As a prelude to the upcoming NWC Tasting of American Whiskies, Mike D, our resident Australian whisky dude, thought this would be a great time to review a relatively new Australian Sour Mash Whiskey, which will also be the first in a short series about whiskies from Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.
So, without further ado, here’s Mike’s report about Tiger Snake Sour Mash whiskey and the Great Southern Distilling Company:
Great Southern Distilling Company
The Great Southern Distilling Co., which makes Limeburners Single Malt Whisky is located in Albany, Western Australia. Albany sits along the southern coast about 415 km and a 4.5 hour drive from Perth. The distillery, overlooking beautiful Frenchman Bay, was founded in 2004 and began production in a small site in 2005 before moving in 2007 to a larger production facility with a Visitor Center. Great Southern is one of several Australian distilleries but it is the only one that is producing single malts as well as a sour mash whiskey, gin and brandy in Western Australia.
Great Southern harvests its own peat from bogs located in the Valley of the Giants. An interesting fact about the peat from this area is that they harvest from 12 to 18 inches below the surface as the roots of the Karri tree are too heavy in the first 10 inches or so and this top layer burns too hot and too quickly to produce a good smoking. The peat from this area imparts a very light, sweeter smokiness than the iodine-type notes that come from Islay peat.
The Karri tree, which grows throughout the forests of South-West Western Australia, is the third tallest tree in Australia and one of the tallest species in the world, reaching heights of ninety metres. The karri trees grow in the highest rainfall part of the south-west of Western Australia in loam soils, where they sometimes coexist with Jarrah and Marri trees. Most of the karri forests are found between Nannup and Denmark, but there are isolated pockets found elsewhere in South West WA, including the Boranup forest between Margaret River and Augusta, the Porongurups east of Mount Barker and on Mount Manypeaks east of Albany.
A tour of the distillery starts at the mash tun where local rainwater is used and is heated to 75 degrees C. From there the mash is piped to the wash/fermenters where it undergoes a rather lengthy fermentation of about 7 days (the fermenters hold about 1100 liters each). After fermentation the liquid is then moved to the Spirit Still #1 – which is actually the only spirit still so calling it number one is ambitious but shows that future expansion planning is already in motion.
The spirit still produces about 32 gallons of heart and fines (tails) per run. The extracted feints are reprocessed two additional times in subsequent distillations. Each distillation run produces approximately 1 barrel of whisky per day.
Once in the barrel, it heads to the warehouse for a minimum of 2 years before being moved to a sherry, port or other wine barrel for finishing over another year. The 3 years is required by law to call it whisky. The warmer weather of the Albany region and smaller casks matures the whisky faster than in Scotland or even Tasmania and New Zealand.
Leaving the stillhouse area, the walk to the warehouse takes you past the smoker where the locally harvested peat is used to smoke 6 trays of barley before it is sent back to the distillery (about 100 feet away) to be used to produce peated and heavily peated whisky.
The final stop of the tour is the tasting room where you can select from Great Southern’s seven different single malts, one sour mash, as well as gins, brandies and whisky liqueurs – but make sure you have a dedicated driver unless you are limiting yourself to one or two wee tastings.
Which now brings us back to the Tiger snake. Tiger snakes are found in coastal environments, wetlands, and creeks where they often form territories. Areas with an abundance of prey can support large populations. The species’ distribution extends from the south of Western Australia through to South Australia, Tasmania, up through Victoria, and New South Wales. Its common habitat includes the coastal areas of Australia. The Tiger snake is one of the most venomous snakes in the world and grows to 2 meters (6+ feet) These beautiful but deadly creatures are native to the area and have been found resting in the cool and undisturbed areas of the barrel warehouse.
Review: Tiger Snake Sour Mash Whisky
Tiger Snake is Australia’s first legal sour mash whiskey, with its inspiration coming from the great Tennessee Whiskeys and Kentucky Bourbons. For reference, sour mash is a process that uses residual yeast material from a previous batch to start fermentation in the batch currently being made. The first batch was released in 2012. Tiger Snake is made from a classic mash bill of corn, rye and malted barley (all locally sourced). Each barrel is hand bottled and numbered in keeping with small batch production methods of the Great Southern Distilling Company.
Tiger Snake Sour Mash Whiskey comes from my own bottle. This particular whiskey is Batch 4 and is bottle 111 of 341. ABV 43% and comes at a cost of $135 AUD.
I took the liberty of reviewing tasting notes of previous batches and to be honest they were quite mixed, from this is great to panther piss, so it comes back to the taster and here goes:
Color: Old copper
Nose: Vanilla, honey and hazelnuts come seeping out. After sitting for a while, caramel also shows itself.
Taste: Exotic spices (allspice comes to mind), a bit of fruit and then vanilla and caramel with a touch of salt. Tried a touch of water but at 43%, a bit was too much and drowned the flavors.
Finish: White pepper lingers with the caramel hanging about.
Overall: Frankly, I would not recommend Tiger Snake at current pricing levels, but Dan Murphy’s is supposed to be placing an order for 1000 cases which might drive price down. It will probably take a while to produce that amount and that is why they are adding another distillery in Margaret River in near future.
Distillery: Great Southern Distilling Company
Type: Sour Mash Whiskey
Age: NAS – at least three years
Maturation: Not disclosed
Price: $135 AUS
Availability: Batch 4 may be sold out, but additional batches are available
Sample Source: Mike’s own bottle
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.