a masterclass.”
Bill: “I’m gonna disagree, only because I’ve been researching it. There’s a big school of through around the world that says as long as you are imparting your knowledge about your whisky to a group or people or a consumer, then that is a masterclass.”
25 minutes, Bill: “That’s the great thing about being a distiller that sense of: ‘I’ve created this and, yes, I like it, but isn’t it great that other people like it.”
On Tasmania's future:
55 minutes 50 seconds, Bill: “When will we have too many distilleries in Tasmania? That’s a question I get asked a lot. I think in terms of volume, even the big distilleries, Hellyers Road, Lark, Sullivans Cove, even with the amount they’re producing it’s still a tiny little drop in the world market, even the Australian market. So if we had 100 distilleries producing whisky I don’t think we’ll ever be producing too much. The worry for me is that we might start to lose that thinking that we’re something very special. If there’s a distillery on every corner it’s not quite so special. I don’t know how you stop that, I don’t think we can, it will sort of self-regulate.
“It’s fair to say that Tim and I have come through the golden age where we could all help each other and we didn’t need to fight for shelf space, that’s definitely going to change – it’s inevitable that some of these distilleries want to get big enough to compete in the world marketplace so they’ll have a lot more whisky out there. It’s a matter then for a small distillery to find its niche, create something special and find a space where they can sell to.
“If I had my time again and I was starting out now I’d build a tiny little distillery, in a really nice location where there was people that enjoyed whisky that would come to my cellar door and drink my whisky and sell it that way. I wouldn’t get involved in the world market, and I think there’s plenty of potential for that still…”
Tim: “I’m a little more pessimistic than Bill. I went and asked some questions the other day about how many distilleries there are in Tasmania and there are over 60, there’s seven proposed for the Hobart area. I do think that there’ll be some copper for sale soon, because some of them won’t survive. The market at the moment, particularly without tourists is very tight, and I think there’s going to be a lot of distilleries releasing at the same time in the same market.”