Thinking of world-class whiskies can take the mind on global journey. One may travel up and down the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, across the Irish Sea to Cork and Antrim, or cross the pond to the bourbons of Middle America. One place that probably doesn’t come to mind is Australia, especially its island state of Tasmania - however, this far-flung locale is making ripples in the whisky world.
Case in point: Lark Distillery. This small but proud distillery, located in the highlands of Tasmania, is producing a truly world-class whisky in their best-selling product, their Single Malt Classic Cask. What makes this Australian Whisky so distinctive?
First, Lark Distillery’s concentrates on one product. While they have different strengths - including the 46% ABV Distiller’s Selection and 58% ABV Cask Strength - they don’t offer different blends or single malt varieties.
This concentration allows them to have tunnel vision, and results in a truly artisan, small-batch product. The whisky is distilled in a relatively small 1,800 litre copper pot still and a 500 litre spirit still and then matured for five to eight years in oak casks, each holding only 100 litres.
The distillery uses former port barrels, each one hand-picked. These smaller casks allow for a greater surface area per volume of fluid exposure, meaning the evaporative process is much more rapid and efficient than for traditional Scotch whiskies.
The small-batch focus is not surprising given that Lark Distillery has been family-owned and operated since its inception. Bill and Lyn Lark, and their daughter Kristy, have been the driving force behind this whisky since the distillery opened in 1992. (Kristy was considered to be the youngest woman distiller in the world at that time.)
They have been hands-on the whole distilling process since they opened. In fact, Bill can be considered the founding father of Tasmanian Whisky, as he was instrumental in persuading authorities to lift a 150 year old ban resulting in Lark being the first licensed distillery in Tasmania since 1839. The family’s business sense and fine whisky has resulted in them winning the Telstra Australian Small Business of the Year Award.
Adding to Lark Distillery’s individuality is how much it incorporates local ingredients. Half of the barley for their Classic Cask is peated using the distillery’s own peat bog, the rest is Franklin barley malted for them at nearby Cascade Brewery. Add in the soft local water and the incredible climate, and you have a whisky that redefines unique.
The Lark family’s focus on small-batch, high-quality locale-inspired whisky results in a unique flavour. They describe a whisky similar to a Scottish Highland or Speyside, with a floral and fruity nose, which carries to the front of the mouth, then opens up into an unctuous plum-pudding richness mid-palette, and finishes with peat notes reminiscent of the Tasmanian Highlands.
Lark Distillery’s use of one-of-a-kind ingredients, distinctive process, and commitment to quality, small-batch whisky is sure to garner even more attention, and will help Tasmania join the ranks of the great global whisky locales.
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