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252 S COOP AUTUMN 2014
It’s believed that the first whisky was
created by monks in Ireland in the 15th
century. It takes its name from the Gaelic
uisce beatha (‘water of life’).
Whisky is made with grains – wheat, barley,
rye or corn – which are malted and milled
before yeast is added to convert the sugars
to alcohol. The liquid is then distilled,
boiled and aged in wooden casks.
Scotch is the name of Scottish whisky
whose trademark smoky flavour comes
from barley dried over peat fire. Bourbon
is a whisky first created in Kentucky, USA.
It’s made of at least 51 per cent corn, which
is why it’s sweeter than other whiskies.
Rye whisky is made from a grain mash
of which 90 per cent must be rye. Single
Malt is regarded as the best, and is made
exclusively from malted barley grains.
Wooden barrels, or casks, add both colour
and flavour to whisky through a process
called finishing. French oak gives a robust,
spicy vanilla flavour, while American oak
tends to lend whiskies a sweeter flavour.
Unlike wine, whisky ages only in barrels,
and not in the bottle. Once open,
bottled whisky can last for years. In
that regard, whisky is a much better
investment than wine.
Ice can dull the flavour of whisky by
suppressing its flavour and aroma. Adding
a small amount of water to dilute the
whisky to 30% alcohol is widely considered
best as it brings out different flavours.
The ‘angel’s tax’ is the four per cent
of whisky that evaporates from barrels
International Wine and Spirit Competition in
London for the last six years r unning.
Perhaps the greatest testament to Great
Southern Distilling Company’s success came two
years ago when the SAS commissioned a special
barrel to be bottled as gifts for visiting dignitaries.
“We were so honoured to have been asked. I felt
that their philosophy, of striving to be the best,
was similar to ours, so we donated an entire barrel
of our select Director’s Cut.”
Yes, these are heady times for WA whisky lovers.
But it’s not just whisky bars like Varnish on King
or Helvetica where you find evidence of Perth’s
growing interest in whisky. Membership is on
the rise in local whisky clubs like the Scotch Malt
Whisky Society, Perth Whisky Club and Varnish
on King’s own Kentucky Club. Devlin’s, a popular
cigar and whisky shop in Subiaco, hosts regular
members-only whisky events. Gentlemen’s Hair
Lounge in Subiaco is even offering clients tumblers
of whisky to sip while they get their hair cut.
As a response, a handful of new whiskies and
distilleries are on the cards. Most promising is
Whipper Snapper Distillery in East Perth, which
will comprise a retail store, tours and tastings. The
Grove Distillery in Busselton is also said to be
developing whiskies, and Great Southern Distilling
Company’s second venue is due to open in
November in Margaret River, complete with
a cellar door, distillery and tavern.
But it’s not all happy days for the industry.
Distilling whisky is an expensive, risky
business. Bill McHenry of William McHenry
and Sons Distillery in Tasmania laments
that the government offers so little support.
“Investment in increased production is critical
and the tax system is probably our biggest
hindrance,” says Bill. “Our whiskies are taxed
at one of the highest rates in the world.”
Cameron agrees. “The tax burden is now
over $78.44 per litre of alcohol and it goes
up twice a year,” says Cameron. “One senator
told me that the Australian government
considers that spirits need a ‘sin tax’ and
won’t give us the same breaks as wineries or
breweries. It’s not a fair system, but they are
the rules we have to play by.”
Nick Odell, ReStore’s assistant manager
and buyer, sees the effect of Australian
whisky’s hefty price tag first-hand. “T he public
has a problem paying more for a local product
than a single malt from an established Scottish
distiller, who has obviously been making
whisky for a lot longer,” says Nick. “Australian
whisky is very young and I think public
perception will change as the whisky does.”
“WA has some of the best water, the best grain and
the best climate in the world... why the hell aren’t
we making whisky?”
Cameron Syme, founding
director of Albany’s Great
Southern Distilling Company.
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