Whiskey is normally associated with ghosts, grizzled old men and ancient castles shrouded in fog.
But now a few young guys, unburdened by the spirits of dead orphans, have been changing the game and distilling their own delicious drams all the way over here in sunny Perth.
The folk at Whipper Snapper Distillery are taking advantage of WA’s unique resources to create spirits that are being celebrated the world over.
Tim Hosken, production engineer and distiller at Whipper Snapper, says their approach is about “taking the best of what we’ve got in Perth, so our natural grains that we have, our climate, and using those factors to get really unique but just top-shelf whiskeys”.
In fact, it increasingly seems that WA is an ideal part of the world in which to be making spirits, as evidenced by the emergence of multiple craft distilleries in the last few years.
In the city, Whipper Snapper is experimenting with WA grains sourced direct from farmers in our Wheatbelt. Not far away, Mark Harris of Sin Gin is making excellent use of the native botanical lemon myrtle. And out in Welshpool, High Spirits Distillery is producing gin and vodka made from biodynamic triticale from our South-West.
If you were to head north, you’d find Illegal Tender Rum Co in Dongarra. Their name refers to a time in Australian history when rum was our unofficial currency, and their spirits are spiced using indigenous plants including Kakadu plum, lemon myrtle, quandong, wild rosella and wattleseed. Some spirits are even aged in ex-Margaret River wine barrels.
Hoochery in Kununurra promises “bloody good dinky-di Kimberley Spirit to enjoy around the table”.
Sugar cane growing in the Ord River Valley is harvested and turned into Canefire by the Kimberley Rum Company. Matured at the Great Northern Distillery in the Swan Valley, it lacks the harsh taste of other rums made from molasses.
But it’s not just the West Aussie ingredients that make the difference. Tim says that the climate here in Perth helps accelerate the whiskey maturation process. Our warm WA days mean that the processes that create flavours inside an oak barrel occur faster. This has helped the young distillery find its feet quickly, as well as allowing them to experiment with unique recipes. “Most exciting for us now is that, essentially every year from now, we have a new style of whiskey coming out, which will be great.”
Whipper Snapper’s focus on West Aussie assets has helped them become the toast of many international towns. Their very first whiskey, the Upshot, has taken out the prize for Best International Corn Whiskey at the American Distilling Institute as well as the Best Australian Corn Whiskey at the World Whiskey Awards.
Which is pretty neat.