When you next pick up a bottle of our whisky, invert it or give it a little shake. If you are lucky enough you might see a hazy little cloud of something.
What you are seeing is what we call the 'essence' of the whisky. To be precise it is the naturally occurring oils and proteins that provide an enormous amount of the flavour, mouth-feel and the finish of a great whisky.
In a cask strength whisky these oils and proteins are in suspension in the liquid and you never see them but here’s the thing!
When water is added to alcohol a reaction takes place and this reaction can cause some of those proteins and oils to come out of suspension. This can create a cloudiness in the whisky or a little bit of fluffy material that sits on the bottom of the bottle and so these solids (now called flock) need to be removed.
Why do they need to be removed if they contribute so much to the whisky?
The answer is simply a marketing one. Removing them makes the product "look" better in the bottle.
Large overseas distilleries use a process called chill filtering to remove flock. This process can remove a large percentage of the whisky's flavour and colour and it is not a process we follow.
We leave the diluted whisky in settling containers for as long as it takes for the heaviest components to settle to the bottom. This process that can take anything from several weeks to some months and any bump or shake will stir up the flock and if that happens we have to start the settling process all over again.
When the settling process has finished we (very, very carefully) syphon the whisky from above the flock.
This sort of natural settling process does not remove all those oils and proteins and that means we keep more of the mouth-feel, colour and flavour that existed when the whisky came out of the cask.
So you have this fluffy cloud-like flavour-ball that is perfectly natural and is meant to be in whisky. If you simply give the bottle a shake the flock will dissolve back into the whisky and return the flavour and texture that existed in the whisky originally.
In every distillery there is a special feeling about the first cask to be filled. It was no different at Nonesuch Distillery.
We knew that the making of the whisky and filling Cask number 1 would result in really special memories for us.
It was indisputable that the whisky had to meet the high quality that we set for ourselves and, in addition to that, the whisky had to be be something extraordinary and distinctive.
After a lot of debate and even more research the decision was made to create a spirit from a Bourbon recipe passed to us by none other than the godfather of Australian distilling, Bill Lark.
Of course we knew this whisky would not be able to be called Bourbon as that is a trade protected term and cannot be used unless the whisky is made in the United States.
We decided to concentrate on making the best "bourbon-like" whisky possible and to worry about what to call it later.
Producing this whisky (that would be the first of its type created in Tasmania) required a grain mix of corn, malted barley and rye.
To our frustration, we soon discovered that when using a high ratio of corn (our recipe required 72% corn), the mash process required equipment that was more specialised than we had in our little distillery.
That threatened to derail our plan. But just down the road was the amazing craft beer producer Double Head Brewing owned and operated by the talented Ty and Amanda Capaci.
As a modern brewery Double Head Brewing had just the equipment needed and, as happens in our wonderful community, they came to our rescue.
Ty and Amanda changed their own production schedule and they brewed and fermented a wash for us using our grain recipe.
It is not overstating the case to say this whisky would not have seen the light of day without Ty and Amanda.
This is the only time Nonesuch has not produced its own wash and, due to the loss of Ty and the subsequent closure of Double Head, this particular whisky cannot and will not ever be reproduced.
So, back to the question "what would we call this whisky style in Australia?"
Bill did suggest "Burdon Whisky" (say it quickly and it sounds close to that protected name) but eventually we decided on the more descriptive name "Nonesuch Single Grain".
Single refers to whisky from a single distillery and Grain refers to the use of a mix of cereal grains.
We distilled this whisky in a traditional batch process in our bespoke copper pot still in the same way we produce Nonesuch Single Malt Whisky. This process resulted in a whisky filled with character and flavour.
Our distillation process was different that used to make grain whiskies in Scotland where they are predominantly produced on an industrial scale in continuous column stills and are most often subsequently blended
The Cask 1 Whisky is -
All our whiskies are special in some way to us here at Nonesuch. There is usually a memory associated with each one. Maybe that memory is about distilling the spirit with a great guest or a memory of a joke shared during the mash-in. Sometimes it is a memory of what was happening somewhere in the world as we distilled or of something taking place outside the distillery on Rayburn Farm.
Memories of the talented Ty and the big-heartedness of him and Amanda, the fact that this was our first cask and that it tastes amazing makes this whisky really special to us.
Now we have to convince our founder, Rex, to release it and not consign it all to his own personal stock.
Keep an eye on the Nonesuch newsletter for updates. We trust you will bear with us as we work on Rex and also work out the fairest way of releasing what is a very distinctive and very special batch of Nonesuch Whisky.
To say there is an air of excitement at the distillery at the moment would be an understatement of monumental proportion.
The cause of this excitement is the pending release of a product that is complex, intriguing and exclusive to Nonesuch.
The product is Sloe Malt.
You will not find Sloe Malt anywhere else. It is has been developed by our distillery and, while others may seek to imitate, there is only one genuine Sloe Malt.
The making of Sloe Malt begins in the Tasmanian autumn when the frosts begin. At that time we start picking the astringent fruit of the Tree Of Secrets, the Blackthorn. These trees were introduced to Tasmania by early settlers. The tiny blueish/black fruit needs to be carefully handpicked from the thorny trees.
Picking the sloes is an arduous task as they are protected by long nail-hard thorns all along the branches.
Once sorted and rinsed, the fruits are then added to an exceptional Tasmanian unaged malt spirit. This is the same spirit that would in other circumstances be barrel aged and become a malt whisky.
We do not age the malt spirit because we want to preserve the specific malt flavour. Whisky producers want to achieve colour and flavour from the barrel they age their spirit in and they choose barrels that have previously held wine, sherry port or bourbon.
We do not want those flavours or even the oak notes of the barrel. To us it is all about the unadulterated flavour and aroma of the malt spirit and the fruit.
Batch #1 of our Sloe Malt is the result of a process that commenced in Nov 2014 and consists of only 280 bottles.
The colour is a rich, ruby red. The nose is slightly fruity with subtle notes reminiscent of cherry and raspberry along with plenty of malt. So much is happening on the palate. The fruit, while full and flavoursome carries a slight astringency that simply "works" with the malt and lingers on the palate.
Something unique, using Tasmanian malt spirit and a fruit that only grows in any quantity in Tasmania and no other State, produced in very small batches of premium quality. Is it any wonder we are excited?
(Sloe Malt is a Registered Trade Mark of Stillworks Tas Pty Ltd)
Nose + Appearance: It has a bright ruby colour, with an appealing hint of maraschino cherry on the nose that lingers well.
Tasting (slightly chilled served neat): the flavours are very forward on the palette, not overly sweet with a quite clean + dry finish. Not a rich liqueur experience such as you get from a fortified spirit, rather this is one of complex spices, with yes, blackberry and sour cherries notes in a spirit that isn’t heavy.
It’s not like a Kirsch liqueur if that’s what you’re thinking, it’s much more lighter and delicate than that without the alcoholic kick.
The Take Home
A delicious and well crafted debut gin from one of our newest distilleries.