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Tasmanian Whisky Academy Intro to Distilling – Part One


Introduction and Whisky Basics

My day begins at the historic Hadley’s Orient Hotel in the heart of Hobart, Tasmania. Commuters pass by the hotel bar windows on their way to work while faint piano music floats through the air inside. The smell of freshly brewed coffee catches my attention as I walk in, so I pour myself a cup and join half a dozen other students. We are seated beneath ornate chandeliers, beside a bar whose shelves are stocked with a selection of the best whisky Tasmania has to offer. We have a long day ahead of us but will return to the Orient Bar later in the afternoon.

We are here for the Introduction to Distilling course, the first time such a course has been run by the Tasmanian Whisky Academy. Although small in number, we are a diverse group from many walks of life. From both Tasmania and interstate, some like Wes and Damien are interested in starting their own craft distilleries. Wes is from Sydney and Damien wants to start Flinders Island’s first distillery; he has big plans to turn Flinders into Tasmania’s very own Islay. Martin joins us from Brand Tasmania, a government funded organisation which aims to promote Tasmania on the world stage as a location for quality products and services. Others like myself, are just interested in learning more about our favourite brown spirit, whisky. 

The course is designed to be suitable for a wide variety of students and gives unique access to the whisky making process. In Tasmania, Moo Brew Brewery provides whisky wash to seven of the state’s distilleries, including Sullivan’s Cove. This means that Moo Brew takes delivery of malt earmarked for whisky, mills it, turns it into a sugar solution, ferments it and provides the fermented 'whisky wash' directly to distilleries. Distilleries do this for a few reasons; it saves them a lot of money by removing the requirement for expensive brewing equipment and processes and by leveraging the expertise of a professional brewery, it allows the distillery to focus only on distilling the spirit, ageing and bottling it.

Our host for the day is Anne Gigney, Director of the Tasmanian Whisky Academy and after a brief rundown of the day's planned actives, she introduces us to Todd Morrison, owner of Destinations Cellars and our first presenter. I know Todd, as does anyone wanting the best range and advice about whisky in Tasmania. I have attended a number of whisky tasting events hosted by Todd, which you can read about here and here. Todd took us through a brief history of Tasmanian whisky and the whisky basics, to ensure everyone was at least at a base level of knowledge before departing for our first hands-on experience.

Did you know that distilling was first made legal in Tasmania in 1821 but was later made illegal in 1838 under the belief that drinking whisky encouraged immoral behaviour! It wasn’t until 1991 that whisky distilling returned to Tasmania with Bill Lark lobbying for the first Tasmanian Distiller’s Licence to be issued in over 150 years. In the 25 years since, the Tasmanian whisky industry has thrived, winning some of the biggest and most prestigious awards in the world of whisky and now includes over 25 distilleries, with new distilleries appearing all the time; making many types of spirits such as vodka, gin and of course whisky.

If you are new to whisky or would like to test your own knowledge, you can do so by viewing my new Whisky Basics page, otherwise, join me again soon for Part Two of this Introduction to Distilling feature when the course travels to Moo Brew Brewery to learn how malt is turned into whisky wash, ready for distilling.


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