Local Spirits: Tasmanian Whisky, Gin, Apple Cider
What: It’s hard to believe, but until the 1990s whisky distillation was illegal in Tasmania—partly as a result of its convict heritage, and partly thanks to the usual red tape failing to keep up with a burgeoning new industry. But nowadays Tasmania is the whisky capital of Australia: Its pristine waters, exceptional brewing hops, and highland peat bogs have triggered the creativity of local distillers. To the surprise of many in the industry, at the 2014 World Whisky Awards Tasmania’s own Sullivans Cove was deemed the world’s best single malt whisky!
At the same time, gin distillation has gone through a major renaissance. While local juniper still forms the basis of all Tasmanian gins, many distilleries have introduced other native Tasmanian botanicals to their gins with exciting results. Tasmanian pepperberry has proven very popular, with its leaves and peppercorns adding a wonderful warmth and length, while native lemon myrtle introduces citrusy elements.
Pick your poison—if you’re a sipper of hard things, don’t miss the opportunity to try one (or both) of these wonderful local spirits in Hobart...and don’t forget the local cider too (see at bottom).
Where: There are so many excellent gin and whisky distilleries both in and near Hobart that you could never hope to see them all in a day. Instead, if time is tight we recommend dropping by Destination Cellars (24a Barrack St., map), a shop in central Hobart with an extensive, diverse range of fine Tasmanian spirits (as well as wine and craft beer). For its 20-plus years of existence, Destination Cellars has gone out of its way to establish close working relationships with many of Tasmania’s family-run distilleries.
When: Mon-Fri, 10am-6:30pm; Sat, 10am-5pm
Order: If gin is your spirit of choice, keep an eye out for any of the “Poltergeist” gins produced by Shene Estate Distillery: Its Poltergeist Unfiltered gin recently won gold at the 2017 World Gin Awards! Expect to pay AU$85 for a 700mL bottle.
On the whisky front, in addition to the excellent range from award-winning Sullivans Cove, we also recommend trying whiskies from either Lark Distillery (owner Bill Lark is considered by many to be the godfather of Tasmanian whisky) or a Fannys Bay single malt. These whiskies start at $170 for a 700mL bottle.
Go to a bar. Don’t want to invest in a full bottle? Most high-end restaurants and many bars across Hobart offer Tasmanian whisky and gin by the finger. The IXL Long Bar has been a favorite high-end watering hole for Hobartians for years now, and it has a comprehensive selection of local spirits on offer, whether you prefer them straight or in a cocktail. Or if you’d prefer a more laid-back evening, in the heart of Salamanca you’ll find yourself at home in Society Salamanca, another of Hobart’s best, specializing in Tasmanian gins, whiskies and cocktails.
Visit a distillery. If you do have the time, visiting the cellar door is always the best way to taste a gin or whisky. Not only do you get a far greater range, but you can also speak with the staff and hear the stories behind the spirit.
Lark Distillery (14 Davey St., map) is the perfect place to start your whisky journey, as it was Bill Lark who kicked off the whisky industry in Tasmania all those years ago! You’ll find Lark in central Hobart, close to Salamanca. McHenry Distillery (Brooke Street Pier, map) also has an excellent reputation for its range of both gins and whiskies (pictured at top), and can be found at Brooke Street Pier in Salamanca.
Good to know: There’s more! Tasmania is known by many as “The Apple Isle” for its extensive apple orchards throughout the Huon Valley. It’s no surprise, then, that apple cider is a popular beverage among Tasmanians, with delicious brews emerging from this greenest of valleys. Two ideas for tasting them:
Willie Smith’s Apple Shed (2064 Huon Highway, map), 30 minutes from Hobart, is always a hit, offering a full range of ciders and an excellent food menu grounded in quality Tasmanian produce. Another 20 minutes farther south will bring you to the picturesque village of Cygnet and Pagan Cider (7891 Channel Highway, map), with a great range of award-winning apple, pear, and cherry ciders. A great interlude in your exploration of the gorgeous Huon Valley!